Pet Peeve: Forced Invitation Pages

I’ve tried out a couple dozen Facebook apps and I’ve started dividing them into two groups:

  • Decent Apps
  • Manipulative Bastards

Manipulative Bastards are really easy to spot because they all share one tactic in common.  When you first install the app, you are taken directly to the invitation page.  You haven’t even used the app yet, and it is telling you to recommend it to your friends.  This falls cleanly into the “selfish jerks” type of broken.  (See Seth Godin’s Seven Types of Broken (Gel 2006).)

Most apps that use these types of tactics are copying other apps written by Manipulative Bastards.  They don’t know better or don’t care; they just want something that makes money.

The original Manipulative Bastards know exactly what they’re doing, because they all read Robert Cialdini’s Influence — a landmark text on how people can be persuaded (for better or worse) and how to avoid being manipulated.  Unfortunately for consumers, almost every marketing professional has read it but very few consumers have.  The problem here is that these app marketers haven’t read Seth Godin’s Permission Marketing and probably never even heard of Seth Godin.  Manipulation, even though few people understand the degree to which they’re being manipulated, is still felt at a subconscious level.  Something doesn’t feel right.  And in a world where your competitors are a click away, forcing your agenda on someone else is a gamble (it’s either win-lose or lose-lose).  However, if you’re able to help someone fulfill their agenda in a way that also helps you, then you’re destined for greatness.

Are you guilty of forced invitation pages?  Here’s a hint: if you use anything other than bypass=”cancel” in your fb:multi-friend-selector tag, you are being manipulative.  “skip” and “step” (‘Skip This Step’) imply an unnecessary solicit-invitations step while the user is trying to do something else.  Stop it.


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