Facebook Offers a Sweet Deal Sucker Punch

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Facebook recently launched their newest deal portal, Facebook Offer, and as usual they are letting Facebook users and businesses frustratingly work out the kinks for them.

Please don’t get me wrong, I think it is great that Facebook is allowing businesses to share “Offers” on Facebook  and it is smart for Facebook to try and get some of that LivingSocal/Groupon pie, but as usual they have given no warning to the users and no direction to the businesses. The results – pure pandemonium.

In a recent post from The Next Web about a little Irish hotel, Roe Park Resort, picking up 28,000 users in 24 hours with their Facebook Offer they point out what a great platform this new tool can be for businesses, but they also show how it can get a bit out of control quickly:

As Simply Zesty point out, while this means big bucks for the hotel, to the tune of over £1 million, it also means that no money has actually exchanged hands and that if every single person who claimed the offer actually shows up, the hotel would have to accommodate over 3,500 guests per month until the expir[ation]date in December.

Now how many people are going to actually purchase that offer really, so who cares if it goes viral right? BUT what if a good majority did and the hotel couldn’t accommodate…… can you imagine what those 28,000 people would be saying on Facebook then?

Well let me show you a little glimpse of what it looks like when Facebook users are displeased, recently a boutique online travel agency that handles timeshare rentals, ResorTime.com offered a great deal on one of their resorts:

Looks good doesn’t it? Well quite a few people thought so too and clicked to get the offer. ResorTime posted the offer Thursday May 3rd at around 4 P.M. and was tickled by the response, within minutes they had 1900 claims and their Facebook fan count was quickly on the rise. By Sunday they pulled the offer, not because they booked up the resort, but because blood was in the water and the sharks were in a frenzy….

 

 

 

ResorTime got thousands of new Facebook fans, incredible traffic to their website, a few condo bookings, and 95 Facebook messages calling them a spammer for posting the “claimed” offer on Facebook user’s walls and trying to get Facebook user’s email addresses. One person even reported them to the Better Business Bureau for shady marketing practices, I kid you not.

Better Business Bureau Complaint

The details of this matter are as follows:

Complaint Involves:
Advertising Issues

Customer’s Statement of the Problem:
I would like to file a complaint about Resortime.com’s facebook advertising. I believe their current practices are deceptive and violate my right to privacy and control of my shared information online. I will explain why and hope that they move quickly to address these issues:1. I clicked on a link on my facebook feed from a friend who ‘redeemed and offer’ from resortime, thinking I would see the offer she redeemed and have the opportunity to opt in myself if I chose to.2. The site didn’t offer anything I wanted so I closed the browser window and went on with my life.3. The next morning I noticed that on my facebook feed, a post had been added claiming that I had redeemed an offer from Resortime. This is the first violation– I redeemed NOTHING from Resortime.4. The second violation came from the fact that I wasn’t able to delete the post, since it appeared on my news feed and not my wall. Even by accessing my Activity Feed in facebook, which SHOULD show everything I do on the site and allow me to delete or edit posts and how they appear on my feed. Right now the unauthorized, untrue and deceptive post sits on my newsfeed for my friends and family to see, and be deceived by themselves.I believe this tactic shows all the signs of a phishing scheme, where unwitting consumers are duped into clicking a link, only to have their personal info used without their consent. In this case, the false claim posted to my facebook feed that I redeemed an offer when I hadn’t.I understand that this might be an accident or a result of sloppy coding or a dodgy third-party referral site, but I am dubious and believe that it instead represents a deceptive and manipulative business practice. I hope Resortime will immediately update their facebook functionality to remove this phishing scheme. I will be sharing this complaint with facebook as well, so that they can better track and police unscrupulous practices like this.

Desired Settlement:                   
I would like the post removed from my news feed and Resortime to change the way they share facebook users’ information by following these common-sense guidelines:1. Your social posts should not say someone redeemed a deal when they didn’t.2. Nothing should ever be posted to a newsfeed without express permission from a user.2. Any social post MUST be able to be deleted or edited at the user’s discretion.

Since when did the Better Business Bureau start handling Facebook advertising complaints. I may need to look into this a bit further.

Now 95 comments is not 28,000 people, I didn’t mention the angry tweets about them – they don’t hit tens of thousands either, but even this small percentage has reeked havoc with their social profiles and online reputation. The spammer here is NOT ResorTime it is Facebook, when you click on an offer it automatically posts to your activity feed that you “claimed” an offer. Actually it is defaulted to post publicly to your activity feed,  but if you are clicking quickly you may not see it at first. Just remember when you click first and think later you get some surprises.

