Jon Thomas
Jon Thomas
Communications Director

5 Ways to Anger Your Brand’s Fans and Lose Credibility on Facebook

It gave me the creeps. It annoyed me. It even made me a bit angry.

I saw that a Facebook friend of mine had commented on an FM radio station’s page (that I was not a Facebook fan of). The post included a slightly distorted image and promised that my mind would be blown if I just typed the word Club in the comment box. 

The post had been commented on more than 1.6 million times, shared more than 4,700 times and Liked more than 80,000 times. Surely something had to happen when I followed the instructions.

Nothing happened, and don’t call me Shirley. What the heck was going on?

Of course nothing happened. It wasn’t a glitch in Facebook. It wasn’t human error. It was intentional, and it’s pathetic.

Page managers (with little talent in social media) have caught on to the fact that engagement in the form of Likes, shares and comments has become a social currency of sorts. They trick users into engaging because it (falsely) informs Facebook that a brand page is relevant. And the more relevant Facebook thinks it is, the more often it will show up in any given user’s Facebook feed and the feeds of their friends, thus creating awareness.

As fans see only, on average, 10 percent of any given brand’s posts (unless you want to pay, of course), there are brand-page owners out there willing to do anything to gain fans and increase engagement metrics.  

These tactics aren’t the only abuses page owners commit. Here are four other Facebook tactics you’ll want to steer clear of.  


(courtesy of Condescending Corporate Brand Page

Don’t fall for it. They don’t care if you can type ‘P-L-A-Y’ without interruption, and even if you do, there’s no prize. They just want your comments…lots of them. 



Is there a better way to expose your audience as nothing more than a bunch of metrics than to ask for responses that will have absolutely no consequence? Of course there is—emotional blackmail! You can make them feel even more appreciated by saddling them with guilt if they don’t take action on your page. Granted, this is not a brand (it’s one of those vague phrase pages—why do these even exist?), but it is a prime example of what not to do to engage audiences. 


Broken Promises

(courtesy of Condescending Corporate Brand Page)

Only, when they say it will stop her tears, they mean it will definitely not stop her tears. Kia’s End Poverty Campaign should be lauded, but unfortunately, tactics like this overshadow it. 


False Voting

This is much lesser offense than the rest, and Major League Soccer overall does a good job with their social presence, but it is still a misuse of Facebook functionality. Pitting Likes against comments can’t possibly create an effective debate between two camps. Having your fans vote can prove to be a fun engagement, even if you don’t use the polling function, by simply asking users to comment with their choice. Try to get a real discussion brewing in the comments and ignite passionate debate between the opposing sides.

A few of these examples are from Condescending Corporate Brand Page, which does a fantastic job of exposing what not to do on Facebook. So give their page a Like, because if you don’t, that means you love global warming. 

What other poor Facebook tactics have you come across? Let us know in the comments. 

Image via Flickr

  • Sarah Bauer

    Social litter! The “Guilt” tactic takes all kinds of disturbing forms. I sometimes see brand-endorsed photos with long, tragic explanations infiltrating my feed. I guess the first step is blocking the user who reposts it in the first place.

    Sarah Bauer
    Navigator Multimedia

  • Jon Thomas

    Exactly Sarah. There are variations of these as well, like photos that go viral promising that a sick infant will get the emergency surgery it needs once the post gets 1 million Likes. Modern-day chain letters.

  • Jennifer Spencer

    Wait, BRANDS do this? I hate it when my crazy aunt does it, let alone a company I trust with my money.

  • Meagan Dahl

    I will hide a brand page so fast if I see an emotional heartstrings manipulation. It’s embarrassing for those of us who put effort into each post on a Facebook brand page to see tactics like this. Conversely, when I see a brand post content that is relevant, insightful, or freaking hilarious I’m more likely to trust their message and engage with them…sort of like a Facebook brand page trust fall.

