By B.L. Ochman
A disturbing and abhorrent trend has emerged on Facebook, where big brands force visitors to “Like” their page in return for a gift, coupon, or special access to promotions or contests.
“Don’t ‘like’ us yet?” Jockey asked in a recent email. “You’ll want to now!” Umm, no, I won’t. “Like our page to unwrap prizes!” demands Pepto Bismol. Nah! My stomach feels fine. Like us before you can create your own royal wedding commemorative stamp, demands People magazine.
What do forced likes prove?
They show that people will click a Like button because they like coupons, discounts and games, but they certainly don’t indicate that we plan to buy from the brand again, or come back to the Facebook page. Like so many disturbing marketing practices, forcing Likes is a nothing more than ham-handed bean counters’ idea of how social media works.
Facebook and other social media let retailers connect their online and physical properties in ways never before possible. And, as MediaLogic’s recent Retail Marketing Reports note, total visitors to social sites now rival physical retail traffic and, in some cases, are approaching the reach of national paid media. And, the report notes, more than 30% of retailers are forcing visitors to Like their Facebook pages to access their promotions.
Sadly, people who are forced to Like brands are also forced to give them access to their personal data, unless they jump through Facebook’s notoriously complex privacy hoops.
Will you still respect me in the morning?
And the long-term engagement, earned media, brand evangelism, and goodwill that Facebook and other social media can generate are lost in the process of buying likes. When People Magazine pimped its way past the million (forced) Facebook like mark in January, Forbes cluelessly advised “It’s still early in the game but clearly all publishers need to be paying much closer attention to their Facebook pages and how many ‘Likes’ they’re racking up. It’s a real-time indicator of how relevant a brand is to its audience — and especially to its advertisers.”
Nope, it’s not. Forcing people to like your brand is a lot like getting a kid to promise to be good in exchange for a cookie. Or promising someone you’ll still respect them in the morning. The promise and the like are forgotten as soon as the goodies are gone.
Hat tip to my blogging buds Joseph Jaffe and Mitch Joel who, coincidentally, recently posted about their dislike for brands that pimp for Likes. I was really happy to see that, because this issue’s been on my mind for a while, and one blogger is never as powerful as three who band together to make a point.
– The Like Trap, Brian Morrissey
– Hype Busters: Facebook Fans are Worthless, Glen Engler
Thanks for the post BL. As we’ve discussed so many times, it’s critical to understand who the people are behind the likes or numbers.
As a side step issue, same goes with Twitter where marketers/brand managers are even more likely to find high numbers = increased percentage of “bot followers.”
Capturing high numbers of followers or likes is turning into an ego game not a marketing strategy.
You are so right Toby! Sadly, corporations and agencies still operate in a numbers-driven world where quantity and quality are often confused.
Hey BL, this is great conversation. I think the bigger issue is that getting folks to ‘like’ your stuff is effective. For a couple of reasons.
1. Yes, the first like give the liker something.
2. Once liked, the brand can then blast out more enticement (coupons, sales etc.)
3. Because the liker gets something in return they don’t feel like they are being spammed.
4. And more importantly. No on knows how to unlike anything! The ‘x’ in facebook only appears if you rollover the story.
What this boils down to is the forced like appeals to the lowest common denominator liker. The forced like fits in with traditional marketing and is therefore easy to do.
The more difficult and road much less traveled is the authentic model of talking to customers finding out there real aspirations and finding real meaning in their lives. Sadly, there simply are not that many products/brands that mean much to people so they have a hard time. When they happens, they resort to CLICK HERE FOR AWESOME STUFF!
I hope we get out of that mode, but I think it will always be a part of some marketing strategy somewhere.
Thanks for this thoughtful comment Laurent.
I think the challenge is for companies to work with agencies and consultants who can create content worth liking.
And it’s been proven in many ways that you are better off to have a small number of truly engaged fans or followers than to pimp to huge numbers who might be forced to like you, but aren’t likely to be back.
Something I think must also be added to this discussion is the idea that agencies must show ROI to the companies that hire them now and this is a metric that many agencies are selling. How does the CEO or CMO not turn away the sales pitch of “Our agency can get you 50,000 likes on Facebook”. It is not dissimilar to the idea that agencies are selling page views or other metrics. I have also seen gaming of Facebook likers by bots and then sold as a “goal accomplished.” I can get you 1000 likes on Facebook and this is done overnight but then you look over the list and you can obviously see spam pages made by a company behind the profiles. Crazy. I am going to bring this up on my radio show next week! http://radioconetwork.com/weekday-shows/social-mediasphere/
would love to talk to you on your show. I work for an agency, and like all agencies, there is constant pressure to prove ROI. It’s sad that Fortune, People, even Zappos approve of this numbers game.
I agree. I find it annoying when companies bribe people to like them. This proves nothing.
Hi and thanks BL. Fascinating and evolving efforts by companies to induce likes. What do you think about “organic” likes from content providers? Do you know of a study measuring the industry average of “likes” of content-provider sites by their users? Thanks for any thoughts.
Hi – not sure i know what you mean by content providers? Don’t know of any studies like that. can you explain a little more?
I freelance in one marketplace writing web content, and I came across one job posting in the recent past about getting paid for $10 for every 100 likes on FB. Yikes!
I read that celebrity music stars are buying Facebook likes to compete with other music stars.
This is not a new thing/trend, this “forced” Liking has existed for many years in some form or the other since marketing came up with the theory of how much it’ll help their business with leads.
Has anyone ever read the small prints on the contest for winning a car at the mall? You provide your email and contact information in return so they can contact you for offers.
Have you ever signed up for a Macy’s credit card so you can get a $50 off coupon. Once you sign up you get constant offers and discount coupons from Macy.
People are not forced into liking from these legitimate fan pages. Read the policies. Facebook fan page admins are just using the same tactics as these other lead capturing methods.
Once you sign up, it’s not like you can’t opt-out. If people complain about not being able to unlike a fan page, they are plain lazy. All it takes is a google search “How to unlike a facebook fanpage”. The thing that I hate the most is getting offers from places that I never signed up for, and those are SPAM!
you are citing old media. i am talking about new media. I think forcing likes is a low-class form of online marketing.
when some likes a business, they see all your posts. Saying that ‘it doesn’t work’ is like saying radio adds, bill boards and newspapers don’t work. It’s branding. All sales is numbers game, the more people you get in the door the more you will sell, so the more likes you have, the more people see your posts and the more likely you are to to engage SOME of them. if your content is good and you’re not constantly trying to sell stuff you will see conversions, and the time spent and PPC advertising is very cost effective.