Like: The contract behind Facebook

With over 800 million users registered on Facebook and the average user connected to 80 different community pages, groups and events. I wonder how many of those users are aware of the Facebook ‘Like’ Contract? According to Facebook statistics, more than 900 million pages, groups, events and community pages are interacted with on an average day. Oh, and let’s not forget the 250 million photo’s that are uploaded onto users profiles every day either.

There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that Facebook is one powerful tool for marketing and building communities online. Being a social media enthusiast myself, I use Facebook every day for companies looking to raise brand awareness and increase their social stratosphere; but I wonder how many of those users are aware of what the ‘like’ button actually means.

How many understand that liking a page, or product is looked upon as a commitment, a tool that effectively opt you in to the Facebook database, which allows advertisers to target you specifically according to the information you’ve provided by liking a particular chocolate brand, or clothing store.

How many of those users would be so willing to click that Like button after if they understood the repercussions of they’re actions?

I spoke with a few of my friends, all from different backgrounds to see what they thought of the small print coded behind the seemingly innocent little button. I asked them, “Would you be so willing to like something on Facebook after I explained how their information is used?” One said, “No, I actually feel it’s an invasion of my privacy.” The rest of the group agreed then shared their stories of pop up ad’s cluttering their vision as they set out in search for a particular clothing brand.

One girl even shared her story of booking flights how to Switzerland, and how she noticed that since booking flights on that date she has been bombarded with Facebook ad’s fighting for her attention; she also added how peculiar that they should advertise the exact same day and travel route she previously searched for. There was some interesting feedback, and yet all met with the sense of disapproval that advertisers were capitalizing on their social experience.

From a marketing perspective I can totally understand the advantages here, especially as far as public relations are concerned. What better place to find out what makes your consumers tick than to be around the virtual meeting ground of social networks.

Yet, whilst I can hold that appreciation and accept that these are the best platforms for marketers and businesses to gather important information: which in the long run can add value to the consumers experience. However; we must handle with care. I can fully appreciate the general attitude coming from social users who are worn out from having ad’s thrown in their faces – after they’ve made their decision and purchase.

Sir Martin Sorrell, Chief executive at WPP who recently featured in the BBC documentary, ‘Inside Facebook’ reminds us;

“The primary interaction (of Facebook) is a social interaction, not a commerical interaction.” In his mind, “Facebook is more of a public relations medium, rather than a in your face advertising medium.”

So, What’s the solution for the consumer?

Facebook’s advertising platform is expected to haul in $3 billion dollars alone, this year.  There is no denying that this is huge business and revenue for the silicon valley star and many other businesses, so it’s likely that there will be that handful of advertisers who will continue to exhaust all avenues in their relentless pursuit for your sale.

Perhaps the best advice for the consumer would be to read the ‘small print’ in future, like any contract we enter – understand the contract before you sign, click and Agree; or in Facebook terms, Like.

For the marketer, advertiser and social media bee’s like my self we must remind ourselves that different strokes, for different folks. I’m not sure there is much that can be done with the powers that be, and money involved. I am merely highlighting that people don’t want to be forced or tricked into purchasing, or be bombarded with sales ad’s filled with sales speak from ads and companies they don’t already know, and urging advertisers and companies to think differently.

The purpose behind social media is to take the time to build relationship with the consumer and gain their trust through the opportunities that Facebook provides. I will always recommend businesses invest in some level of social media over advertising any day, especially where smaller businesses with smaller budgets are concerned.

If we take advantage of this social opportunity, and don’t abuse it. I believe the return will be far greater, but I could be biased. What do you think? Would you be so willing to click like if you knew? Do you accept that many are of the opinion that when you click like you are effectively entering into a contract that says; “Yes I like this, please clutter the sides of my page with offers that I don’t really care about.”

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