On January 16th at 9:06 AM, I liked the University of Phoenix Facebook Page. Because of my consulting practice, it makes sense for me to like a wide variety of higher-education-related pages on Facebook. Universities and colleges that I have worked with are in my list of likes as well as several other well-known schools and programs. I like seeing what they’re up to on Facebook. When I liked Phoenix, I was doing it as a way to keep up on how they run their Facebook presence. Little did I realize at the time that my innocent “like” was going to be put to a use that I didn’t expect.
In one of my Facebook status updates, a friend informed me in a comment that there was an advertisement at the top of her newsfeed. The sponsored ad, like the image at the top of this post, showed that I had liked the Phoenix Facebook page. I didn’t see the ad until another friend sent me a screencap from their phone. Now, I like a lot of things on Facebook and for the most part, I don’t care if a company’s ad includes my name/activity. After all, I have agreed to Facebook’s Terms of Service. I suppose I could leverage Facebook’s ever-changing privacy settings to limit what can be done with my activity on the site. However, I’ve always had my Facebook presence set to “wide open” and I don’t really want to change it.
Facebook is quite clear how advertising and sponsored stories work on the site. Of course, I’m sure that most people have never read either the terms of service or any other FAQs on the site about privacy/advertising. According to Facebook, “when an advertiser creates an ad, they are given the opportunity to choose their audience by location, demographics, likes, keywords, and any other information we receive or can tell about you and other users.” It’s kind of creepy, but it’s also Facebook’s source of income, so I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised that my liking of Phoenix’s page was turned into a sponsored ad.
Here’s my main issue with this particular ad and how it was received: I work in higher education and this ad is selling something that is related to higher education. It’s not like it’s Starbucks and they are telling the world of Facebook that I like coffee. I could care less about that…and you should too. But, the connection to what I do for a living with this ad is a little bit troubling. While I’d rather not “unlike” the Phoenix page, I may end up doing that…and I’ve also liked other schools to see if my name shows up in their ads. Capella University and Southern New Hampshire University, I like you, I really do.