The End of Facebook Like-gating and What it Means for Marketers

The practice of “Like-gating” has been a social strategy for many brands for a handful of years, with some social marketing vendors offering their own solutions for implementing Like-our-page-to-get-access to Facebook Pages.

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Image credit: Jack Ashman

But the Like-gate party is now officially over. As of November 5, Facebook has updated its SDK and API, removing the ability to require a Page Like to view content, participate in contests or receive coupons and other special offers. (Facebook also laid the smackdown on asking for Likes on individual Timeline posts in April. Humbug!)

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From the Facebook’s mouth:

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.

While marketers who’ve used gating won’t be penalized if they’ve done nothing since the announcement in August, and won’t lose any Likes. Rather, nothing promised in the gate splash page will actually work, and any pages that haven’t been updated will look silly or broken.

Why this change is silly

“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.”

We get it, Facebook wants to take on spam and reduce artificial Liking. But Like-gating is 100% opt-in and opt-out for Facebook users. Facebook NewsFeed ads, on the other hand, are pushed upon everyone.

Bad marketers are going to use Like-gating badly. And they’ll suffer from artificial Likers that just take their carrot and un-Like or never engage further. But marketers that offer something of value and keep their fans happy should be able to incentivize their social communities and offer perks for those that follow just like email marketing.
In fact, a lot of these gates are simply creative calls to action to “ask for the Like” and don’t involve contests. This gives brands a chance to tell a story, or spell out what Likers can expect from Liking, rather than just serving a generic stream of latest posts.

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Image credit: Noupe

And shouldn’t brands be able to tease a bit?

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Can’t a brand offer something as a “thank you” for connecting?

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And if you want to run a contest, Liking a Page is a lot less spammy than asking fans to post on their Timelines or asking for an email address. Facebook is forcing marketers to resort to more invasive ways to enter!

Alternatives to Like-gating

Since there’s nothing we can do to bring back the Like-gate, we can try to go around it…

Be creative in your Timeline Cover Photo

The fun brandy stuff? You used to be able to do that through a landing tab until Facebook killed that in 2012. https://www.facebook.com/notes/static-iframe-tab/how-to-change-the-default-facebook-page-landing-tab/290657860992350

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Image credit: WPRAgency

You can, however, leverage your Timeline Cover Photo. Most brand Pages use a simple image. Get creative and bake a call-to-action on why your Page is sooooo worth Liking, and show your personality.

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Leverage email to keep growing

Your email subscribers are already your fans. And most retail emails include a link to follow on Facebook, but do little to communicate why an existing subscriber would want to also follow socially. What’s different about your social stream?

Can fans join lively conversation? David’s Tea invites you to “talk tea” with them.

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BCBG invites you to follow the #bonchiclife. Showing Facebook next to Youtube, Pinterest and Instagram chicklets suggests there’s more bite-sized content that is worth following.

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Shopper’s Drug Mart mostly sends promotional offers, but occasionally content from its Glow beauty publication, inviting subscribers to keep up with more beauty content via social networks.

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True&Co reminds subscribers that Liking their Facebook page is a way to tell their friends about the brand. The call-to-action is to Share (communal gain), rather than to Like or Follow (individual gain).

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Oh yeah, you can put all these calls to action on your website and in mobile apps, too!

Capture unsubscribers

When email subscribers jump ship, they may still be willing to keep in touch with you through a different method. Remind them and make it only a click away to follow you!

Reward referrals

This may be the next tactic to be slaughtered, but for now you can still technically incentivize social sharing. Socialannex has a social commerce app that lets customers share discount codes with friends, and receive rewards when their referred friends purchase.

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http://www.socialannex.com/public/index/socialcommercepureplay

Again, this is 100% opt-in, and shouldn’t be touched by Facebook, as the social cost of spamming friends with lame offers acts as a good filter. Besides, if Facebook hasn’t blocked Candy Crush Saga requests yet, it shouldn’t pick on this tactic!

Form-gate

This tip comes from Social Media Examiner. Form-gating requires Facebook users to fill a form before accessing your premium content / contest / download / coupon, etc. By collecting an email address, you also have a more direct way to keep in touch with each opt-in. TabSite, ShortStack, Pagemodo and Wishpond were mentioned in the article. http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/like-gating-facebook-alternatives

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Keep tweetin’

You can still Follow-gate or ask customers to pay-with-a-Tweet to access content.

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Do Likes even matter?

From a social proof standpoint, yes. The more Likes the better you look. You can never be too rich or have too many social followers.

Facebook seems to hate marketers unless they’re buying ads. It’s already tweaked its News Feed algorithm to make it bloody hard to reach anyone organically, the decline has been dubbed ‘Facebook Zero.’

Facebook Zero: Considering Life After the Demise of Organic Reach

This means the percentage of your fans that actually see your posts is going down, down, down. Perhaps the real call to action should be for fans to enable “Get Notifications” to ensure they see everything you post. Or, of course, buy News Feed ads and promote individual posts.

But even with advertising, Likes matter because Facebook ads reach friends of your fans.

Likes matter. And you can still ask for them — you just can’t trade Likes for content anymore. Ask for them in your email campaigns and on your website. Ask unsusbcribers to follow you socially. Design your Timeline Cover to encourage Likes. Consider form-gating. And make sure if you’ve used a Like-gate you’ve taken it down…

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