Free Advertising for – not from – Social Networks like Facebook and Google

By: Lee Rickwood

August 27, 2012

Ever seen a TV ad for Google? Or heard a radio spot for Facebook?

Not likely. Although social media networks are among the world’s largest and most profitable companies, with some of the most recognizable brands around, they do little or no advertising for themselves.

We do it for them!

You have for sure seen the logos of these companies: just about every website puts the trademark of a social network on its home page, demonstrating its connectivity and participation in the social media movement. The brands of Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest and more are freely sprinkled across the Web, and often appear in print or on TV as well.


Lawsuits and legal action can result from the improper use of trademarks and logos — sometimes.

Nevertheless, lawsuits over trademark infringement are numerous, and the fines can range into the millions of dollars for improper or unauthorized use.

Owners fight long and hard to protect their brand identity online: So don’t mess with U.S. President Barack Obama, the Hell’s Angels, the International Olympic Committee, or almost any pro sports team.

Companies that use someone else’s logo clearly want to capitalize on the phenomenon, and be identified with them in some way, and so they use the logo of another company in a self-serving — often illegal — manner.

It’s only when the actual owner wants its logo, trademark or brand used that it is used; if the usage has a value for the company that owns it, they are all too happy to see it used – for a price.

While the social media networks are great at leveraging user generated – that is, our – content; it should not be surprising that they are good at utilizing user generated marketing, too.

It seems clear that, embedded into the business plan of a social network like Facebook, there’s a strategy to make us all willing and unpaid marketers on its behalf.

If asked about their corporate advertising, branding or marketing strategy, however, most social networks will politely decline.

A spokesperson for Google, for example, only responded to queries about brand building and logo usage for this story with a terse, “I do not think that we will be able to accommodate your request at this time as we do not often discuss our various marketing efforts.”

The social networks, of course, all have policies spelling out the proper and acceptable use of their logos; most require that permission is sought and granted first.

Certain rules do allow for the ‘fair use’ of a logo, and it is generally allowed for purposes of description and identification.

facebook and twitter logoA publication like this one, for instance, can incorporate a corporate logo or brand into an article like this one (phew!) reasonably safely.

Nevertheless, companies like Google, with one of the most recognizable brands around, protect their brand “passionately”. The company says it does turn down requests for brand usage (such as in the case of a logo being posted on a site with “objectionable material” or if the logo implies an endorsement or affiliation that does not really exist).

Two would-be brand users recently found this out the hard way – standing in front of the ‘thumbs up’, they held up their own sign, and were quickly shooed away by Facebook security.



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