by Dan Wade, Activation Lead for LockerDome
Facebook’s rules for liking pages have shifted once again, and this time a staple of Facebook marketing is on the chopping block. As of November 5, like-gating — the name for forcing users to like a page in order to enter a contest or receive access to specific content on a page — will no longer be supported by Facebook. In other words, page owners will not be able to directly incentivize users to like a page.
Opinions are split as to what this means. One side sees the new restrictions as yet another way for Facebook to push its ad products. Many who hold this opinion have used like gating as an effective way to build up an audience in the past through incentives hidden behind the gate, but since this will no longer be an option, those still looking to drive new likes on their pages could be compelled to use Facebook’s native promotions and ads.
The other side believes Facebook’s decision will help pages and their owners focus on building a quality audience rather than just a large one. There is still an issue of reaching new users on the platform — and Facebook surely will sell you ads for this purpose — but this camp believes that the organic methods of reaching an audience and converting them into qualified users is worth the additional effort and potentially the additional cost as well.
This is not the first step Facebook has taken toward making the absolute number of page likes less important. When the latest page redesign rolled out, the number of likes moved from front and center to the left bar. The number is still visible, but it is now far easier to overlook, and is unlikely to return to its former prominence. Likes used to be a simple way for Facebook to demonstrate its scale as a platform and its use as an audience engagement tool, but now Facebook’s size and utility are more of a given. While likes have become a way for pages to prove their size within Facebook’s ecosystem, unless they reflect users’ true preferences, they don’t do much for Facebook itself.
The November 5th rule change will force many page owners to re-evaluate their audience building strategy, but change can be for the better. While Facebook remains an effective way to connect with a wide audience outside of traditional channels like a company website or through TV or radio distribution, there are also far more alternatives than there used to be. Brands and media companies who utilize a like gate should use this change in policy as an opportunity to review what role the gate was playing in their social strategy.
If the gate was protecting discounts or other fan-only content, a similar effect can be achieved through an email database, the addresses for which can be produced either from existing lists or through many of the same channels that generate new Facebook likes. Even with Gmail’s separate promotional inbox, conversion rates on emails remain strong for many of Lockerdome’s partners and our tools have proven to be as effective in collecting email recipients as they are in promoting Facebook likes.
If the like gate was in place to entice an entirely new audience, the solution may be to look beyond Facebook’s walls. Social networks exist for virtually every niche and demographic from the obvious — e.g. Pinterest is a great place to connect with women — to the more obscure, like Ravelry or tvtag. While the raw size of the audience on these platforms may not be as large as it is on Facebook, the members are highly qualified and are more likely to convert into web visitors, customers, and consistent content consumers.
Any time a popular service makes a change, opinions will range as to whether it will yield a net positive or not. Facebook’s decision to remove an easy source of like generation will force changes in social strategy for a large number of companies, but if the net result is a higher quality audience, then the additional effort will not have been in vain.
As the Activation Lead for LockerDome, Dan Wade builds and executes campaigns for brands, media companies, professional sports teams, and a variety of other organizations on top of LockerDome’s swiftly growing platform and highly coveted user base. LockerDome has been called “Facebook on steroids” and a “future Wall Street darling” by MarketWatch, named one of Forbes magazine’s “2013 Sports Names You Need to Know”, and labeled by Adweek as “in the center of the digital revolution.”
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