How Facebook’s New Rules Will Make Your Brand Stronger: Surviving and thriving after Facebook kills like-gating

Facebook will no longer allow any company to “like-gate” their Facebook page or content starting November 5th, 2014. While they tried announcing this quietly, with it buried at the bottom of a developers’ announcement, you can’t keep a change like this quiet.

Marketers around the world definitely reacted. Some marketers didn’t see this as being a big deal, others screamed foul, others freaked out and many see the opportunity they’ve been given. In this post, I’ll walk through the change and how this will impact you as a digital marketer, both now and in the years to come.

Having been part of the small team that worked with Facebook as they first created Facebook Pages and released their APIs to us and a few others, there have been lots of changes. Smarter marketers will not only survive this change, they will thrive.

Facebook’s Rule Change

What they said

Facebook mentioned this change in a developers’ blog post:

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, checkin at a place or enter a promotion on your app’s Page.

This is how they explain it

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. We believe this update will benefit people and advertisers alike.

What It Actually Means

Facebook is basically putting the kibosh on “like-gating”.  You will not be able to use any third-party app or custom built app to hide content and require people to Like your Facebook page to see it or to get something. That means that you cannot require someone Like your page to 1) enter a contest 2) access an entry form 3) get a coupon or anything else 4) get more tokens in a game 5) access a special section of your website or a coupon.

For those brands that relied on bribes as their primary ways to get people to Like their Facebook pages, their world was rocked. I saw quotes from well known marketers, several of them friends (so I don’t want to call them out publicly) such as “Facebook is restricting, no removing, my ability to have organic success just to boost their advertising revenue”, “this continues their war on marketers” and “how can they do this given the spiraling reach and algorithm changes”.

Google has done the same thing for years. Google’s Panda and Penguin updates, along with their smaller updates, change the day to day activity for many marketers. We know the long-tail of keywords and content are consistent ways to grow your organic search. However, for marketers that focused solely on link building, they saw traffic decrease drastically. Marketers that used link building as a tool, rather than a pillar, saw their traffic increase.

Personally, I see this as a GREAT move by Facebook and one that will be a boost to brands, companies and marketers.

Facebook’s Engagement and Reach Issue

Many marketers complain that only 1% – 3% of the fans on their page see their updates. Those marketers are pissed. Is that reality? Is everyone seeing that? How do you change it?

Facebook first came out with business groups in 2007 and business pages in 2009. Since then, there has been remarkable growth in traffic and functionality of those pages and the overall network. In 2014, we see 152 million active daily users in the US & Canada. And, they’re spending more than 40 minutes per day on Facebook and 13 minutes on Instagram. The average Facebook user now has 338 friends. That’s an increase of 208, from the 130, they had in 2012.

Those changes result in thousands of potential stories and actions you, and every person, could see in your news feed each day. Facebook had to do something to make sure that the “over-sharers”, “downers” and low quality posts did not swarm your feed. So, Facebook instituted EdgeRank and started filtering and reordering what users saw. Some marketers freaked out and doubled down by trying to focus on just getting more Likes. Others focused on good content and other ways to engage their community on Facebook.

Buzz does NOT equal truth

Reach and engagement are up, then they’re down. Marketing blogs and some less than honest tools love to post click bait headlines, but what’s true? Well, Facebook once announced that organic reach was 16% for a given post on average. Some marketers claim that the 2014 Facebook changes reduced organic reach to 1%-3% and some shady tool providers claim that they can help you reach 70%+ of your page audience. The reality is that Facebook’s changes helped some and hurt others. Food/beverage, jewelry and car related pages saw reach drop. After all, while I adore Doritos, how many posts per day/week do you really want to see about them? TV, radio, nutrition, sport and family related pages saw engagement substantially increase (on average).

Facebook forcing brands to do it right

I believe Facebook is really trying to force marketers to do it right and to grow. From having spent a good amount of time at Facebook headquarters over the years, knowing many people there and seeing the results, they are trying to build a better content delivery system. They want to put content in front of fans that will be enticing and that they truly want to see. Facebook knows that this will keep people on the network more, which yes, means more chances to display ads.

The concept of offering an incentive in exchange for something is not new. Marketers have used lead capture forms and lead magnets for years. However, Facebook Likes are not only an action, they’re the basis of Facebook as a network. It’s something that Facebook must protect the value of for both their future and the brands that have communities on it.

