The New Facebook Change That Officially Killed a Popular Marketing Tactic

One of Facebook’s most popular methods for boosting page likes just got thrown out the window – and if you’re still trying to use it, you’re in for a ruuuude awakening!

The practice? Like-gating.

 

Even if you’ve never used it or even heard the term before, I can almost GUARANTEE you’ve been seeing pages do this for YEARS. Maybe you’ve even participated in it without totally realizing what was going on. (Don’t worry – you didn’t do anything wrong.)

But if you ever liked a Facebook page to enter a contest or giveaway, or to gain access to some exclusive materials that only fans could see, well, you got like-gated.

And as of earlier this month, neither you nor anyone else is ever gonna do it again.

Here’s why that matters.

1. It should eliminate some of Facebook’s biggest problems – including low reach.

Remember a few weeks ago, when I wrote about how a certain big-name blog said “to heck with it” and threw its Facebook page onto a bonfire?

One of the reasons that they were so fed up was that their page had accumulated a ton of junk fans. Junk fans aren’t ACTUAL Facebook users – they’re bots and other fake profiles that people use to enter giveaways, or to sell to people who want more fans. Ever seen one of those things where somebody offers to get you 1000 Facebook likes in a day for $5? Those are just one type of junk fan. (Other types might be real people, but ones who use their accounts strictly for entering every giveaway in sight.)

And junk fans suck.

For one thing, it’s dishonest. When you see a Facebook page that has however many likes on it, it’s kind of nice to think that those are all, you know, real people.

More importantly, though, having junk fans on your page can really mess with your reach.

Remember – when Facebook is determining how many people should see your posts, one of the things they look at is your engagement rate (you know, the percentage of people who see a post that then share, comment on, or like it). The better your engagement rates, the better Facebook thinks your content is, and the more they show it to people WITHOUT you having to open your checkbook.

If you’ve got a ton of junk fans on your page, though, guess what – they’re not gonna engage with your posts. This is why Copyblogger got frustrated enough to burn down their page – they had so many junk fans that getting a decent engagement rate – and subsequently, a decent organic reach – was a constant uphill battle. Now that one of the huge incentives for fake profiles to proliferate is gone, this will hopefully be less of a problem for EVERYONE – whether or not you’ve ever actually used a like-gating strategy on your page!

2. It levels the playing field in more ways than one.

The form of like-gating most people are probably familiar with is a tangible incentive, like a giveaway. Maybe you’d be eligible to receive special coupons after liking a page, or you’d be entered into a contest. (And hey, who doesn’t like incentives? Of course I’ll like your page for a free ice cream cone, what am I, some kind of monster?)

Facebook has drawn a pretty clear line in the sand on that whole business, though. In fact, their exact words go a little something like:

Welp, show’s over. Facebook says, “No more! No more shall you offer our users free swiggity swag in exchange for their likes!”

And even if it means you won’t get that ice cream after all, it ain’t such a bad thing, in the end.

The elimination of like-gating means that scoring likes is a question of MERIT, not INCENTIVES. And when you think about it, that’s kiiiind of the way it SHOULD be, isn’t it? You shouldn’t be able to essentially buy someone’s like by offering them something – they should want to like your page because they actually LIKE you!

Now, businesses that don’t necessarily have the resources to offer incentives for likes don’t have to worry about competing with those that do. Even businesses that would get likes by incentivizing are ultimately better off – by eliminating even the possibility of incentivizing, Facebook is essentially weeding out the people who might like your page solely because of the special thing you’re offering. (That is, someone who likes your page JUST for the free ice cream isn’t likely to keep engaging – and I don’t want to repeat myself, here, but having a ton of fans who don’t engage can do more harm than good.)

3. You don’t have to worry about being caught like-gating.

…because it’s literally impossible. Facebook didn’t just ban the practice – they made it so whether or not you’ve done it in the past, you no longer even have the power.

To make a long, kinda boring story short, it all comes down to Facebook’s API – essentially, its programming. Facebook’s API allows you to install apps on your page, which users interact with. You used to be able to set up an app to determine whether or not a user had liked your page, and to then give (or not give) that user access to whatever content had been like-gated (like the ice cream coupon).

As of this month, Facebook has taken that power away. An app that used to be able to tell if someone had liked your page can no longer do that, effectively lowering the drawbridge on a permanent basis.

I’ve got good news and good news. (Hooray!)

