Boy, it’s been a hard year for the Facebook “like” — because, well, no one likes it anymore.
First came the news that a simple “like” was useless — to advertisers anyway –because it has long ago stopped meaning that consumers who “like” advertiser pages will actually see the content that is then stuffed into their News Feed
And then, this week, came this news: Facebook is now disallowing most incentivized “liking,” of the “’Like’-our-page-if-you-want-to-enter-the-sweepstakes” variety. From a post on a Facebook developer blog: “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.”
Now, this is a sad day. If you can’t trick people into liking your Facebook page, why even get up in the morning?
Or is it such a sad day?
I think not. It’s actually a much-needed reset of what used to be advertisers’ baseline Facebook currency, a measurement of their worth. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen an advertiser boast about its number of “likes,” at least publicly, for three reasons:
1. A lot of these “likes” were just the sort of ill-begotten, meaningless clicks that came out of this silly incentivizing meme.
2. Given the death of organic reach, it’s become less and less clear what those “likes” actually mean, anyway.
3. Lastly, marketers who don’t do social media for a living stopped pointing to their “likes” because their social specialists told them to. “Shut up about the number of ‘likes’ we have, already! You’re embarrassing yourself!”
Now Facebook is catching up to reality. As the blog post explains, the new, upgraded “like” has loftier aims: “To ensure quality connections and help businesses reach the people who matter to them, we want people to like Pages because they want to connect and hear from the business, not because of artificial incentives.”
What a concept!
There are obvious implications here. For one, advertiser “likes” will decelerate, at least for those whose core strategy was using promotions, sweepstakes and other click bait to gather “likes.” Another possibility is that less “likes” could increase organic reach because of less competition in the News Feed. I’m not holding my breath on that one, though. There are too many factors at work that will continue to make the News Feed hopelessly crowded.
Still, this is a step in the right direction. When it comes to quantity vs. quality in social media, there has been dawning recognition that it’s more important to reach the right people than to reach many more of the wrong ones. The new rules for the Facebook “like” are slow steps in that evolution, but good ones.