Facebook recently released a statement that had social media marketers and brands sighing together in unison:
"You must not incentivize people to use social plugins or to like a Page. This includes offering rewards, or gating apps or app content based on whether or not a person has liked a Page. It remains acceptable to incentivize people to login to your app, check-in at a place or enter a promotion on your app's Page."
Essentially, as of November 5th you will no longer be able to use third party apps that force fans to "Like" a page for content or to participate in a contest. I am the first to admit that this was a tactic used frequently for our clients at redpepper, and the change will feel dramatic to some. With many clients focused on growth metrics, like-gating was a great way to grow the quantity of contacts in their databases and leave them satisfied. But when brands focus on quantity over quality, the content relevance to newly acquired fanbases can begin to slip, and in turn those fanbases dwindle.
This update should not come as a surprise as we have seen multiple channels, including Facebook, make moves toward more personal and tailored user experiences in recent years. Facebook cut brands' organic reach and boosted quality fan engagement with an algorithm change earlier this year, Pinterest and Twitter have focused on their direct message features, and Instagram is now recommending photos based on users previous likes and location tags. The goal of all of this? A more personalized connection with fans and users. When looking at this trend, the ban on "like gating" doesn't seem out of place, but that doesn't make the shift easy. What can marketers and brands do to embrace this policy shift, bounce back quickly, and build deeper brand connections with fans?
Employ these four strategies and thrive even after the changes take effect.
You may still gather incredibly important data from fans (emails, opinions, feedback, etc). This is the type of data that brands can leverage and turn into actionable insights. What counts will be how brands utilize this data. Now is the time to build your email database in connection with social, and open another communication channel with your fans. With so many channels vying for their attention, consumers are easily distracted, but implementing a multi-channel strategy will allow for multiple brand touchpoints. Craft relevant content based on each channel to address your message from various angles.
Can brands really be that surprised that Facebook is tired of giving away free advertising, and in turn is changing the rules to support itself as a business? Social media is a media channel, much like radio, print or TV. Brands allocate media budgets for these traditional channels, and it is naive for them to assume that is is not necessary to do the same for social media. Social channels like Facebook are businesses that run off of advertising dollars. A paid media strategy will be essential in hitting growth goals in the future.
Create Quality Content:
Moving forward, content developers will need to be much more strategic. Ask yourself, what value can we offer fans that choose to interact with our page? What unique information can we share with our fans? Aim to find out what your audience is interested in and provide it to them. Better yet, ask them directly. Fans that are involved in the content creation process will feel closer to your brand- and they'll be more likely to share that content with their friends as well.
Build Loyal Fans:
Have you run a contest in the past that attracted a good number of new fans, only to find out that none of those fans are actually interested in your content once the grand prize has been claimed? This shift from like-gating means that people who "Like" your page will do so because they have actual interest in you as a brand. Be sure that your contests are in line with your brand, and make sure that the other content on your page is exciting so people will want to follow you. These loyal fans can be successfully leveraged as Brand Ambassadors in the future.
It's important to remember that Facebook is making these changes in order to allow for a better consumer experience- and to better refine their algorithm. By placing a higher value on the "Like," they offer a better content delivery platform and create a more relevant user experience. At the end of the day, they want to keep both their users and brands happy. The key for brands will be to accept the fact that Facebook is moving away from large fan bases to focus on smaller more engaged communities. This may involve a shift in priorities, and brands may have to redefine success of their social campaigns. This is the nature of social media -- this ban is not the first change and it will not be the last. As they say, "Don't be afraid of change, you may lose something good, but you'll probably gain something better," and I can't think of anything better for brands than a brand loyal advocate.