Former Attorney General Rob McKenna’s wife Marilyn McKenna is not your average political spouse. She’s earned a reputation for her unfiltered tweets about whatever’s on her mind, a prolific dialogue peppered with colorful language that has caught the attention of the public and even the local press corps.
In short, no one puts Marilyn in the corner, but on Thursday, Facebook did just that. That’s when the social media giant denied McKenna’s order to “promote” a profile picture (below) in which she stands inside one leg of a pair of size 20W pants she wore several years ago, an image clearly intended to serve as an inspiration to those struggling with weight challenges.
Paid promotion of posts is a way that people and organizations using Facebook can enhance the visibility of specific content to a certain targeted users.
One might wonder what element of McKenna’s picture required Facebook to invoke its right to deny paid promotion through its website?
According to the explanation Facebook’s spokesperson gave KING 5, the company’s decision conforms to its policies regarding advertising content. From KING5.com:
A spokesperson for the website said, “Facebook’s terms require advertisers of weight loss and other adult products to limit the audience of their ads to people aged 18 and over.”
But according to McKenna, Facebook’s objection to the picture was made on grounds that it promoted an “idealized body image,” something they consider harmful. On Thursday, McKenna tweeted: [language alert]
FB refused me this profile pic bcuz it “promotes idealized body image,” deems it harmful. I call bullshit. pic.twitter.com/eQHTWJGZWh
— Marilyn McKenna (@mckennamarilyn) January 9, 2014
McKenna has been outspoken about her weight loss journey, a self-described tough road on which she shed 120 pounds overall since 2007. She shares her experiences and strategies for healthy living on her own website, marilynmckenna.com. Visitors can read blog posts and view videos on the site for no charge.
Facebook might argue that a product doesn’t have to be sold to be advertised, a rational conclusion that allows them to stand on policy. But standing on policy is just another way of telling the customer they are wrong. It’s a pitfall that businesses like Facebook, those which have almost no face-to-face contact with their customers, should be wary of – the total devaluation of proactive customer service.
Perhaps most problematic for Facebook is that McKenna is not alone in her frustration. She is experiencing the inflexible and arbitrary method Facebook uses to enforce its content policies, one we have been caught up in on more than a few occasions. Decisions like the one made regarding her innocent profile picture have flustered us and doubtless many other would-be advertisers who are so important to Facebook’s bottom line.
Could Facebook have put McKenna’s original request on pause and offered to tweak the targeting to meet the guidelines before approving it? Certainly, they could have, but they did not.
But the use of an “unlike” button for staff only, one that is too easy to press, too difficult to explain and nearly impossible to reverse, seems to be a bad way to deal with these conflicts.