UNICEF has launched a bold advertising campaign that takes direct aim at perhaps the most ubiquitous form of online activism — the Facebook “like.” Late last month, UNICEF Sweden released three commercials that urge viewers to support humanitarian aid not through posts or shares on social media, but monetary donations.
Congrats to UNICEF for having the guts to say this.
Here’s a problem Community Management and Social Media hasn’t really come to grips with. We focus on metrics that really don’t mean much, and forget the larger goals — and sometimes, those numbers hurt your ability to reach chose goals.
The “like’ seems harmless, but is it? You give people a chance to make an “easy commit” to your cause. It gives you a nice, big (and meaningless) number you can put in press releases and tweets. but because it’s so easy — frictionless — it’s a meaningless commitment. There’s no cost to a person to “like” something, so ultimately, there’s no value in that like. It’s a worthless, meaningless number.
And worse, you give that person a very easy act to do — and that act can let them feel like they accomplished something. They helped. By giving them a frictionless action that lets them feel they’ve helped, does that encourage them to take the next step and (for instance) join the organization, or commit funds to the cause.
It would be an interesting experiment (I can’t find any research on this) whether these easy “likes” help or hurt fundraising efforts. Does asking them to make their first step a “like” make them more or less likely to commit funds in a later step compared to a campaign that focuses on the fundraising itself?
I’m willing to bet that the like is in fact a disincentive, because it allows people to convince themselves they’ve helped the cause, without actually costing themselves anything.