Facebook will need to be careful as it tests a Want button, marketing and social media experts say. Users may not appreciate the intrusion of blatant marketing in what many still consider a semi-private environment.
Some experts regard the Want button as superfluous to the Facebook experience. “At the end of the day, who needs a ‘want’ or a ‘love’ when we have ‘like’? And why not a ‘hate,’ while we're at it?” said Nathaniel Perez, Global Head of Social Experience for SapientNitro. “Facebook should focus on unlocking the targeting of behaviors that a single action, a ‘Like,’ can reveal in the aggregate, rather than trying to diversify its interactions to try to fuel adoption."
Facebook may have a good reason for institutionalizing a feature that formerly was available to brands only through third-party developers. The success of Pinterest suggests that retailers can market their wares more effectively and also avoid the so-called creep factor if they let users do the marketing for them.
“Most people don't realize they are giving Pinterest explicit personalization input when they 'pin' something,” said Bruce Kasanoff, co-author of “Smart Customers, Stupid Companies: Why Only Intelligent Companies Thrive, And How To Be One Of Them.”
However, the Want button seems to contradict the conventional wisdom about Facebook's proper role in marketing campaigns. Social media consultants routinely tell their clients that social marketing is not about racking up as many Likes as possible; rather, it's about increasing interaction with loyal customers and hopefully finding the opinion leaders who will share a message most efficiently. In May, when General Motors announced it was pulling advertising from Facebook, the common argument was that the carmaker didn’t understand that social media was about building brand loyalty, not about direct sales. Then along comes the Want button - a blatant effort to get Facebook users into a buying mood.
Facebook Want Button vs. Amazon Wish List
As a spur to purchasing, the Want button bears a similarity to Amazon's Wish List, launched in 1999 and still available on the site, though it often goes unused. Facebook's button could create a list of wanted items. Likewise, the retailer's feature lets users keep a running list of things they want that are conveniently sold by Amazon, and their friends and loved ones can use the list for never-fail gift buying.
Syed Balkhi, president of the online incubator Awesome Motive Inc., sees a key difference between the Facebook and Amazon offerings: Where many users don't even know the Wish List exists, Facebook users will be able to find your Wants.
“Facebook's attempt to add a Want button is a huge step forward in making e-commerce more social,” he said. Amazon’s Wishlist “gets little to no attention for the majority of the users. If my aunt wants to get me a present, she doesn't know about my Amazon Wishlist, but she does know about my Facebook.”
From "Want" to "Do Not Want"
Facebook’s biggest challenge may be figuring out when it pushes the Want button too far. Right now Facebook remains a great way to share and see what your friends are interested in - be it an article, a restaurant or a movie. But if it becomes all about what people want, the emphasis on consumerism may turn off some of Facebook’s core users.
Seth Lieberman, CEO of online marketing platform SnapApp, asserts that people still view Facebook as a semi-private communication space. If users see advertisers encroaching on that space, he warns, they may spurn those advertisers or, worse, abandon Facebook altogether.
“In the short term, I see this as low risk," Lieberman said. "Facebook obviously has a massive user base, and recreating those friend networks from scratch on a fresh site is not trivial,” he said. “Long term, however, Facebook must reconcile what its user base needs and wants from the platform with its business model.”