What happens when you become a Facebook Fan

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Above Image: Dan Schawbel noticed I was endorsing Career Builder within Facebook, after I became a fan

Dan Schawbel, an energized social media practitioner at EMC emailed me, and said he noticed that I was endorsing Career Builder, within Facebook, he wondered it this was intentional and if I was aware of it. He’s not the first to tell me, this, and I explained I had become a “Fan” of their site (I do this for many brands in Facebook, for research purposes, to see what happens) and apparently it surprises a few folks. I should say, I’m not really a fan, as I don’t even use their site.

When a member becomes a Fan of a brand within Facebook, it signals an affinity giving the brand the opportunity to cross promote among the members network. I covered the opportunities and challenges of being a ‘fansumer‘ in this earlier analysis this year. This is not new, as I noticed David Berkowitz endorsing Blockbuster and he requests and opt out as the process appears to be difficult.

Questions for you:

Is your company engaging in network recommendations?
Are you making your fans aware of this endorsement ahead of time?
Is becoming a fan, consent of brand endorsement?

  • Wow. Well, it seems from a legal perspective they arent lying. They didn’t say you endorsed them, they simply said you were a fan (which you signed up for).

    But what they run the risk of is a blog post like this where they used your name and face for an “indirect” endorsement only to have you say, “I’m not really a fan, as I don’t even use their site”

    Now Careerbuilder is in worse place than they were before running the ad!

  • I work for Ogilvy Interactive and we have launched Facebook groups and fan pages for brands we look after in the past.

    I’m not aware of network endorsements being an option for us. If we’re using them its not a conscious move. Knowing Facebook’s history, I wouldn’t be surprised to find we’d been opted in by default.

    Of course becoming a fan is not consent of brand endorsement, though I’m sure you’re asking that more as a litmus test than anything else.

  • Interesting and timely question as always Jeremiah. I’d say that no, it’s not an endorsement. I’d add that the default should be opt-in (as I’ll always argue) and have a simple method for recommending or endorsing.

    On the flip side, I’m sure most companies experimenting with various social media tools are having quite a predicament with them. There is so much buzz that they have to do something. However, with so much criticism, they don’t spend enough time thinking about how to engage their audience in this space and what it means to multiple demographics at the same time.

    Rick

  • Do you own your name and likeness? This feels like an endorsement and a misrepresentation to me. Even if they’re on the edge legally, not sure that’s a great way to do business. I’d call them on it and in a way, you already are. Interesting to see if and how they respond.

  • Ken

    It could be that it’s not solely related to you being a fan of that brand. In fact, it could be that the owner of that fan page is advertising using Facebook’s ad-serving network and the ads YOU see are tied in with who you are friends with.

    I think it is really uncool (but unethical?) for Facebook to use your likeness on a product you’re a fan of but aren’t an evangalist for. They could at least ask for your permission.

  • Dave S

    The idea is good. Their approach/model is backward. Brand loyalty should be rewarded not hijacked. This is a bit like claiming someone/anyone/everyone walking through a mall, endorses the stores they pass or enter. Some browse but make no purchase.

    I wonder why the obvious is never considered?

    Maybe it is considered but dismissed.

    One of many reasons I do not use FB.

  • I believe I saw something similar posted by Michael Arrington of Techcrunch.

    I’d be really interested to know how many people see those ads without knowing who you are or what you do, or if they really are very specifically targeted. If this ad is only shown to your friends, then really it’s not offering up any different information than they could see in your profile. If, however, it’s being shown to people who aren’t your friends, and/or your profile is private, this is a bigger deal.

    I’d love to know how they target what personalities they put on which profiles. You’re a member on facebook, but also a brand in your own right. I don’t think many people would even pay attention to an ad that stated “Andrea Hill is a fan of adaptive blue”.

  • This isn’t the first ad which I saw on Facebook advertising a fan as an endorser. Favor.it Facebook application did just that. Hitching an affinity ride on your friends relationship with you, the application owner surely has that intention to harness the influence of your friend on you. It would be an issue of permission. Even though a brand could argue that it is stated in the T&Cs that one would give permission to the brand to freely use his name to endorse this product if he signs up for it, the message should still be clear to a consumer as most people conveniently checks off “I agree” just to add an application. This act is a consent to become a fan and not be featured without being told. Product endorsement? Probably with some incentives to get them to agree specifically to it. Brands would be seen as rocking the boat if they are not transparent in what they are trying to do with their customers’ personal information, in this case, it is information on their preferences.

    Currently I have not handled any brands in my region (APAC) that does that. However I will not count out the possibility of it.

  • I would have to agree with Gregory Ng. They have been doing this since Fan Pages launched and I don’t see anything wrong with it. You signed up to be a fan and they are just telling your network that you like this group, band product. It’s like when you join a group, they tell everyone in your network.

