When Does Social Media Engagement Become Cynical Marketing?

Posted on October 23rd 2012

When Does Social Media Engagement Become Cynical Marketing?

More brands are competing for less space. That’s the reality we’re faced with following Facebook’s recent changes to Edgerank.

Facebook reach halved

Research from Socialbakers suggests that a post’s average reach has halved. No doubt this is partly because users are ‘liking’ an increasing number of brands who are posting more often, but it also reflects Facebook’s efforts to drive advertising and increase revenue.

Facebook say the goal is to improve the quality of content in the newsfeed and their advice to brands is that “all content should be as engaging as the posts you see from friends and family”. A quick look at my own newsfeed suggests this should not be too challenging, but the message is clear; only your most engaging posts will reach your audience.

In order to drive this engagement, many Pages are shamelessly pushing out cynical calls to action with very tenuous links to the brand. Examples such as “click Like if you think kittens are cute”, “click Like if you love Friday’s”, or even better “click Like if you think this is such sad news” are far too common. John Morter, the man behind the Rage Against the X-Factor campaign, has even created his own Facebook Page to highlight some of the worst culprits and share a few ‘engaging’ posts of his own (see below).


Lowered reach should force brands to think long and hard about their content and its quality.

Research by Facebook tells us that posts related to the brand generate the most engagement and after all, that is why your community has chosen to connect with you in the first place. This does not mean that you should avoid ‘light touch’ posts altogether. On the contrary, even the most mundane of requests can trigger an avalanche of word-of-mouth referrals. Instead, it is possible to draw a line between light-touch but brand-related posts and completely unrelated and cynical ruses.
On October 25th I will be hosting a panel discussion at Social Media Marketing 2012 London which will look these kinds of engagement strategies. Are these simply examples of companies talking to customers in friendly, every-day terms, or will consumers gradually get wise to "engagement tactics" and switch off altogether, just as they have with advertising? Time will tell.

Luke Brynley-Jones

CEO, Our Social Times

Having worked with clients as varied as British Airways, YMCA and Mecca Bingo over the past 12 years, Luke Brynley-Jones is one of the UK’s most experienced social media consultants. Founder of social media marketing blog and events company,Our Social Times, Luke is a regular conference host and speaker.

See Full Profile >


Posted on October 23rd 2012 at 11:48PM

I love John Mortors page. The most shameful post shared from his Facebook Page that I've seen was only used a couple of days ago via Kia Worldwide Motors of an African girl crying. The overlaying text read: Click 'Like' to stop her tears. Some of these tactics are getting beyond a joke - and I would be surprised to know of any brands who are actually garnering any ROI out of this.

Unfortunately, many strategists are forced to comply to these sorts of posts from traditional marketers who think higher numbers of likes and fans actually correlate to ROI in social media.