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Rant: Tricking people into “Liking” your stuff on Facebook

Pete Brown - 11 November 2011

The whole Facebook "Like" button is getting out of control. I don't really mind sharing the "like" information with websites, but I do mind websites that try to trick you into liking something. It's the same lowball approach the sites that have invisible ad click areas in the whitespace to the left and right of the page. They aren't accurately capturing intent. You might think it's just sloppy programming, but having been inside a shop that uses these techniques, I can tell you that it's usually deliberate but with plausible deniability (code for: blame the programmers).

I want to take my kids to see a Thomas movie that is playing in the local theater on Sunday, so I went to see if I could pick up tickets online. I was presented with this page:

What the hell does the Like button actually Like here?

See that "Like" button on the right? What exactly am I Liking? Am I liking my local movie theater, since this button appears under that heading? Ok, I might like them as they do a decent job.

Well, only the counts and listed people help give away what you're really liking, as I know Jason doesn't live anywhere near me. No, we're not liking the movie theater under which this button appears, maybe we're liking the Adam Sandler movie on the right?

Of course, maybe tricking people is the only way they can get any real number of Likes for an Adam Sandler holiday movie.

The ad even has its own "Like" button which I didn't notice until I started screen-shotting for this post. So, maybe the Like is for MovieTickets.com?


Sandwiched between ads, localization, and a bunch of social media icons, there's another like button at the top, which has a 77k number making me realize the one in right rail is a duplicate of this.


I looked at the page source, the right rail does in fact like the whole movie site, not the Adam Sandler movie. What it *doesn't* like is the movie theater under which the like button appears.

The Site Sucks Anyway

I could click them to double-check, but I don't want to Like anything on this page. In fact, I hate this web page. It's 90% ads and despite the movie theater linking to this page when I clicked the Thomas link, the Thomas movie isn't even shown. Here's the theater's main site movie listing.

Note how it says to click the link to purchase tickets

Click on the 11am showtime for Thomas, and you get this listing on movietickets.com

But wait? Where's the movie I clicked on?

The only thing that would make it even better is a nice pop-under ad when I get to that page.

So, I feel like I was tricked into coming to this site, and then the site tries to trick me into liking my theater, only to actually like something else. It's this type of web design that drives me nuts. If it were a brick and mortar store with a tricky sign in the window, we'd be screaming "bait and switch". On the web, however, that's often the rule to help drive impressions and ad revenue.

posted by Pete Brown on Friday, November 11, 2011
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