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University of Phoenix, A Facebook Like, and a Sponsored Ad

17 comments



The University of Phoenix is using my Like on Facebook

In my attempt to be connected to all things related to higher education, I did something that has had interesting ramifications. One day while perusing Facebook, I liked the University of Phoenix page. I figured that it would nice to see what they were up to and didn’t think twice about it.

Well, always remember that what you do on Facebook can come back to you. Seth Odell, a good friend and interactive marketer for Southern New Hampshire University, sent me a text message today. He asked why I was supporting “team Phoenix.” Little did I know that Phoenix has been running a sponsored ad campaign that shows my “like” of their Facebook page on my friend’s feed. Now, it could just be as simple as Phoenix showing my Facebook connections that I liked their page, or I wonder if Phoenix is using my brand without my permission. I write for Inside Higher Ed and do a fair amount of speaking and consulting within higher education. If that’s the case, I’m not a fan of how that looks or feels. It’s a good reminder that liking something on Facebook can be used by advertisers to promote their brand. While this certainly isn’t a new phenomenon, it is the first time that I’ve had to think about my personal brand in this particular context.

Written by Eric Stoller

January 27th, 2013 at 6:24 pm

  • http://twitter.com/lizgross144 Liz Gross

    This is a common way to promote a page. To my knowledge, an advertiser can’t target which users’ likes generate ads – anyone who likes University of Phoenix could have their face shown with the ad. To my knowledge, by allowing users to see your likes in your timeline, you also give the page permission to use that like for advertising.

    This actually caused quite a stir with other folks because they find their name attached to “questionable content” from brands on Facebook. There was an article about it recently, but I can’t track it down at the moment.

    • http://ericstoller.com/blog/ Eric Stoller

      I think this is the first time where I took a moment to reflect on how this is different than when I like something like “Starbucks.” It’s higher education related and it could be read as “Higher Education Consultant Eric” likes Phoenix. More of a brand endorsement that’s connected to my work…and that makes it sticky. Gotta love the ever-evolving soup that is Facebook and the graph.

      • http://twitter.com/lizgross144 Liz Gross

        I think I said this in a Facebook comment, but I feel the need to say it here as well – for those of us that need to keep tabs on social media sites for professional reasons, there are lots of ways to do it without associating ourselves via a like or follow. On Facebook, add the page to a private interest list. On Twitter, add the account to a private list without following it. The best part…..then they’ll never know you’re watching them :)

        • http://twitter.com/sisypheantask Michael J. Faris

          excellent suggestions, Liz!

        • http://ericstoller.com/blog/ Eric Stoller

          The fascinating thing for me is that this is the first time where I’ve ever considered acting in a way that would cloak the social media “tabs that I keep.” I’ve always been super public about the way that I interact with social media. Lists and private FB interests might be the answer…but, I also don’t want to lose the organic feel of what it’s like to experience this stuff as any other user would. The experience has given me a lot to mull over.

          • http://twitter.com/sisypheantask Michael J. Faris

            my question would be: what about managing your visibility and privacy is any different from experiencing “this stuff as any other user would”? Users encounter situations where they change their practices; they learn new behaviors and features that allow them to handle their visibility differently. Managing your streams of information in ways that Liz suggests is not that much different from anyone else. :)

          • http://ericstoller.com/blog/ Eric Stoller

            My guess is that most people aren’t that tactical in their approach. The functionality is there for all, but a lot of people never go beyond following/liking.

  • http://twitter.com/sisypheantask Michael J. Faris

    Liz is right: You agreed to this when you agreed to FB’s terms of service (or when they updated them and you didn’t leave FB). Phoenix doesn’t have access to any of your information except your name. They just paid FB to have likes promoted. I see similar things with Starbucks (those who linked to a promotion got sponsored posts) and Amazon (those who linked to books on Amazon got sponsored posts). Arguably, this is a violation of privacy (Solove would argue as such, since it’s the use of your image), but it’s legal, because you agreed to it.

    Phoenix doesn’t care that it’s you specifically — thought they may have specified that they only want people with certain types of friends, or amounts of friends, or with certain interests, to have sponsored posts to make the targeted ads more effective. I think that’s possible.

    (and I was wondering why you liked U of Phoenix, didn’t really think that was your type of thing)

    • http://twitter.com/sisypheantask Michael J. Faris

      In fact, I just realized it happened to my link to Playmobil Security Checkpoint on Amazon (because of the funny reviews): the link has been promoted and shows up at the top of my friends’ feeds.

      • http://twitter.com/lizgross144 Liz Gross

        The interesting thing about the sponsored newsfeed stories that are created in this way is that they seem to stay visible to your friends much longer than the original post would have. Money definitely gets you exposure on Facebook!

        • http://twitter.com/sisypheantask Michael J. Faris

          yep, and definitely annoying (for instance, a friend’s post on a Starbucks deal that hasn’t been available for months but has been at the top of my feed off and on for about three weeks)

          • http://ericstoller.com/blog/ Eric Stoller

            Seriously! Those things keep popping up and they will not go away. It’s really irritating.

  • Sheri Lehman

    Brands use promoted ‘Likes’ to gain trust with others. Sneaky, sneaky … I’m guilty of looking at a sponsored ad and evaluating if the friends who ‘Like’ it are people I like to associate myself with. That’s some Facebook psychology right there.

    LIke you said, Sponsored Ads and Graph Search will force us all to conduct a personal brand audit. Do we want people to search “friends who like University of Phoenix” and see your profile appear? Probably not…

  • http://doteduguru.com/ Kyle James

    Well of course… how did you think they would use this. ;)

    Seriously though Phoenix is one of the cutting edge online innovative marketers in higher ed. If this was your alma mater or a school you worked with you wouldn’t think twice about it would you? I think that is the point. We all need to be more cautious about the actions that we take online because the internet doesn’t forget. Think about how many times you have seen a picture of a college student on facebook getting drunk at a frat party? Those pictures will eventually come back to bite their personal brand when they go apply for a job. In a macro sense this really isn’t any different.

    Remember the internet doesn’t sleep and is always monitoring our actions.

    • http://twitter.com/sisypheantask Michael J. Faris

      ” Think about how many times you have seen a picture of a college student on facebook getting drunk at a frat party? Those pictures will eventually come back to bite their personal brand when they go apply for a job.”

      This sort of claim seem to ignore the social contexts of that picture, users’ privacy settings, and such. Think of how many times you’ve seen that picture and how it hasn’t affected the job search at all, because users tend to be developing more savvy about their online privacy and various different personas online (rather than a single brand).

      • http://doteduguru.com/ Kyle James

        Yes and no. Facebook terms of use grant them full ownership of the picture once it is uploaded no matter how you set your privacy settings. I could also get behind the argument that better education and increasingly savvy individuals would resolve this but the system is also getting smarter to exploit your information. By all means Eric is an extremely savvy user and he still feel into this trap where he felt his brand was damaged by this association.

        Also don’t forget the fact that Facebook is a business and as a business they need to make money to keep their doors open.

        • http://twitter.com/sisypheantask Michael J. Faris

          exploit your information, yes, but not make it publicly available (unless a user hasn’t adjusted their privacy settings). Stoller’s “brand” was only (potentially) harmed within his Facebook community — I doubt anyone looking at his public profile is going to read through his 500+ available public likes and see “University of Phoenix” and make a negative conclusion. My point is that yes, people are posting images that could be judged negatively, but they’re more and more doing so in ecologies where that affects their images within those ecologies and not in others.

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