Posted March 1, 2010 2:56 pm by with 3 comments

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Maybe you’ve already seen them: the ads that end with “Visit us on Facebook,” instead of a URL. Reminiscent of ads a few years ago that encouraged us to search on a specific search engine with a specific keyword (or use AOL) instead of visiting a website, the latest rash of CTAs scream “look at us, we’re really hip!” Steve Rubel’s March column on Forbes (available on his blog) points out Uniball as one example of these newly hip-cool advertisers.

Yeah. Totally buying that. Not.

Even better, the Uniball Facebook page is giving away 10,000 pens (or was, anyway)—with no direct links to its website. While that’s a great social strategy (although . . . pens? You’re using digital marketing to give away pens?!), divorcing their social campaigns from their website—a space they wholly own and control—doesn’t seem like the smartest move.

Rubel points out that this try-hard social method will backfire with more savvy consumers (like me 😉 . But seriously, see above reaction). He also says that (emphasis added):

Second, the use of “heavy artillery” – e.g. advertising – to round up more fans and followers is equally controversial. This would be fine if it lead to true person-to-person engagement. However, many brands are just using their Twitter and Facebook presences to spew out updates, without any thought to how consumers will benefit by essentially opting in. UniBall is providing value but others don’t go to such lengths.

Rubel also says that these social hubs are place that these companies are renting, without using them effectively. It takes people to create person-to-person engagement, and these corporate Facebook presences are, for the most part, “devoid of humans – e.g. employees – and many look like faceless companies that are trying to check off boxes or slap shiny logos on their site.”

That’s kind of the opposite of the point of social media, right? Using social media as a company gives you a chance to build your brand through authentic interactions. Looking fake != authentic, oddly enough.

And then it comes down to intent. If you want to give away 10,000 pens, that’s awesome. I have nothing against Uniball pens, and it does look like they’re at least making an effort in the social space. But if you want people to be able to learn about your products, shouldn’t there be some way to access that information from the call-to-action? Do we want to force people to guess at your URL or resort to a search engine to find you? What do you think?

  • Good post, but I think Rubel’s criticism of Uniball is a bit harsh. So what if Uniball is renting space? They may have determined Facebook would never play a leading role in their digital strategy…and psst – some brands only have so many marketing dollars. And for many brands a Facebook page is obligatory, not strategic.

    You’ve probably heard Alan Wolk’s line “your brand isn’t my friend”. I actually credit brands that realize the absurdity of trying to be my friend. I just want a pen that works flawlessly and looks good, and if they can handle that, I’ll probably buy more of them.
    .-= Tom Kasperski´s last blog ..TV Ad Exposure Exposed =-.

  • I will have to agree that although the strategy of organising promotions through Facebook as to attract brand fans (even free pens!) is a good one, it would be beneficial to somehow connect it to the company’s website! Social networks need to be used effectively, but there is no need to ignore the space of your website!

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