Why is it that every time a good idea comes around, some marketers will find some way to spoil it? I am referring to the changes Facebook made back in April when they changed the way consumers interact with a brand by having them like a brand rather than becoming a fan.
Say what you will about the thought process behind the change (many like it, quite a few don’t), an unanticipated side effect is that marketers now become increasingly focused on how many people like their brand. The result is an ever-increasing mind set that bigger is better. Marketers are now scrambling to increase the number of people that like their brand and some of them are resorting to offering incentives in exchange for a like. A recent article in AdWeek highlighted numerous examples of this, including an offer from Borders that offered a 33% off discount in return for a like. This amounts to marketers paying consumers to like them, and that’s just wrong. It cheapens and commoditizes the value of a like on Facebook. It also comes dangerously close to violating Facebook’s promotional guidelines.
Call me a social media purist, but I believe the true intent of cultivating a fan base on Facebook should be to connect with those individuals that have an affinity for your brand. Using incentives to get people to like your brand is just a way to pad your numbers. While it may make you (or your boss) feel good, it provides little real value. You need to ask yourself, is it better to have 100 people who truly like your brand and will engage with you, provide you feedback, and act as brand ambassadors, or 1,000 passive fans that have little interest in your brand and are only looking for the next discount?
I am not saying you shouldn’t provide discounts and special offers to people that like your brand, you should. But these discounts should be given to loyal brand followers, not to be used as a bribe. The bottom line is there will always be a brand with more likes than yours. If you measure the success of your Facebook program strictly by the numbers of likes you have, and you are willing to pay people to like your brand, then you are missing the whole point of what is means to be liked.