Facebook’s not saying that you can’t offer incentives to users in exchange for something. They’re just saying that you can’t require a Like or Share. Many simple contest apps and developers used to encourage Likes/Shares (e.g. see the details of the contest to enter or get an extra entry into a sweepstakes). That was great for cheap apps and the marketers that simply focused on getting more Likes. However, it usually wasn’t helpful for companies. Facebook’s move is a great way to filter out the crap and take the focus off of people playing the number of Likes game. (tweet tip)

Offering a gift or prize devalues Likes – you only did something to get something. Guess what happened after someone Liked your page simply to be able to get a free download or enter a sweepstakes. Best case is they unlike your page. Worst case is they hide your posts in their feed, which Facebook sees as “negative feedback” and can decrease who else will see your posts. Overall, it encouraged shallow fan behavior.

The Tools in Your Utility Belt

The new Facebook rules will let real superheroes shine and require others to step up their game. 

It’s always more valuable to have 100 quality fans than 1,000 passive ones. This is how empires (and HUGE growth) are built. Real connections are what make your business grow. This is the mentality that Facebook is taking and I agree. The value of a Like is minuscule compared to the value of other data that a marketer should be trying to collect. Emails, feedback, testimonials and other forms of engagement and data is where the world changes.

I think too many businesses have been focused on Likes alone, at the expense of actions and data with a much higher ROI. Focusing on action-gating, engaging content and together marketing is a much more profitable strategy.

We designed the entire Sideqik platform from the beginning to allow marketers to achieve their goals without like-gating and to include all digital marketing channels. Our customers collect actionable data and engagement, on Facebook, other social networks and on their websites. Everything that our customers want to do can be done on or outside of Facebook completely, which lets everyone participate. Many see a significant increase in Likes on their page(s) too; we just don’t force consumers to. This results in an increase in engagement that helps them both now and in the future.

Actionable Strategies to Thrive in Your Campaigns

I hope you were one of the superhero marketers that didn’t focus simply on Likes. Either way, let me share three strategies that will let you take actionable steps to thrive in the new world. 

Expand beyond just Facebook and Likes

Start thinking “action-gating” and “form-gating” instead of “like-gating”. A marketing plan doesn’t work when it focuses only on the “top of the funnel”. Instead of Likes, change to other forms of entries for your giveaways that are more valuable to your business. Then, start thinking about how different campaigns can expand your brand awareness and interaction with true fans.

Good content and strong community of like-minded people will seduce people into liking your page. And remember, you can still ASK and encourage people to like your page and you should. Likes still matter, although it may be time to be more creative in your methods.

Identify and market together with your best partners

You already know that marketing together with a good marketing partner can bring in buckets and buckets of potential customers. We’ve seen thousands of great partnerships between marketers (and companies), and some relationships that didn’t quite work out.

Make sure you are identifying the best partners upfront and can track the results of your together marketing campaigns. With the right system in place, you can increase the number of potential good partners and easily identify what works with them. This combination will improve your campaigns today and has the potential to revolutionize them in the future.

Optimize for mobile

Facebook reports that 30% of only use Facebook on their phone or tablet, with a large portion of the 70% using mobile part of the time. It’s a mobile world, yet many marketers are using apps and promotions that are not optimized for mobile, and that is hurting their results. Let me repeat that. Many Facebook tabs and applications, especially those requiring like-gating, are NOT mobile-friendly or mobile-optimized. That is a huge problem for your results and is a horrible experience for your prospective customers.

Mobile-friendly means the experience works okay on mobile. Mobile-optimized platforms provide an experience that is tailored for the users’ device. Our team made sure the Sideqik platform was (and is) fully mobile-optimized. We want you to be a marketer and not have to think about all of the technical details to make an awesome mobile experience. Make sure your campaigns, landing pages, custom Facebook tabs and the platforms you use are mobile-optimized.

Predictions

This policy change is opportunity for growth. Here are my predictions.

Facebook reach will continue to increase: By removing the ability to add low-quality likes to a brand’s page, Facebook has reset the bar on quality. Companies will have to start thinking about other incentives to get people to Like your page. Such as, if you like a fitness page, you’ll receive valuable tips for staying in shape and early access to new products

Great digital marketers will get promoted: If you’ve been growing as a digital marketer, you do not have anything to worry about from Facebook’s change. You’ve been working with marketing partners and other strategies for growing. This is your time to shine.

How does the change in like-gating impact your approach to marketing?

Note: This article was originally published by Sideqik on Sideqik.com after I wrote it. Need a real influencer marketing program, check out their data-driven platform.

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