  • Jon Thomas

    Oh yes Jennifer. Lots of them. And coincidentally, I just had a conversation with a colleague about how it seems Facebook games and memes cater to the aunt population of the world. My stream is filled with my aunts’ Facebook obsessions.

  • Jon Thomas

    Spot on Meagan!

  • corecorina

    Social Flood tactics hurt everyone.

  • Alessia

    I find it redundant sometimes to have calls for actions (like if you agree and such) in announcements instead of applying the rule about ‘always including a call for action’ in a savvy way. I mean, dearest Bayern FC fan page, do we really need to be told to like a status announcing a goal?
    You feel treated like an idiot who doesn’t know how SM work.

  • Jon Thomas

    Well said Alessia. Unfortunately, so many Facebook users are Like-happy and brand managers addicted to engagement statistics, so I fear it may only get worse.

  • Jon Thomas


  • Jason Keath

    Say what you will, but there is nothing misleading about your Repetition and False Voting examples. The others, I agree, are dumb and I am glad you are pointing them out. But these two from Milo and MLS are successful. Yes, you can vote in other ways, yes Milo’s is a silly game. But if these posts get 10% more engagement than they would otherwise with these clear CTAs, then they are successful pieces of a long term content marketing strategy.

    Everyone knows there is no prize and everyone knows likes and comments are not equal. It does not mean it is less fun, or less entertaining to take a quick second and interact with a brand you are building some type of connection to.

    Don’t forget that most people out there on Facebook are not social media strategists and they don’t necessarily “get” social media or the fact that a like might get them to see that page’s post a little more often. They are novices when it comes to the science of Facebook. CTAs work, to ignore them on principle is not sound marketing. To overuse them in cheesy ways is not wrong, but will make them less effective. To overuse them in offensive ways will ultimately turn your results negative. There are levels right?

    The caveat here is making sure you do not rely on these “tricks” alone. I just take a little issue mixing these examples together when some of them are offensive and others are actually successful.

    Keep it coming @Story_Jon:disqus !

  • Jason Keath

    Most people don’t know how social media works.

  • Jon Thomas

    Thanks Jason.

    First, I have absolutely NO problem with CTAs. In fact, without them a brand will ultimately suffer as they’re not driving any action and we all know that the goals of every single business require some sort of action from that brand’s audience/customer-base. So don’t think that I’m faulting any brand for adding a CTA to a piece of social content. I bow at the feet of Warby Parker and they add CTAs all the time. However, they’d never use tactics like those above, and much of their content is not directly geared towards selling frames (but they’re ALL indirectly geared towards selling frames, because that’s what marketing is all about, right?).

    I’ll give the MLS a slide. I still think it’s cheap, and I’d never use it, but it’s not deceiving. However, I can’t agree with you on Milo. It’s one thing if Wednesday Wordplay was a word scramble, or a fill in the blank, a question or any type of word game where Milo actually cares about the response—a piece of content where audiences can actually contribute in a unique way. The audience gets nothing out of this, unless they REALLY have nothing better to do, and the brand gets inflated engagement stats (4x per person).

    How is this game extending the brand’s story? What does it have to do with Milo at all? I don’t see it.

  • Jason Keath

    I never said it was amazing marketing. But it sure isn’t going to anger me or cause them to lose credibility. I think grouping Milo and MLS with the rest of these just sends a pretty unspecific message.

    ps. I think roughly 80% of people on Facebook “REALLY have nothing better to do”. I mean seriously look at what we share and like on Facebook. The site is time-waster-city. Good or bad. =)

  • Jon Thomas

    We will have to agree to disagree on Milo. It angered me and they lost credibility. However, I won’t disagree (yes, I’m using a double negative) that not everyone is knowledgable enough about social media to realize they’re being “played” so to speak just for the sake of fake engagement.

    Maybe this calls for a drink at the RSH bar to discuss.

  • Alessia

    It should be pretty intuitive, if you see the word Like it means you like something…no?