Social Good and the Facebook “Want” Button

The digital world is a-twitter about Facebook’s coming “want” button. Of course, the idea is for people to “want” products they’d like to buy, but could it be adapted to help nonprofits engage with their constituents?

Before even considering that, a more important question: How would a “Want” button be different than the “Like” button? In a June 28 post on Inside Facebook, Brittany Darwell wrote:

Just as the Like button allowed Facebook to collect massive amounts of data about users’ interests, the Want button could be a key way for the social network to collect desire-based data. A Want button plugin will make it easy for e-commerce and other sites to implement this type of Facebook functionality without having to build their own apps. Many of these sites are already using the Like button, but Liking a product could mean users already have it or that they are interested in getting it. Being able to distinguish between these groups of people and target ads to either one could be very powerful for advertisers and help make Facebook a stronger competitor to Google AdWords.

Not hard to see how businesses could want to be “wanted.” But there’s also potential for abuse, as Louie Herr wrote on Digital Trends on July 8:

Want’s focus on products makes it more troubling. Want feels like it is more for advertisers than for users. Addressing the criticisms of detractors like GM may require Facebook to share more data (and more of our personal data) with advertisers. With Want, Facebook may be opting on the side of its advertisers, not its users, when deciding the future of its platform.

To date, I haven’t seen any comment on the potential utility of the “Want” button for nonprofits, and I’m no Beth Kanter on the subject. But I have some general questions for nonprofits to keep in mind—questions I’m going to pose to a few nonprofit social media luminaries and return to in a future post:

  • What potential is there for nonprofits to use the “Want” and “Like” buttons to distinguish between FB users who have casual curiousity in an issue and those who are willing to put their money where their “Wants” are?
  • How might nonprofits compare and use “Like”and “Want” data to facilitate conversions (in marketing speak) of supporters from casual interest to active support?
  • What potential is there for nonprofits to use “Like”and “Want” buttons comparatively as quick, easy polls to measure the mood of their supporters and suggest next steps on pertinent issues—the kind of issues that pop up unexpectedly in the news and demand a quick response, which can all too easily go awry?
  • How might nonprofits allay supporters’ concerns about the increasing capture and potential use of personal data for Big Brotherly purposes—or would nonprofits be justified in waiting a while to see how things shake out before even considering any “Want” button strategies?

While I’m waiting for some ideas from the luminaries of the social-media-for-social-good world, what are your thoughts on the coming “Want” button?

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