January 12, 2011

The Limits of "Like" The profligate use of the “Like” button changes the equation for marketers rushing to understand and leverage Facebook. When originally introduced “Like” was an updated surrogate for being a “Fan.” The understanding was if you “liked” a brand you had some affinity and probably some loyalty. You probably wanted to know about deals, discounts, new products and have an inside track on what the brand was up to. Now that “Like” has become a button placed all over the place, a “Like” is temporary and conditional. It’s no longer necessarily a statement of brand awareness, preference or loyalty. A “Like” is no longer the equivalent of a “Fan” a “Follower” or a “Friend.” Instead it’s a momentary vote of confidence that isn’t necessarily transferable or projectable. So if marketers were previously collecting “Likes” with a CRM mentality, the frequent use of the “like” idea from a single statement of affiliation to an nearly ubiquitous button signaling either true love or an impulsive in-the-moment feeling or both at different times, calls into question the need to or value of accumulating likes. The value of likes, either to the people who like you or those who observe their friends’ choices, is uncertain. They can like you big time and always or like you for a particular thing or in a distinct moment. Collecting “Likes” as a success metric or as a barometer of brand strength is much less clear and forces a re-evaluation of what brands want from the people they encounter in social media. On the other hand, every time a Like is broadcast to the walls of your friends, the brand gains an average 131 impressions. So maybe it doesn’t matter if you are liked long term so long as you are liked frequently and regularly by large numbers of people.
FTC and Do Not Track The Federal Trade Commission’s interim report -- the so-called “Do-Not Track” proposal forces marketers to focus on the optimal way to protect consumers’ privacy. The implicit threat is that if we don’t do it soon; they’ll do it for us in their usual ham-handed, political way. This isn’t anything to sneeze at nor is it something that’s insurmountable. Here’s my take. Privacy in its broadest definition is a fundamental human right. Privacy includes an individual’s online and offline behavior, interests, preferences, purchases and click-streams. This isn’t up for debate. Marketers have no right to track without permission. The Do-Not-Call, and Do-Not-Mail registries, run by our industry, are effective protections for consumers and should be the model for online consumer choices. We should offer consumers a universal choice tool to opt-in or opt-out. Online sharing tools like addthis.com is a perfect example of what can be easily designed, developed, deployed and iterated. . The “All or Nothing” approach is easiest because it eliminates the vast array of nuances and sub-choices that are too difficult to document, explain and maintain at scale. It should be simple and easy (2 clicks) to opt-in or opt out of targeted and consumers should be able to change their minds whenever they like. Faced with millions potentially opting out, marketers will have to make a case for the trade-off between sharing personal or anonymized tracking information and the value of information, access or offers they get in exchange. If consumers understand what’s at stake and are fully informed about the consequence of their choices, they will make informed decisions on privacy that will leave marketers with plenty of people to target. The number of consumers who opt-out does not matter. Many people chose commercial free broadcast outlets, record and delete or skip through commercials and participate in Do Not Call or Mail programs. There is no evidence of substantial negative economic impact as a result of privacy-driven choices. Consumers who opt-in, those who explicitly express an interest in targeted communications, are likely to be more engaged and more responsive. A smaller audience of interested consumers is much more likely to yield results for our clients, than broadly reaching and potentially SPAMing those who aren’t. The marketing industry is more invested, better equipped and more effective than the government in protecting the privacy of the American consumer.

Danny Flamberg

I am a veteran marketing consultant working with leading and emerging brands

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