Is a Facebook Like Button Click for Website Access Evil?

Facebook’s Social Graph is a unique and powerful resource – and companies want to leverage it. A Like on Facebook provides an endorsement that can evangelize a product to new groups of followers and opens new channels of communication if they follow suit and like the product as well.

Angel or Devil?
Creative Commons License photo credit: Stephen Poff

Please say you like me, then you'll find out why... No need to hesitate... Why don't you trust me? Just click that Like button.

Born on sleepy Vashon Island, Washington 45 years ago, K2 Ski Company has always been at the forefront of brand marketing innovation and engagement with its customers. Even 40 years ago, they were painting barns, issuing collectible employee trading cards and sponsoring Dick Barrymore directed films at the dawn of freestyle.

Much more recently, in a bold effort to engage its website users with Facebook, which some may prefer to call “Like-bait”, K2 temporarily shut down its website and provided one navigation option – to its Facebook page. The main attraction is an exclusive preview of K2’s new 2010 ski line on Facebook.

But here’s the catch, to access the preview, one must click the Facebook Like button and become a fan first.

So here is the question, is it ethical to make the “Like” button part of the site navigation? Or, is pretty much anything OK as the user can opt-out of clicking Like and skip the content, or click Like, view the content, and then click Unlike to return to the status quo?

Try this link if you do not see the poll embedded above.

Here is how the K2 Ski Company web site looks with its Facebook link:
The K2 Skis website temporarily forwards to Facebook

The sole destination from the page is the K2 Skis Facebook page except for the customer service e-mail link.

Here the Facebook tab used as the landing page for the 2010 ski preview:
To see the new 2010 ski line, one must click the Like Button

Since the Facebook page defaults to a special 2010-2011 tab promoting the new ski line, one would assume most people will follow the instructions and click Like to see the new skis, as opposed to selecting the Wall, Info, Photos or Video tabs.

Liking the K2 Facebook fan page not only provides K2 with a wealth of demographic information about the individual, it also provides them with access to that individual’s social graph, including the ability to present ads that may include a reference that the friend who clicked “Like” endorses the product. Friends see the specific Likes, but sponsors only see the information in aggregate.

Here is the preview page that allows K2 fans to check out the new Adventure, All-Mountain, Twin Tips and Youth ski lines:
The only way to see K2's 2010-2011 new ski line is to become a fan of their Facebook page

It is not very compelling to state that somebody “Liked” getting access to a web page. It might be more compelling to state that the individual “Liked” the new ski line after actually seeing it, but that would require multiple clicks and not provide a guarantee of gaining a “Like” vote for every person entering the site.

It should be noted that it is a fairly simple process to Unlike K2 after viewing the skis. The unlike link option is not displayed on the preview pages, only at the bottom of the Wall and Info pages, as is the standard for Facebook.

K2 has always thrived on pushing the boundaries – is this simply clever marketing, or have they crossed the line?

K2 is not spamming, passing sensitive personal information to sponsors or click-jacking users to unintended sites, so how can this be considered evil? One may argue that they merely provided an incentive to become a fan. Or do tactics like this undermine the legitimacy of the Facebook Like button if other fan pages adopt similar strategies to up their fan count?

Would your opinion be different if a Like-bait approach was taken by a site that was not a well trusted market leader?

Add a comment after you vote to explain why you voted one way or the other.

About Robert Cole

Robert Cole is the founder of RockCheetah, a hotel marketing strategy and travel technology consulting practice. He also authors the Views from a Corner Suite Blog and publishes the Travel Quote of the Day. Robert speaks regularly at major travel industry conferences, authors articles for leading travel industry publications, advises travel-related startups and the equity investment community. He is an evangelist for the global travel industry.

Comments

  1. I think brands are clamoring to build a fan base on Facebook, and this perhaps is one of the most compelling creative executions I have seen yet to get more fans: “like us, and we will give you an exclusive sneak preview of our products.” Keep in mind that this campaign (it is a campaign, after all, to build up their fan base) will be short-lived, two weeks is all. It's really simple, if you don't want to like their page, then wait two weeks and see the same products on their website, when they pull the redirect down.

  2. Ahab, you make some fine points. Truth be told, I have been a huge K2 fan since the beginning when I would unsuccessfully stalk The Performers (The original K2 Demonstration Team) on Baldy in Sun Valley.

    Certainly understand that it is a temporary campaign and will disappear in 2 weeks with the launch of their new website.

    My point is that there is a spectrum – if they automatically triggered an App to covertly “Like” them, there is no question that would be evil. If the site redirected to some unanticipated spammy site? Again no question about it being evil.

    On the other extreme, if they had a campaign that pitched, “Exclusive Sneak Preview of our 2010 Skis ONLY for our Facebook Fans”, I doubt anyone would think twice about a clever Fan-bait campaign.

    The question is if having the web page only navigate to a landing page with the creative prominently channeling visitors to Like the site to see the ski lineup. I say that falls somewhere in the middle – not evil, but not angelic either.

    As a long time K2 fan who likes and trusts the brand, I give personally them the benefit of the doubt and call it an aggressive bait-heavy campaign.

    If it was not such a trusted brand, I'm not sure people would come to the same conclusion. Apple could run the campaign with legions of fans to defend their actions, but could BP or Ryanair get away with the same execution without being widely chastised?

    An interesting thought – it seems that trust may be the differentiator whether an activity is deemed good or evil, not necessarily the intent or the outcome. Welcome to the politics of social media.

  3. In general, I agree with everything you are saying. I personally have seen brands build FB apps to live on their brand pages, then spend a gazillion dollars on paid media like broadcast, print, to feebly drive people to the app and eek out a “Like” or 2. Take a look at Toyota's Autobiography campaign and you will see what I mean. Tons of money on adds to encourage people to come and tell their story. K2 is different. They are saying come be our friend, and we'll give you something exclusive. I think K2 has been bold to say for 2 weeks, we are going to send all of our web traffic there. It's summer. There are not a ton of people researching skis right now. If they did this in the Fall, when people traditionally start to think about what skis to buy for the upcoming season, I think it would be a little riskier. I applaud their “all-in” approach, albeit for a short time. Now on their issue of being ambiguous about asking for the “Like”: I'm not sure the whole “Opt-In” etiquette for a Facebook Like has really been defined yet. In a Wild Wild West sort of way, K2 rolled into town, pushed the saloon doors wide open, and started shootin'. As a marketer, I have to say I am impressed.

  4. Marketer? Arrgh, Arrrr Ahab, as ye be a bucanner, I'd be hav'n ter reckon ye'd be a burn'n 'n pillag'n sort 🙂

  5. Y'arrrrrrr tellin' me no lies!

  6. Facebook Marketing is getting more and more popular as more users sign up on Facebook`”-

  7. Ibrianrichardsmith says:

    K2’s roots “were” from a bunch of North Westerners/Islanders that enjoyed life to the fullest. My father spent 11 years @ Vashon. I was hoping to find a copy of the bubble gum card he was on, from the 70’s.

  8. I actually have an incomplete set of the famed K2 Employee Bubblegum Trading Cards – I believe there were 54 (plus 54 A&B) in total. I seem to be missing numbers 1, 10,12, 20, 22, 23, 33, 35, 36, 41, 42, 44, 47. Did not see a Smith card, but let me know if he had a different last name and I will look for it. Great stories on the backs of those cards…

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  2. […] getting into an area where ethics and etiquette are still evolving in shades of grey. Robert Cole (Is Requiring a “Like” Click to Enter a Website Evil?) points to the example of K2 Ski Company: Much more recently, in a bold effort to engage its […]

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