I was playing Angry Birds the other night (the original not the Rio version) getting a sick thrill out of trying to get three stars on every level 5 stage when something strange happened. I thought I captured an egg only to discover that I had been captured by Facebook. In order to continue playing, I had to “Like” Angry Birds. Now I love Angry Birds but I also like democracy. There was something very off-putting about being given the “Like” mandate. Thankfully, I was playing on someone else’s iPhone (why buy the iPhone when you can beg and borrow) who didn’t have a problem with liking Angry Birds on her Facebook page. Still, the process left me feeling uneasy but in fairness to Angry Birds the ploy is not unique to them.
Last week, The New Yorker pulled a similar gotcha on readers by posting exclusive content on its Facebook page. In order to read a featured Jonathan Franzen piece, you had to “Like” it. I understand the rationale of both Angry Birds and The New Yorker. It’s all about that million dollar word – engagement. But what has made Facebook such an undeniably powerful and popular platform is the freedom of personal expression factor. Angry Birds has over 2 million Likes. I’m pretty certain that the majority of those were not forced from users. As a long-term subscriber of The New Yorker, isn’t my loyalty Like-worthy enough?
Companies considering implementing a “Like” mandate simply to boost user activity on Facebook need to weigh the pros and cons. Yes, it’s easy to fall under the Like spell but by forcing potential consumers to give you the Facebook thumbs up you run the very real risk of broken engagement.