Facebook initiates new policy for genuine fans

The number of “likes” is often a benchmark for a brand’s successful Facebook strategy, but the number of genuine likes or what Facebook calls “quality connections” is often under question.

Often called “Like-Gate”, forcing users to like their pages to gain access to apps and games, is a widely employed strategy by brands to inflate their popularity.

Now Facebook is trying to make sure when users “like” a page, they truly like it.

The social media giant has announced a new policy on a developer blog to knock down the “Like-Gate” to ensure “quality connections”, effective 5 November.

It reads: “You must not incentivise people to use social plug-ins 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 incentivise people to login to your app, check in at a place or enter a promotion on your app’s page.

“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.”

In a nutshell, brands are no longer able to force a user to “like” their page to enter contests or to receive incentives.

Rudi Leung, general manager of Social@Ogilvy, regards the new policy as a “positive change” for not only brands, but also agencies.

“As Facebook users are moving away from desktop to mobile, the Like-Gate tactic will be obsoleted sooner or later anyway.

“A lot of brand pages have been relying on the Like-Gate tactic to acquire new fans. From now on, they need to give a stronger reason to make someone liking their page.”

Apparently, Facebook is now looking for true love, and so should brands, Leung stressed.

“As a brand, you should also give true love back to your customers rather than just wanting to acquire a huge volume of them without building a genuine relationship.

“A lot of marketers are still living in the reach/broadcast mindset from the past. When it comes to social media, all they care is how many people they can reach, how far they can amplify their marketing message.

“From now on, they should stop just counting the numbers of customers that they can reach. Instead, they should start considering to reach the customers that count.”

Mark Chan, managing partner of CMRS, considers the policy a reasonable one because it allows a “grace period” for app developers and marketers to adjust their Facebook strategies.

“It affects most of the local marketers I believe, as they tend to do fan acquisition through giveaways or incentives,” Chan said.

“Now they have to look into how to connect with the fans, who are ideally the brand lovers and advocates, customers or potential customers, by portraying the brand story through the right content.”

He said it had been observed that many brand pages were able to acquire fans, but were not engaging and responding to fans and, more importantly, not doing advocacy for their pages or the brands.

“I believe only genuine fans are useful to brands. Hence, the new rules will restrict those who are chasing after sheer ‘like’ numbers, but not the quality of fans.”

With this golden gate for “likes” demolished, where should brands look ahead?

“Social media is all about building relationships,” said Leung, “so consider your fans on Facebook an extension of your CRM practice. Pampering them consistently rather than feeding them like zombies with random incentives.

“Don’t invest in Facebook media only during a campaign period. Consider an always-on Facebook media strategy for fan acquisition. Have a long-term strategy rather than a tactical one.”

Ben Woo, project director of Pixo Punch, agreed on the value of maintaining quality content, but stressed the importance to beef up investment in the social space.

“Given the organic reach for wall contents is dropping occasionally, the only way out would be allocating a larger budget on social ads placement, and increasing ad spending to maintain the reach and attract new fans,” Woo said.

“Marketers should also redefine the KPI for maintaining the page, they should no longer cherish only the number of fans, but more on the engagement of each piece of content.”

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