Facebook has made a strategic change in the way it facilitates brands, organizations and celebrities interact with their followers on the social network. It has started de-emphasizing ‘likes’ and instead promoting ‘follows’.
Unlike competing platforms like Google Plus and Twitter, Facebook has, for years, allowed users to follow a brand or celebrity or organization’s updates only if the user ‘liked’ their page.
There was, in other words, no plain follow option — a shortcoming that has now been fixed by an update to the site’s design.
In fact, not only does Facebook now let its users follow a page without ‘liking’ it, it is even promoting ‘follow’ as the interaction mode for pages in place of ‘like’ in some cases.
PAGE DESIGN CHANGES
The first change in terms of the de-emphasizing of the like button is in the design of the pages.
While earlier, there were only two buttons for interacting with the page (see the page on the left), now there are three — giving the user the option of following instead of liking the page.
Earlier, the ‘following’ button was visible only after a user clicked on the ‘like’ button. With the latest design change, that is no longer the case.
Just like before, one can see a set of related pages that the user may also be interested in.
However, here, the ‘Like’ button has been replaced by the ‘Follow’ button.
To actually like a page, a user has to open its url and click on the relevant button.
The third change made by Facebook for brands is the introduction of the follow widget for their main website.
Earlier, pages could only stick a ‘Like’ button on their websites.
Now they have the option of going for a ‘follow’ button, just like they have with Twitter and Google Plus.
IMPACT ON BRANDS
The exact reason for de-emphasizing ‘likes’ is not clear. There has been no update or explanation on this on Facebook’s official blogs.
However, the move is likely to be a reaction to demands from users that they would like to keep track of something — a rival brand, or a rival political party — without being forced to first ‘like’ it and add to its ‘prestige’ on the network.
IMPACT ON MARKETING STRATEGY
For brand campaigners, however, the change is likely to create confusion about which metric to promote.
So far, social media campaigns have emphasized the number of likes an organization garnered.
In fact, so obsessed were marketers about likes that many were willing to shell out money to ‘social media agencies’ to get their ‘associates’ to like their pages.
However, purchasing likes to expand the reach of posts had limited utility as the people who clicked like on a page in return for money were rarely around to do the same with the page’s posts and generate viral lift. Quite to the contrary, a high number of zombie likers tended to depress engagement metrics for a page’s posts, thus killing off its viral potential.
Under the new architecture, it is more than likely that engagement metrics will be calculated on the proportion of followers to react to a particular post, instead of the proportion of total ‘likers’ and we could see brands that garner far more likes than follows.