    In the end, I only really sign up for pages & groups I’m interested in because I know it gets sent out to everyone in my network.

  • Thanks Jeremiah. I wonder if this would have happened if you had only 5 friends. The fact that you have build a community on Facebook makes you attractive to brands that want endorsements, traffic, etc.

    I think Arrington has come across this before as well.

  • Matt

    It’s totally unacceptable.

    If they were just highlighting a random Friend of your network with a random “brand” to promote awareness of the feature, that might be something worth debating the ethics of…

    but this is clearly a situation in which Career-Builder has given money to Facebook to “Advertise” their brand and your likeness was placed in the advertisement without your express written consent. Absolutely unethical, unacceptable, and (if you felt like pressing the issue) probably illegal enough to warrant financial compensation from Facebook to you.

    Perhaps enough people probably should start suing Facebook for this activity… otherwise it will never stop. I promise you they have read this very blog post and have laughed at you for feeling slighted… they feel above the law, and certainly above any sense of ethics. What big social internet player was NOT founded on a basis of unethcial acceptance to being with? Myspace, YouTube, Facebook… all these places relied on a lack of ethics and a disregard for human rights and even the law to become what they are today… and just like any successful company, they are going to keep on doing what has always worked for them… in Facebook’s case, it is to skirt the thin line of what it ethically acceptable to do with their members data.

  • What is a fan? Most commonly defined, it’s when you’re enthusiastic about something, a supporter. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that being a fan is an unqualified endorsement.

    For example, I can can be a fan of a sports team even when they are ranked dead last in their division. I can be a fan of a friend’s band even if they’re not that good. I can be a fan of a new technology because I like the concept, even if the product needs work or is still in development.

    On Facebook, you can be a fan of something simply because you want to keep an eye on what’s happening with it. You might actually be interested in the product/organization. You might simply want to be on their mailing list.

    So I think any Facebook Fan page that uses someone’s Facebook “fan” status as an endorsement is off base. And they compound that error, IMO, if they use that fan status without the individual’s express permission.

    After all, when it comes to being a fan on Facebook, what one easily giveth, one may also easily taketh away…

  • @ Matt post number 11.

    You shouldn’t throw around wild accusation about Faacebook with no proof. Some might say what you just did was illegal. You should be careful what you write as someone might sue you for it.

  • Great post, thanks for highlighting a cause-and-effect that most are not aware of when they fan on Facebook.

    Definitely gives you something to think about!

    Maria Reyes-McDavis

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  • Two thoughts on this:
    1) For an advertiser or agency, you’re not opted in by default. You have to select this option. Now, it’s possible to select it without really understanding what it does, and a lot of that will depend on how familiar you are with Facebook as there’s a learning curve, but this is clearly an option.
    2) Only months after the post referenced here did I find a way, from the consumer end, to change my privacy settings and opt out of getting ‘hijacked’ like that, as referenced in the comments. It took me posting something on a Facebook message board to learn how to do this. While I applaud the granularity of control in Facebook’s privacy settings, they still need to make it easier to opt out of certain elements in the most relevant time and place.

  • To be a fan is one dimension and to be considered an endorser is another.

    To be able to clearly opt-out needs to be an obvious option.

  • Jamie

    You can opt out.

    Privacy > News Feed > Social Ads

  • Thanks Jamie

    How many users are aware or will do this? Should it be an “opt in” rather than “opt-out”?

  • Jamie

    Then nobody would be able to find it 🙂

  • .

  • Daniel

    As a college student, I’m a big facebook user. I always see my friends pictures with ads that say they endorse a site or application. A friend recently told me that my face pops up on a lot of those. This is embarrassing to me, and seems in a huge violation of something. I was pissed, how dare they use my face and my network to market their product without my consent. I’m trying right now to un-fan all the pages that did that.

  • plz

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  • Dave S

    The idea is good. Their approach/model is backward. Brand loyalty should be rewarded not hijacked. This is a bit like claiming someone/anyone/everyone walking through a mall, endorses the stores they pass or enter. Some browse but make no purchase.

    I wonder why the obvious is never considered?

    Maybe it is considered but dismissed.

    One of many reasons I do not use FB.

  • sam

    in becoming a fan, can the producer of the fan group see all your information, the same as one of your friends would be able to?

  • sam

    in becoming a fan, can the producer of the fan group see all your information, the same as one of your friends would be able to?

  • sam

    in becoming a fan, can the producer of the fan group see all your information, the same as one of your friends would be able to?

  • But people can just look at your fan page without becoming a fan. They will not be able to comment but they will be able to follow what is going on with the company you are looking at. Isn't this the safest way to control privacy bounderies. Why become an actual fan?