The Facebook ‘like’ button is one of the most valuable technological innovations of our lifetime.
It’s the keys to the kingdom, the feature that turns social networks into something more than the sum of its users, the revenue generator that adds billions to Facebook’s coffers, and the engine that propelled Facebook’s IPO into the stratosphere.
You (yes, you) are creating enormous wealth. So why don’t you have something to show for it?
A recently settled class action lawsuit against Facebook lays this all out for us.
Facebook was fined $20 million for putting users in Sponsored Stories without their permission, and is required to add some transparency to the process. The lawsuit shows us how a little click of the thumbs-up icon is turning us into unwitting, unpaid product endorsers. Our actions are plugging products to our social network; our names and profile photos are integrated into Sponsored Stories and advertisements that appear on our friends’ pages. Facebook even has the right to show the ads with our names and pictures on sites other than Facebook.
We’re the ones holding all the cards and we don’t seem to know it.
The products get our personal endorsements. Facebook gets the ad revenue. We’ve become the ads, but we’re shut out of the equation.
The like button is clicked so often that in a year the number of likes adds up to whatever the big number is that comes after billions. And those endorsements are especially big business for Facebook since they’ve been shown to influence purchase decisions at three times the rate of straight advertising. Fortunately, we’ve got Swaggable shaking up the model.
If you’re going to go to the trouble of liking it, Swaggable wants to make sure you get a little something for your effort.
Swaggable hooks you up with free products that are matched with your preferences. You pay nothing, not even shipping costs, and manufacturers send you free product samples. They hope you’ll continue to do what you’re already doing—share your opinions with your social network. You’re not obligated to write a review, and you’re expected to be honest about the products so that your opinions can maintain a semblance of impartiality.
A good chunk of the brands that Swaggable represents are specialty foods. You sign up via Facebook, telling Swaggable what types of products you’re interested in, or you can make specific requests for products you want from their current offerings, with new ones added every week. Samples are full-sized retail packages of mostly new and trendy foods, and Swaggable highlights categories like organic, fair trade, vegan, and non-GMO. Right now they’re sampling brownie bars, mango chips, spiced nut mixes, wasabi salad dressing, and a few dozen other products.
Swaggable puts a little pinkie finger on the scale to shift the balance of power a tiny bit toward us.