It all started with an innocent status update in Facebook where an acquaintance posted a line that goes something like, "Help XXXX get YYYY in donations from <big company>. All is needed is ZZ milliion fans."
It does sound like a very good cause and nothing is really wrong with such an activity. After all, if you chip in by simply making yourself a fan of the company's cause, you would have just helped a certain charity earn a big donation. I thought to myself, "Wow... this company is really generous."
When I clicked on the link given, I was transported to the company's fan page. They've created a page specifically for this purpose but I soon discovered the real motivation behind it. Apparently, the fan page belonged to the company and you have to become a fan of the company (not the charity or the cause) in order to reach the goal the company has set to making that big generous donation.
But, I have an issue with this sort of tactics.
Firstly, it irks me when an organization is setting a condition to give to any charity. Whatever happened to the term "giving unconditionally"? To me, giving to help the less fortunate should be a selfless act. It should not be conditional.
Secondly, the condition set by the organization seems to have an underlying motive. And that is to immediately gain a large fan base in their company's fan page. It may just be a fan page and it does nothing more than provide useful information to users about its upcoming products and services. But the problem is, they are exploiting the generosity of users through this act of charity so that they can create a large database of users which they can utilize for their own marketing purposes. I have no issues with companies using social media to market their products, but I draw the line when charities are involved.
Thirdly, I wondered what kind of fans they intend to get if these users are only putting their names in for the sole purpose of charity? Do they honestly think that these so called fans really care about their products?
So I began asking myself if such tactics were ethical. I questioned if I should help the charity regardless of whether the cause came with conditions. Consequently, I started to calculate how much it would cost the company if I had made myself as a fan of their page in Facebook. After a quick calculation, I found out that the cost was less than 20 cents. I immediately said to myself, "Gee, you mean I'm only worth that much? Why don't I do more by donating $10 by myself?"
And so I left the page without becoming a fan and making a promise to donate to that particular charity directly. I know that my donations may not mean much if I do it alone, but it certainly is more than what that organization is paying. And by the number of fans they have obtained so far, the charity is probably not going to get much.
Social media may be a fantastic way to get people connected to one another, but it is increasingly being misused by organizations especially when a charity is used as a front to disguise a company's marketing activities.
Would you have done the same?
Dr. Jimmy Tang / Former Group Editor
A semiconductor materials engineer who is also into DIY projects, audiophile, World of Warcraft, photography and fine cuisine.