May 8th, 2012

Facebook Sneakily Sharing Brand Comments by Friends

While doing some research today for a client planning session, I was searching the client’s competitors on Facebook. I noticed something I hadn’t previously noticed on brand pages under the new Timeline structure: friends’ posts that mention that brand are showing up on the brand page when I view it, without the friend having officially “tagged” the brand and without having posted the message directly to that brand’s page. These posts were mostly several months old and all were negative. As a marketer and manager for brand pages, I definitely don’t like this. As a user, I think it is pretty relevant, however.

As a marketer, I don’t like this because the brand managers don’t even know these comments exist. Since the comment wasn’t tagged with the brand or posted on the brand’s page, the brand manager has no way of knowing that the comment exists. So he or she can’t respond to it and he or she can’t control what a user sees on the brand Facebook page. Facebook acknowledges this as user privacy:

“Posts about a Page respect the privacy settings of the people who create them. Page admins won’t see posts about their Page that people haven’t shared publicly even though people visiting the Page might see them if they’re part of the audience the post was shared with. Pages themselves are public spaces, and posts added to a Page’s timeline will be visible publicly and are eligible to appear in the┬áRecent Posts by Others box. “

If the comment is positive, this doesn’t matter to the marketer one way or another (other than it would be nice to have those to report back). But the problem is the negative comments, which were what I saw today on all the brands that I was visiting for my research. Facebook is basically amplifying negative word-of-mouth. As a user, I might not have noticed my friends’ posts several months ago, or paid little attention to it in my stream. But it suddenly becomes relevant as I am on the brand page and it sticks out like a flashing beacon.

As a user, when I land on a brand page and see a friend’s comment immediately, it gives me a new perspective on the brand. If it is one that I was considering engaging with in some way and I saw a negative comment from a friend, I believe this would impact my engagement with that brand or I would reach out to that friend to learn more. I love this as a user because it helps me make decisions, helps me learn more and is extremely relevant.

We’ve been hearing and talking a lot about socially annotated search and banner advertising the last few months. The stats say socially annotated search gets a 5-10% better click-through rate. Having just experienced a version of socially annotated brand commentary, I see why it works so well.

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