After you click to get an offer a pop up box appears telling you that the company does not get your email address (this may be something Facebook just added, we tested it after the deal went out), in the bottom left hand corner the text “Post offer to timeline” is visible (this has always been there), and the default is Public. The user must select “only me” if they want the post to be private or move away from the page all together if they do not want it to post at all.

The other BIG issue for people is what posts on their timeline, the post says “claimed” offer. Most people are clicking to get more information about the offer to decide if they want to claim it or in this case purchase it. It does seem shady OF FACEBOOK to post on people’s timelines that deal has been claimed when it has not.

This is the email that people received when they clicked on the offer……

I see almost everything that should be in the offer in this email. What may be misleading is that in the email you recieve when you “get the offer” (you are not actually getting the offer here, just more information about it) the address listed for ResorTime.com is in Carlsbad, CA which is their corporate offices – the condos are actually in Lake Tahoe. This shouln’t be too big of a deal, by clicking on the offer you don’t pay for anything or share any information, but that is not how Facebook users see it. Since the email comes with the company’s information on it they are assuming that the company has their email. They are also upset that they had to click to find out if the resort was near them and that it posted on their timeline that they “claimed” an offer.

ResorTime did not know that their corporate address popped up under their name, the preview you get of your Facebook Offer when you are posting it doesn’t show this part. Your offer text can only be 90 characters long and like any good marketer they wanted the deal information in there. The terms and conditions area in the email has the link for more information and the booking page has all of the pertinent information on the property. If you think about a pay per click ad, this is all pretty standard, so ResorTime.com thought that they were covered.

It is a shame and I feel really bad for ResorTime, they had a legitimate deal that they wanted to offer on Facebook, the pricing was correct, the landing page for the link was correct, the image is from the resort, and the expiration date is clearly visible.

I know they are shaking their heads right now wondering what they could have done differently and the only advice I can give them is do not be one of the first to try a new Facebook advertising product. Let someone else take all the bumps and bruises for you. Every time Facebook rolls out a new advertising service they step on users. When will Facebook learn??

Now if they dare to do this again, they need to make sure that the location of the offer is in the headline, but even with that the main complaint was that it posted to people’s timeline as a “claimed” offer so how do they deal with that? I really don’t know.

You are probably asking yourselves why they would dare to do it again after all of this? Well it did result in 4,000 new Facebook fans, significant traffic to their site, 200,000 people clicked to get the offer, there were purchases made and nearly 800 people signed up on their website to be notified of hot deals and resort updates. ResorTime.com offers timeshares at great prices that are perfect for that frugal traveler, or the family trying to take a vacation without taking a second mortgage on their house, why shouldn’t they be able to use Facebook Offer to promote their product?

For those Facebook users that had the “claimed offer” hit their timeline you can hide it by…..

You can hide a particular offer and all posts from a specific Page from your news feed, but there isn’t a setting that allows you to hide all offers from your news feed.

To hide an offer from your news feed, hover over the top-right corner, click the drop-down menu  and choose what you’d like to hide:

  • Hide story will remove the offer you’re looking at
  • Hide all by will remove the offer you’re looking at, as well as all future stories from that Page

http://www.facebook.com/help/offers

Read about the Facebook Offer craziness in detail on Resortimetravelers.com: Resortime and Facebook Offers Hiccup or see it in action on their Facebook page.

Full disclosure: We work with resortime.com on some of their digital marketing needs, we were not involved in posting this Facebook Offer but if we had been I don’t know that we would have done much differently aside from putting the location of the offer. This may have saved them from getting maybe 5-10 nasty comments, but the bulk of the comments came from the offer posting to Facebook user’s timelines and there is no way we would have seen that issue coming.

 

 

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About Author

Bridget is President of The Get Smart Web Consulting Group, a web presence and digital strategy firm with offices in San Diego County California and Collier County Florida. But more importantly she is a web, tech, and Twitter addict!

  • http://twitter.com/briancarter Brian Carter

    Ya, perhaps in some cases what Facebook calls “frictionless sharing” may be seen by some users as “whoa wait I didn’t want that to happen!” 

    • http://thegetsmartblog.com BridgetAyers

      Isn’t how Facebook handles everything though? Let’s push it and see how people react we can always pull back later if they don’t like it.

  • Suzan

    fb can be so frustrating at times – making changes…no notice…and they know they can get away with it….

    • http://thegetsmartblog.com BridgetAyers

      So true, they are the biggest game in town right now – but they should remember the bigger you are, the louder the noise you make when you hit bottom. :)

  • jasonbroccoli

    Thank you!! This is so good to be aware of. I will not participate in this right now.