A good family friend of mine is running for Lt. Governor in the great state of Maryland. We’ve literally known the family for a lifetime (our parents grew up together) and while we don’t get together as often as we like, it’s a wonderful relationship. Which is why I was surprised a few weeks ago when I started seeing Facebook posts from my father supporting one of his challengers.
“Dad,” I asked. “Is there something I should know? Is there a reason you support the other guy?”
“What are you talking about?” he quickly shot back. “I didn’t post anything on Facebook at all, much less a political message. I keep those kinds of opinions private.”
Or does he??
Privacy is a loose term when it’s applied to Facebook. My father found himself victim to a “Sponsored Story”. At some point during his Facebook lifespan, my father did indeed choose to “Like” this particular candidate – probably during a previous campaign when running against a challenger from the other party (and because my mom told him to – she’s the politically active one in our family). And when this candidate chose to run a Sponsored Story campaign (ads that appear as endorsements from your Facebook friends), lo and behold, my father told all of his friends how they should vote.
It’s a powerful thing, the social media endorsement. Studies say that consumers are more than 70% more likely to make a purchase based on a social media referral. Just think of your own habits – how often do you select something that has been recommended to you by others? Word of mouth has always been a powerful marketing tool, and social media has merely amplified its power.
This article from the Chicago Tribune really puts the issue of “Sponsored Stories” in context. By “liking” anything on Facebook, you’ve given them the implicit approval to use that endorsement in a marketing context. And, people have lots of reasons for liking something – entering a contest, truly liking a product, having a positive experience, because it supports something that you support. But it’s not always because you endorse whatever it may be that you are selling.
So, be careful what you like. But also, be careful what you think your friends like. Be sure to reach out and connect to make sure that endorsement is real, not marketing-driven. Which is really what social networking is all about anyway – connecting.