First, the good news: if you don’t have any like-gating campaigns running on Facebook right now, you don’t have to do anything. Ta-daaa! (That’s not to say this change doesn’t affect you – it just means that you don’t have to actually do anything about it yourself.)

Now, the other good news: if you ARE running a like-gating campaign right now, you’re not gonna get in trouble – it just isn’t gonna work anymore. Because whatever app is running the campaign can no longer discriminate between fans and non-fans, it can’t restrict anyone from accessing whatever content it put a gate around – it’s officially obsolete, so you may as well just get rid of it. No muss, no fuss.

What do YOU think of the decision to kill like-gating?

Does it throw a kink in your plans? Are you relieved? Should businesses be allowed to offer incentives for liking their page? This could be a slightly controversial topic, so if you’ve got opinions, let’s hear ‘em in the comments below!

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About Laura Roeder

Laura Roeder is a social media marketing expert who gives businesses of all sizes the tools they need to make their mark on the web. She is the creator of the social media scheduling software Edgar, as well as social media marketing web courses like Creating Fame and Social Brilliant.

Comments

  1. Glad you shared this, wasn’t even aware of like – gating – I think Facebook disabled this function for more organic user engagement.

  2. What does that do to share-gating?

    • Tom | Team LKR says:

      Facebook hasn’t said, but it stands to reason that it’s something they’re going to end up discouraging, one way or another.

  3. Is there any way to remove people who have liked my page but don’t engage? I only have 1600 likes, but only about 100 or so people respond on a regular basis.

    • Tom | Team LKR says:

      Here’s the thing about that — if it’s fake/junk fans you want to get rid of, it can be done, but it’s mind-meltingly tedious and time-consuming. (Social Media Examiner broke down that particular process a few months ago.)

      As for removing people who are actual fans — albeit ones who don’t engage on a regular basis — I wouldn’t necessarily recommend that, and there are a number of reasons why. First of all, responding in the form of likes/comments/shares is one thing, and obviously a very important thing, but don’t forget about “invisible” engagement like clickthroughs. Don’t forget also that whatever reach you get is valuable even if the people who see your posts don’t interact with them directly. For example, one of your fans may see your updates on Facebook and not engage with them, but seeing those posts keeps you on their radar, and may even remind them to do things like visit your page or share your links at a later time, without navigating there directly from Facebook. (It’s like a billboard or a commercial — you don’t always take action right away, but that brand is in your head now, isn’t it?)

      Finally — and this is the cool part for you, specifically — you’re probably not in as bad shape as you think. So you’ve got 100 out of 1600 people who engage regularly — that’s just over 6%. Now, 6% may not sound like much, but it’s actually pretty good. Social Bakers actually did a study earlier this year to determine some ballpark averages for good Facebook Page/post engagement rates, and they found that for a Page your size, the average engagement rate is actually below 1%:
      Social Bakers Study
      Now, only you know your Page’s actual engagement stats (and they’re probably lower than 6%, unless those 100 people or so are all responding all the time). BUT, it’s always good to have some extra context for those low-sounding percentages!

  4. Does this apply to small contests that don’t use an app of any kind? If a small prize is offered to one person after reaching 500 likes on Facebook, is this considered like-gating?

    • Tom | Team LKR says:

      While that could possibly technically be construed as like-gating (just because Facebook’s precise word choice says you can’t offer a reward based on whether or not someone has liked a page), it doesn’t seem to me like something to be overly concerned about. For one thing, the whole like-gating thing is more specifically related to the API change preventing apps from doing it automatically, which doesn’t make a difference, in this case. For another thing, for a page that small, it’s pretty darn unlikely Facebook’s even gonna notice. If you wanted to play it extra safe, my advice would be to just watch the way you word things. For example, instead of saying something like, “Like this page to be entered in our 500 Likes Giveaway,” say something more along the lines of “One lucky fan will win [whatever prize] as part of our 500 Likes Celebration Giveaway.” That would make it sound less like you’re incentivizing likes, and more like you’re rewarding existing fans. (But again, you probably wouldn’t have much — if anything — to worry about anyhow.)

  5. I think banning the like-gating is finally a step into the right direction. It’s going back to the basics of social networking, building relationships based on value and relevant information instead of simple incentives.

    I personally didn’t run any like-gating campaigns yet, because I didn’t want to spend time and money on those. We’ll see how the reach of FB pages develop over time. It should be able to grow a FB page without like-gating anyways…