The Hidden Backfire For New Facebook Brand Tag Feature


Facebook has rolled out a new product feature, “photo tagging for pages.” This new service will allow users “to tag Pages in their photos on Facebook in the same way they can tag their friends.” Basically, this means Facebookers can tag part of one of their photos to link to the page of the product or photo that is in that photo. 

Facebook says the virtue of this feature is that it “enables people to share richer stories with friends about the things they interact with in the real-world, such as businesses, brands, celebrities, and musicians.”

Of course, the immediate worry was that Facebook would soon either allow brands and products to themselves tag-link user photos or that Facebook would soon develop programming that would do it auto-tag and link to brands’ Facebook pages.

What nobody has yet worried about — how the whole thing could backfire and have Facebook scrabbling to appease the very brands it wants to court by censoring users’ tagging access.[more]

One of the keys to the new tagging feature is that, unlike with tagging people, the user does not to have linked his or her profile, or “Liked,” the celebrity or brand’s Facebook page in order to tag the related product or logo in a photo. (The photo’s administrator will still be able to remove tags or lock a photo.)

The obvious commercial benefit here, as Facebook demonstrates in the photo above, is that brands like Coca-Cola can be tagged in private pictures, creating a kind of dynamic product placement.

Intitial reaction on the launch page’s comment section is mixed, with some calling it “brilliant” and “muy bueno!” and others asking “Why would I want to tell anyone about the brands I use?”

What Facebook doesn’t seem to have considered is that this whole commercial feature relies on the goodwill of the Facebook community to do the linking work, almost Wikipedia-style. Sure, in Facebook’s ideal world, every Coke can in every photo will get “tagged” to Coca-Cola’s page.

But isn’t it likely that sooner or later users will find the tagging feature a fun little game, where Coke cans are tagged to Pepsi’s page? 

A far larger corporate relations problem for Facebook will be when users tag, say, photos of retailer Target to, say, Vote Yes on Prop 8‘s page. Or, how about PETA tagging images of slaughtered chickens to KFC’s page or any one of a number of brands to the Boycott Scott Walker Contributors page?