POV: Facebook’s Genuine Fan Policy
In an attempt to deliver more “genuine fans”, Facebook is implementing stricter guidelines that prohibit brands from forcing users to “Like” their page in order to receive incentives. The policy will be activate in November of this year, and will further distance the company from the initial fan-building frenzy it promoted during its early days.
In short, brands can no longer require people to “Like” a page to receive a reward or gain access to an app or app-based content. However, brands are still allowed to incentivize people to login into the brand’s app, check-in somewhere or enter a promotion on their app’s page. The idea is to ensure you are capturing real fans, people that are more likely to continuously engage with you, rather than forcing individuals into following your brand based on a short-lived “one-off” interaction.
This change is Facebook’s response to the scrutiny they receive around ensuring fan building strategies are delivering quality followers. The change also gives consumers a better user experience on Facebook.
In the last year, there has been an ongoing debate around the quality of fans. While some advertisers still want to focus on buying fans outright, others have adhered to the concept of leveraging their content to gain fans. This shift responds to the more demanding nature we are seeing from consumers – if you aren’t providing something useful, they won’t give you their time.
The initial thinking about this shift seems to be positive – for both consumers and advertisers. From a consumer standpoint, you may decide to “Like” a brand because you actually want to hear from them and engage. This in turn, will hold advertisers more accountable for creating and effectively distributing content that drives engagement as an incentive to follow. In addition, and to the benefit of Facebook, this change will also encourage marketers to tap into advertising solutions to get to relevant audiences and true fans rather than relying on “Like-Gating”. For example, if you are planning a social contest and were planning to use Like-Gating, you’ll need to rethink your approach. Instead consider posting about the contest to your page and amplifying the message through a targeted Promoted Post – this will not only reach a very relevant audience but provide consumers something engaging and exciting as an incentive to follow you. Ongoing communications should follow to keep those consumers engaged and coming back for more.
A big question is how this will impact a brand’s ability to gain organic reach via its fan base. At the moment Facebook’s algorithm decides the most relevant content to go into your newsfeed. As more users have joined Facebook and arguably more people have become brand fans, it’s become increasingly harder for brands to cut through the clutter and deliver organic reach in the newsfeed: the numbers have gone from 16% of fans a few years ago to in general low single digits.
Arguably this new change will translate into more meaningful brand fan relationships, which in theory could lead to a bump in organic reach simply because these more loyal fans are more interested in the brand’s content then the “flyby” fans forced into “Liking” for some promotional reason. In the end, the net effect maybe higher organic reach for fewer but more meaningful fans. However, whether that incremental organic reach is really that significant is doubtful given Facebook’s shift to and a focus on a paid reach proposition.