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!