Reconsidering Display in Online Testimonial Advertising: The “Show Faces” Feature in Facebook’s Social Plugins
Abstract

Abstract:

Showing what consumers think and like about products, services, or brands is a well-known communicative feature in advertising. This article explores the new ways in which consumer experience is represented in online communication. Facebook has developed a range of Social Plugins that can be added on external websites to generate traffic to Facebook (e.g., by showing what other users “like”). This article focuses on the display of profile pictures in Social Plugins located on brand and company websites. Within this context, the article approaches the display of profile pictures as a dynamic text feature in what will be considered “testimonial advertising.” Inspired by Goffman’s discussion of display in public and private pictures, the article examines new meanings of display by focusing on the textual mechanisms of the plugins. Two main types of arguments related to the display of profile pictures are identified: an interpersonal argument based on personal knowledge of the portrayed, and a crowd argument established by the piles of unknown faces. The article suggests these two arguments as important to the meaning potential of the Social Plugins’ profile pictures; yet, it also critically discusses the compiled pictures beyond social communication as a tendency of aestheticization.