Mixed Signals is Erin Straza’s weekly musing about marketing miscellany in advertising, branding, and messaging.
What is it about that plucky, thumbs-up Like button? Facebook has taken a simple engagement tool and turned it into a marketer’s dream. With every click, we consumers are cataloging the businesses and brands we are partial to. And it’s so easy to do—just a click links us to something that charms us.
However, our participation in this community-wide click-fest has given Facebook a stunning amount of marketing power.
Take what happened to Nick Bergus. He was buzzing around the Net when he found an Amazon ad for a 55-pound barrel of personal lubricant. He thought his Facebook Friends would find it funny, so he gave it a Like. What wasn’t so funny was that one click gave Amazon the right to turn Bergus’s thumbs-up endorsement into an ad for the product—without his consent. Soon his face and approval were included in ads touting the barrel of goo.
This is the potential power of the Like button. And we don’t give the use of it a second thought.
We give it a click, pledging our fondness to a brand or a business, lending our support to its cause. In return, we might gain access to all-valuable coupons for a fraction off our next purchase or we might be eligible for a grand prize drawing. Seems like a decent trade—a simple click in exchange for potential deals and treats.
But few of us realize that Facebook’s user agreement grants them and the businesses we interact with access to our Friends and to us. Although we might see Facebook as a closed system where we can hang out with those we’ve invited in, the truth is that it’s an open system. In most cases, what happens on Facebook belongs to Facebook.
Liking a page is so easy, so simple, a click doesn’t feel like an important decision. It’s only Facebook, we think. But as Facebook’s marketing strength grows, we may need to be a bit more selective with the pages we choose to be associated with. Clicks made in jest (such as Bergus’s) are assigned the same value as those made in earnest. We trust those who know us best will place our one-dimensional Like into context, so our tongue-in-check clicks are distinguished from our more genuine clicks.
Businesses do not have that context to draw from, however. If we choose to align ourselves with barrels of lubricant, we yield ourselves to the potential yoking. And if Christians become yoked with something that is not becoming to the name of Christ, we risk diminishing His glory.
That’s why God’s Word has much to say about the company we keep, instructing that “the righteous choose their friends wisely” (Prov. 12:26, NIV). In a sense—especially in Facebook lingo—we are making Friends with every click. And that can be all fun and good. We just need to remember that we are part of the Body of Christ, representing Him as His ambassadors in this world (including the cyber-world).
So go forth, without fear, and engage in this world. “Like” away. But be sure that what you click on Facebook is worthy of the calling you have received (Eph. 4).