My husband and I had a heated discussion this weekend about some of the new marketing schemes that companies are using to get people’s attention. He had gone to a company’s website to register for a sweepstakes they were advertising.  I don’t remember what the company or product was though I believe it was something to do with the automotive industry.

When my husband got to the company website he was instructed to Like the company on Facebook so he could register.  Well, my husband doesn’t believe in Facebook (I’m not going to go into that argument) so he was unable to register.  He claimed he was being discriminated against because he’s not a Facebook user.  He was angry because in the past contests usually offered people an alternate way to register for a sweepstakes.  Many contests give the impression you need to buy an item to be eligible, but when you read the fine print you find out you didn’t need to make a purchase after all.

I’ve been seeing an increase in the number of offers discounts or free items that involve Facebook, Twitter or texting.  I’ve decided not to Twit just because I don’t have the time to monitor another site’s activity and I’m on a pre-pay phone plan so every text I send or receive costs me twenty cents, so I don’t text except in emergencies.  I ignore any offers I see involving either one of those options.  I don’t have a problem liking a company or product on Facebook so I can get a steal and then turn around and unlike them if I find their Facebook posts to be dribble.

My husband’s comments got me thinking that maybe he’s right and those people who are less technically inclined are being discriminated against. If that’s the case then companies are missing key demographics in their customer base.  I’d be curious to hear from companies who use social media for marketing and how they target customers.


17 thoughts on “Discrimination?

  1. No, this is not discrimination. Your husband (like me) simply does not use or is not comfortable using Facebook. His choice and mine. If your learns to use Facebook and get comfortable with it, no problem, he can participate; if not, the company has decided they want to grow their social media exposure in this way. Your husband and I have a choice – learn to use Facebook, decline to buy the company’s products, or get over it. All our choice.

    • I have a feeling that as time goes on and technology changes it’s going to be harder for people and companies to keep up with it. You will never have a 100% adoption rate of any technology so some people will always be excluded. Some people, like my husband, will refuse to go along with each fad that comes along. Companies will need to market using a variety of channels in order to maximize their exposure and there will always be people left out.

    • I agree with you, Paul, but it’s frustrating.

      Like you, I’m not a Facebook user. I’m private about who I want to communicate with online, and exactly what I want to say to each person.

      I use LInkedIn and comment (carefully) on various blogs – mostly related to my work.

      And don’t even get me started on Twitter………………………

      I’m not afraid of technology!! I deal with it all day long in my work, and I enjoy it a lot in that context. But the last thing I feel like doing is playing on the computer at home!

      I may have to break down some day and start using Facebook to be able to look at other people’s stuff, but my page will have virtually nothing on it.

  2. Yes, it is discrimination. The question is: Is it illegal discrimination? To that I answer no. People discriminate every day. They discriminate in who they choose to be their friends and lovers. All people have filters that permit their intuition to allow some others in and keep some others out. Now, these filters may change as we allow experience to be our guide.
    Now, what about companies? They too have preferences as to they are going to deal with and sometimes this choice eliminates some potential customers, clients and employees. This is the way the world works. When it comes to using charts and statistics to select certain demographics, they are acting blindly in a sense, by eliminating those who fall outside the demographic. It’s all a matter of choice, for both the company and the consumer. One interesting legal point that this raises, is the anti-trust laws and those of competition in the free market. Technology discrimination, such as that you describe, by design eliminates a great percentage of the population from parts of the nation’s marketplace. Therefore, competition in the free market is more important than ever before, allowing freedom of choice for all.

    • I agree that it’s not illegal discrimination and people do discriminate all the time, intentionally or not. I do think that sometimes companies overlook certain demographics when they focus on those that are more technically savvy.

  3. I am not sure if it is discrimination, it is they are narrowing their percent of possible consumers by putting restrictions on participation. Along the same line, many stores now have bar codes you have to red with an app on your smart phone in order to get a discount etc. Is this fair also?

    • Sandra
      No it’s not fair to give special deals to people smartphones. I don’t have one so I’m left out of those deals. I figure that’s my choice so I can’t complain.

  4. I think the consumer needs to decide if the trade off is worth “the price,” in this case being the exchange of personal information on Facebook for a chance to win a prize. If the consumer’s loyalty to the company is strong enough, they will trust that allowing their personal information to be shared is okay and do so. Now the company needs to find a way to engage all those people who were not willing to share info via FB, like your husband. That segment, in and of itself, is a separate target audience to address with another marketing strategy.

    • Thanks for the insight Tracy. It’s increasingly coming down to choices of how much information you want to give to companies in return for deals and free stuff. It’s not a lot different to me from giving Wegman’s or Tops my information so I can use their customer cards to get sale prices.

  5. Definitely NOT a discrimination… Facebook is just another media channel. Use it or loose it kind of scenario. Same would apply to promotions you would see on TV or newspaper. If you don’t have TV or don’t buy newspaper – is this discrimiantion – of ourse not!!! Companies want you to “Like” them on Facebook – because they are getting social currency – you! You give your “like” and for return get a promotion of some sort. It is an incentive for you to give something in return for something. Seems very fair to me.

    • I don’t disagree with you Greg. However, for people like my parents who are technically challenged and don’t have the option to like a company on Facebook or use a Smartphone to get a discount, there isn’t really an option to opt in or out. So as technology advances and more social networking avenues arise, people will increasingly be left in the dust since it will be almost impossible to keep up.

  6. #1) Requiring that people “like” a Facebook page in order to enter a contest is strictly against Facebook’s terms of service. Companies that do this risk having their pages banned permanently.

    #2) Failing to provide alternate means of entry to a contest is against the law in almost every state.

    #3) Most people who access Twitter via a mobile device use an app, Michele, as opposed to having tweets delivered as SMS messages.

    • Mark I constantly come across sites that want me to Like their page so I can enter a contest, request a product coupon or sample. I’m not sure those companies are reading the fine print in the FB terms. 2) I never saw the site my husband was complaining about so I can’t verify that really was the only way to enter the contest. 3) I don’t have a Twitter account and I don’t have a SmartPhone so I opt out of any of those options.

  7. Social media is a way of life these days. Companies large and small are jumping on the bandwagon and reaching far more people with this free form of advertising. I can honestly say that I am more inclined to try a new restuarant, or hotel or shop at a new store if my friends on facebook or twitter recommend them. It can also work against a company if they do something unprofessional or people have a negative experience. Companies must monitor social media sites to be sure they have a handle on guest comments or complaints. They need to address guest concerns and try to correct the situation. Not doing so can be detrimental to their business. I myself have to monitor social media sites for guest reviews and respond in a timely manor to any reviews posted by guests whether they are positive or negative. In a way social media forces companies to do the right thing if they want their business to survive and prosper.

    • It’s great to hear from someone on the business side of things. Social media definitely swings both ways. It’s great to hear that businesses are reaching out and looking for comments, good or bad, out on the world wide web. Michele

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