As of November 5th, Facebook will officially ban the practice of ‘Like Gating’. This ban will strip companies of one of the most extensively used engagement tools on the social media platform. What does this ban mean for the future of social media engagement? How will businesses and advertisers adjust to this marketing disarmament?
And most importantly, What the heck is ‘Like Gating’?
In the simplest terms, ‘Like Gating’ is the practice of offering ‘exclusive content’ to social media users contingent upon their ‘liking’ of a business or organization’s Facebook page. For example, a travel agency may offer submission into an “Exotic Get-away” contest in exchange for a ‘like’. A B2B agency may offer a free download of an eBook detailing industry trends. A clothing company may provide those who become fans of their page exclusive sale pricing. The possibilities are many, but the goal is always the same; to grow a business’ online fan base.
The practice of ‘Like Gating’ has become wide-spread, and with good reason. Simply put; it works. As competition increases and new marketing channels grow swollen and packed with new users, organic engagement becomes harder and harder. Artificial incentives to ‘like’ your page, like the ones offered by the practice of ‘Like Gating’, have become one of the few sure-fire ways to guarantee a steady level of engagement growth.
Like all things, however, ‘Like Gating’ does have it’s downfalls. Chief among them is the issue of ‘quantity over quality’. A fantastic giveaway or exciting contest may entice the masses, but effective marketing has never been about the masses. At their best, marketing efforts should make every attempt to target a carefully segmented population for whom their message is most relevant. ‘Like Gating’ is the antithesis of this ideal. It’s a bomb in place of a bullet, a fishing-net in place of a lure. It is not uncommon for companies that employ ‘Like Gating’ campaigns to lose a large percentage of their new fans shortly after the ‘exclusive content’, and thereby the incentive, is removed.
Not that the pros and cons will matter much soon. As of November 5th, whether ‘Like Gating’ was a God-send or blight will be a moot point. The banning of ‘Like Gating’ will necessitate a return to organic social growth strategies, a change that some advertisers and companies may struggle to make. In place of sure-fire, even easy, artificial incentives, social community managers will find themselves once again tasked with creating quality content as their primary engagement tool. This is not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, it will likely result in a significant increase to the overall quality of social media engagement efforts. It will, however, come with its growing pains. Fan growth will undoubtedly see a universal drop among business Facebook pages. Stripped of their ability to coerce fan growth, businesses will have to get creative in their engagement efforts, and the creative process is a tricky beast.
Moving forward, effective engagement will hinge upon the development of new engagement strategies coupled with a return to ‘tried and true’ methods. Companies can still run contest and giveaways and exclusive content offers on their Facebook pages, and smart ones will likely continue to do so, but the goal of such incentives must adapt to the new rules. The ‘Like Gating’ ban means ‘liking’ can no longer be a requisite for entry, but it says nothing about requiring an e-mail address of other qualifying information. Used as such, Facebook contest and exlusive content offers can still be utilized as a means to acquire contact information for direct marketing efforts. It is merely the process by which ‘likes’ are generated that must change.
As it was in the beginning, the creation of quality social media content will become the primary means of attracting new fans and engaging with current ones. The power of the ‘share’ will be restored. For companies that struggle to develop creative engagement strategies, this change may prove difficult to adapt to. For those with clever and insightful social media management teams, however, this ‘new normal’ represents an opportunity to shine. While organic engagement efforts will likely never trump ‘Like Gating’ efforts in terms of sheer number of ‘likes’ generated, they does ensure that everyone one of those ‘likes’ is genuine, and not coerced for the sake of a sweepstakes entry.
So, should the ban on ‘Like Gating’ be of concern to businesses and organizations that promote through Facebook?
But only to those who are slow to adapt and resistant to change. For the rest of us, this is simply the start of a new, albeit challenging, era in social media engagement.
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