November 4th marked the end of Like-Gating on Facebook. No longer can a company page charge the price of a “Like" to view a video, see a picture, play a game, or enter a contest. So what does this update really mean for brand pages on Facebook? The answer lies not in the Like-Gate itself, but in a broader look at Facebook for Business.
What is “Like-Gating” and Why Has it Been Used?
As many marketers know firsthand, getting Facebook users to Like your page is a goal that often lacks a clear course of action. Like-Gating was a tactic developed to help incentivize page Likes by showing exclusive content, such as contests or in-Facebook games, only to people who "Like" your page. Basically, if a user wanted to engage with your Like-Gated content, they had to first Like your page.
Many company pages have relied on Like-Gating to drive fan growth and justify the creation of exclusive content. However, as many social media strategists would openly share, many times the value of a Like derived from a Gate is lower than that of a fan who is genuinely interested in the page’s business and content. And as organic reach for company pages on Facebook decreases, any tactic to gain more fans with which to share content can be a tempting proposition. As of this post, that tactic is no longer an option.
So what’s the big deal?
Facebook has well over 1 billion users on the platform, all sharing videos, pictures, articles, and status updates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. In a well-rehearsed messaging stream from the company, Facebook shares that the average user could see 1,500 posts a day, but instead sees only about 100, thanks to Facebook’s proprietary connection algorithm (also known as EdgeRank). This means the competition for user-attention is rapidly increasing. If a tool such as the Like-Gate can help drive followers, why shouldn’t brands take advantage of it, right?
In reality, the authenticity and value of a Like matters more now than ever. Likes driven by shallow incentives will lead to less engaged fans, in turn hurting organic reach and the ability for the page’s content to show up in the news feed (a major reason for having a Facebook presence in the first place). In short, though Like-Gating has been possible in the past, it was rarely executed correctly to grow a healthy fan base, so good riddance, as they say.
Now that Like-Gating is off the table, how can companies continue to drive growth and build online communities? Here are a few ways to get ahead.
Focus on Quality Content and Delivering Value
Your fans and future fans get on Facebook to take a break from their day. They are seeing pictures from their best friend’s camping trip, updates on the new addition to their cousin’s family, or catching up on news updates from popular publications. They don’t and won’t ever login to see the latest special offer from your property. Your page’s content needs to fit seamlessly into the user’s activity feed. The best types of branded content are almost indistinguishable from genuine user content.
Native advertising (online advertising that matches the form and function of the platform on which it is being delivered) is changing the way marketers reach their audiences. This type of advertising delivers content without disrupting the platform experience for the user. Content that tells a relevant story and adds value to a user’s day, with the right form and function, will lead to more genuine fans and more valuable engagement than any Like-Gated campaign ever could.
Bring your Content to Them Facebook is valued at over $200 Billion for two primary reasons:
1. Their massive user base and their ability to help companies reach those users with unprecedented accuracy in a way they can monetize: Facebook Ads. A company that understands in detail who their target audiences are offline can now deliver content directly to that user profile online in a cost effective and efficient manner.
2. Enabling businesses to create quality content and promote it to highly targeted audiences. Using this medium, companies can drive follower rates and engagement in a much more valuable way.
Focus on the Real Value of Facebook
Total page Likes is an easy metric to show growth and audience size on Facebook. It’s the simplest number to see and understand. But Likes often get over-valued, especially in the C-Suite. By analyzing engagement metrics, you should be learning as much or more from your audience’s engagement than they do from your posts. Demographics, psychographics, geo-location, and high-value engagements like newsletter sign-ups and lead conversions deliver value that translates into other marketing channels.
Of the +1.3 billion Facebook users, one third (about 400 million people) access the site exclusively on a mobile device, and those numbers are only increasing with the rapid proliferation of smartphones and tablets in our culture. People are now consuming much of their media on the go in the responsive and real-time state of mobile. Facebook tabs, the extensions of the profile where games or contests are housed and Like-Gating traditionally occurred, do not show up on mobile devices. Like-Gating on mobile was essentially broken. Sharing quality content with the right audience at the right time is the only way to break through to fans on mobile. It requires an understanding of the user experience. This is what we call “context.”
Like-Gates are Gone and That’s Ok
The Like-Gate is a thing of the past. But rather than spending time and energy trying to figure out what type of incentive will get people to Like your page, instead try focusing on what types of content you can share to drive value in their day. A consistent strategy of delivering quality content at the right time will pay dividends in engagement and high-value actions miles above anything a Like-Gate could deliver.