RonAmok!

The adventures of an analog engineer and digital storyteller who studies emerging networks and their impact on the great game of business.
Jun 6, 2011

Last Tuesday’s announcement of the Twitter follow button demonstrates yet one more way for the social graph to embed itself within traditional corporate web silos. Joining the powerful, one-click buttons of the Facebook Platform, website visitors are not only just one-click way from becoming a fan of your company’s Facebook page, they’re also just another click away from following your company on Twitter. Oh, and these two actions can happen without the visitor ever leaving your site.

All around the globe, traditional markers are licking their chops, trying to figure out a way to inflate the number of “likes” and “follows” through the use of these buttons. Unfortunately, most are orchestrating their plans without understanding their real value, which increases the possibility of costly mistakes.

The value of one of these buttons can be determined by answering simple questions such as these:

  • Why should people click our button?
  • Is there an equitable exchange for doing so?
  • Will their lives be more enriched by clicking?
  • Will they be able to solve their problems, save money, become more profitable, increase productivity, be entertained, or just be “marketed to?”

But alas, these aren’t the questions that traditional marketers answer. They’re only interested in growing the numbers will try anything to do so.

For example, three days after a killer tornado ripped through Joplin, Missouri, a local company launched a fundraising campaign, promising to donate $3 to the Red Cross for every person who “liked” their Facebook page. Assuming that their intentions were pure, I’m reminded of that old saying about the road to hell being paved with good intentions.

Pressing the Facebook “like” button is much more complex than simply specifying a preference:

  1. It allows a company to market to us
  2. It puts our personal endorsements on a brand
  3. Those endorsements are then shared publicly with the rest of our Facebook networks.

Therefore, by pressing their “like” button to donate, the company has asked us to place a value on both our reputations and preferred access to our eyeballs. At the moment of truth, when we are deciding whether to push that button, will such a value increase or decrease the probability of pushing the button?

And the shenanigans of the traditional don’t stop there.  Recently, I clicked on a hyperlink in my Twitter feed that brought me to an article that sounded interesting. Upon arriving at the website, I was faced with one of those annoying pop-up “roadblocks” that obscured my view of the article. Usually, I just click on the little “X” and the roadblock closes, but not in this case. Nope. In order to close this box, I had to select from one of two choices:

  1. “Like” the organization’s Facebook page
  2. Reply “No thanks, I hate web video!” (See the image to the right)

I’m sure that some traditional marketing hack enjoyed this clever spin on the old dilemma-question: “So Senator, do you still beat your wife?”…but really? Is such a clever play on words supposed to endear me to your brand?

In the end, I chose neither–foregoing the article and leaving the site with a bad brand taste in my mouth.

As the social graph encroaches onto the most sacred of corporate online properties, it’s important for marketers to understand the ramifications of their actions. Pressing “Like” or “Follow” buttons has less to do with expressing a preference than it does in establishing the basis of a trusted relationship between client and vendor. Relationships are much more complicated than preference statements; they come with responsibilities. Therefore, if you’re fishing for “likes” or “followers,” make sure to have some respect for those who you want to push the button.

Filed under: Social Media