Geolocation is a great tool for personalizing messages to users based on where they’re located.

So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Coca-Cola has applied geolocation to its Facebook Page, which has nearly 34m fans from all over the world.

But last week, the beverage company learned the hard way that a geolocation error can cause big problems on Facebook.

AdAge explains:

Basically, all of Coke’s posts are geotagged so that its fans see only
posts in a relevant language based on their IP address. U.S. users see
posts in English; Brazilian in Portuguese and so on.

But something went
wrong today and two posts, one in Portuguese and one in Romanian, were
visible to everyone for about 10 minutes, according to a Coke executive.

Not a big deal, right? Unfortunately, the temporary geolocation flub sparked a firestorm. Some commenters expressed confusion and frustration, while others wrote angry, pathetic rants about non-English languages.

While the outcome of this mix-up is lamentable, it does highlight an important point: a Facebook Page does not represent a single ‘community.‘ On the world’s most popular social media platform, brands speak to diverse groups and interests.

As AdAge notes, 80% of Facebook’s users are now outside of the United States. Individuals from different places and walks of life generally don’t have trouble co-existing on the site, as they get to control who is in their social graphs, but global brands, through their Pages, don’t have it so easy.

Obviously, Coke recognized that it speaks to lots of different people through Facebook and implemented a system to personalize its messages. It apparently worked well until a bug put it out of operation for a short while. But plenty of global brands don’t even try to speak in multiple voices.

If anything, Coke’s Facebook incident should not be looked at as a reminder that some users are about as well-rounded as a shoebox, but rather it should be looked at as a reminder that Facebook is not a social network — it’s a platform of social networks. Savvy brands will make sure their Facebook strategies reflect that.