It’s hard not to look at how many ‘likes’ a company has on Facebook when you visit their page, isn’t it? It’s right there by the logo, it’s a pretty big font, it’s bold…you can’t miss it. But what does this number tell you? Does it give you a clue about the brand’s popularity? Probably, but it may not be telling you the whole story.
A lot of companies these days are making people ‘like’ them before the visitor can see any content. If you ask me, this ‘like-gating,’ or mandatory liking, has gotten way out of control. Companies who do this are making it way too hard for me to connect with them – in fact, if I encounter something like this, I immediately turn away. While I like getting prizes, exclusive deals and sneak peaks, I don’t like them enough to be forced into hitting that little thumbs up. It has become such a problem that even the BBB has started to look into it.
Do me a favor – next time you read an article on social media, check to see if that article talks about how social media should be about building a relationship. I bet it will. That’s another problem I have with like-gating: it cheapens the relationship. It’s just like buying an email list and emailing those people (spam) or telemarketing (more spam), for example. In both those cases, people aren’t interacting with you because they want to, they are interacting because they have no choice.
All that aside, I’ve actually been finding myself wondering why companies actually want to do this. A stupid question at first (they want to reach more people, duh…), but when you really think about it, it’s actually pretty smart to think about. Here’s why:
Studies have actually shown that smaller networks do a better job at getting high levels of engagement with their audience. Add to this growing the audience through like-gating. When you get hundreds of people liking your page just to win some prize, instead of liking your page because they truly like you, your engagement will actually go down. Make sense? If not, read on.
Facebook uses something called Edgerank to evaluate Facebook pages. Social Media Club does a great job of explaining this in detail, but in summary, Facebook displays the posts that it thinks you will find most relevant by using a sorting algorithm that looks at:
- your affinity for that page or friend (how often you visit or interact)
- how much content is interacted with (likes, shares, or comments)
- time (is the content recent?)
Now, going back to like-gating, you can see that if you have a lot of people who have ‘liked’ your page, but don’t actually like your page, they will hurt your Edgerank by the lack of visits and interactions with your page. So, no matter how timely and good your posts are, if you have a lot of ‘inactive’ or ‘uncaring’ fans, you’ll be penalized by the algorithm.
My point to all this is that it’s not about number of likes. It’s about your long-term relationships, not short-term likes. Please don’t ‘buy’ likes; earn them. It’s in your best interest anyway.
Once you have those true brand advocates, go ahead and offer prizes, special offers and exclusive content and promotions. They’ll at least appreciate it.
If there is a light at the end of the tunnel, it’s that this ‘like-gating’ business should at least calm down in a couple of weeks due to Facebook’s introduction of the Timeline format for brand pages. Since the redesign calls for ‘tabs’ to change to ‘apps’, page administrators will no longer be able to set a default landing tab, which is what happens in these types of like-gating contests. Companies will still be able to send you to direct you to custom urls of these apps, so contesting will still exist…unfortunately.