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Tagging Etiquette for Brands in Facebook Photos

The ability to “tag” your friends in Facebook photos has always been a double-edged sword. On one hand, it’s a great way to immediately share photos with each other—if I upload a photo and tag my four friends in it, that photo is suddenly on their walls without me having to individually send it to them. Clicking on someone’s tag in the photo takes you to their page, etc. This would be awesome except that not every photo uploaded is…shall we say, flattering. Sometimes friends tag me in photos and I think: are you mad at me? Because telling the world of Facebook “Hey look at Pete in this photo with food on his shirt and one eye open and it looks like he’s mid-yawn” is not a very nice move.

Hence, the un-tag. Thankfully you can remove tags from photos if you don’t want to be identified in  them. The morning after the annual New Year’s Eve, party, for example? I get to work early to factor in un-tagging time. Relying on the discretion of others to only tag flattering photos has only resulted in embarrassment and hurt feelings. It’s gotten to the point in my circle of family and friends that we’ve instituted a rule: you can only tag yourself in an album.

So it is with great interest that I read that you can now tag brands in Facebook. Basically anything that has a Facebook page can now be tagged, which means I could, for instance, tag the can of Coke I’m drinking which would link to the Coca-Cola fan page on Facebook:

[Note: not your author]

Or, if I was, say, attending the awesome Weezer Memories Tour concert, I could tag my photos with the band’s page:

[actual photo from the author. Tag, Weezer – you’re it.]

I think this is a fantastic opportunity for brands to get more exposure on Facebook. If I am fans of various brands on Facebook, tagging those brands in relevant pictures gives the brand not only free advertising, but real-world examples of consumers enjoying their products, enjoying their services, etc. Word-of-mouth without actually saying anything. I am basically labeling them as “a friend” in my photos and acknowledging that they were an important presence in that moment—for all my other friends to see.

But. Brands go to great lengths to control their image and how their products are portrayed, so…what are brands going to do if I tag them in a photo that they don’t find flattering? Is someone’s job going to be to sift through all the ways that Facebook users have tagged them in photos to constantly monitor for the equivalent of their brand with food on its shirt and one eye open and it looking like it’s mid-yawn? Are brands really trusting their consumers to use discretion and only tag photos where the brand is being portrayed in a flattering light? I can’t even get my mother-in-law to behave like that, so I’m not sure brands can trust all of their consumers to do so.

It only makes sense that Facebook is now allowing all of their Pages to be tagged, and not just brands. Time will tell if this proves to be a positive thing for brands looking to increase their exposure in a grassroots way…or if brands will now know what it’s like to be friends with “that guy” who always seems to have a camera at your finest moments.

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