Here’s a disturbing advertising development: Selling out your friends. It’s pretty common in social media spheres to see cutting edge new advertising techniques. A lot interesting ideas are cropping on Facebook, hoping to take advantage of the 300 million unique users.
Intel’s Fan Plan is the latest example. They’re giving discounts on Intel laptops to anyone in the Fan Plan for one day only—Monday, Nov. 30, aka Cyber Monday (the biggest online shopping day of the year, in contrast to Black Friday, the biggest in-real-life shopping day of the year). But the catch is that the more people who join the Fan Plan, the greater the discount will be.
It sounds like a win-win, right? Even Fast Company is wondering if this is the future of advertising.
The problem is that it relies on you turning salesperson on your friends to get a better deal. On the plus side you’re scoring a better deal for everybody, so it could be worse, but that subtle little issue remains. Intel is effectively bribing you to tell all your friends about Intel.
I’ve got a better idea: Create a remarkable product that doesn’t require bribery to get people to spread the word. Go ahead and offer a discount. Incentives are great. But don’t make the size of that discount dependent on how many people I tell.
Swedish furniture brand IKEA also got into the mix of manipulating Facebook with a giveaway to promote the opening of a new store. They posted photos of the new IKEA’s showrooms to Facebook and encouraged people to use a popular photo-tagging feature of Facebook. The feature is supposed to be used to identify people in photos. When you’re identified, your friends will be notified and can check out the fun new picture of you. But IKEA encouraged people to tag products in the photo with their name in order to win them. Tag a product and you can win it!
Sounds great. But what you’re really doing is misusing a useful feature and turning it into a commercial. When photos of you pop up in people’s newsfeed on Facebook, they’re paying attention because they care about you, not some product from IKEA. But if you abuse that feature to win a picture frame, you’re wasting your friends’ time. Facebook has even tightened their guidelines on promotions and this sort of strategy could be a violation of Facebook’s terms of service.
Social media is quickly growing and maturing, and people are getting tired of being advertised to by their friends and family. People should advertise for you because they like your product, not because they want a better discount. And in the end, that’s just a better pitch. Who am I going to listen to? My friend telling me about a product he uses and loves, or my friend shilling a product he barely knows just to save a few cents?