Facebook’s latest policy change has banned Like-Gating for brands. What does this mean for your Facebook marketing program?

First it was the organic reach throttle, now it’s Like-Gating: Facebook is cracking down on brands again for policies that they themselves encouraged as a free and easy way to get more Facebook fans, and it has the marketing world all in a-twitter (literally – I heard about this on Twitter).

The changes start now for any new content, and will go into effect for already-existing content in 90 days (November 5th, 2014).

This article will give you a quick summary of the changes, and a few tips on coping with it.

What is Like-Gating?

Like-gating means that a user is required to take an action in order to consume content.  Most of us in marketing are used to some sort of fan-gating – a sign-up form on a social listening e-book, for example, is a gate.

Why Did Companies Use Like-Gating in Facebook Marketing?

Most Marketers used Facebook Like-Gating as barriers to entry for things like contests, e-books, and other content that lived within the tabs on our Facebook Page.  This was a great way to get more Facebook Fans with our owned media, as opposed to paid.

Why is the Facebook Like-Gating Ban a Big Deal?

It’s becoming increasingly difficult for brands to use earned and owned media for new Fans – which is, most likely, the point.  Facebook is incented to encourage us as Brands to prompt Facebook likes on our own media sources.  And, of course, Facebook does make its money on advertising: your earned media isn’t helping them make money.

Do We Still Care about Getting More Facebook Likes?

New Likes are still important, especially in the wake of organic reach throttle.  Your community size is less important than the engagement you spur with them, but ultimately you do need the people to get the eyeballs.  At this point, it’s looking like we Marketers are going to have to lean more heavily on external sources and paid Facebook advertising to generate new Facebook Likes.  (For more on this, check out our free – and gated! – Facebook marketing guide on getting more Facebook Fans with Reach and Engagement.)

This newest policy change isn’t necessarily surprising, but it does raise a big question: if companies can’t use our own Facebook Pages in the same manner we’d use an external landing page, is this really an owned media source?

That answer can be debated (my answer is no, not really), but from a practical standpoint every social media marketer who  maintains a corporate Facebook Page is going to have to decide for themselves (1) where efforts are best spent, (2) what the value of new Facebook Likes is, and (3) where to get them.  Here are some ideas:

3 Tips to New Facebook Likes in the Wake of Like-Gate 2014

  1. Use Your Earned Media – As I mentioned in an article on Facebook for Small Business earlier this week, putting a Facebook module on your own website is a good idea.  People can Like your Page right there on the spot.  (Our top three Facebook plugins are listed in that article.)
  2. Find out What Interests Your Community – Content marketing is a hot topic these days and, while it’s not necessarily a bottom-of-the-funnel activity in terms of generating a click, we Marketers will increasingly have to rely on higher-funnel engagement marketing strategies to build a relationship with consumers so that they’re compelled to Like us on their own.  The good news here: if you successfully do this, your long-term customer value is far higher than it is via simply generating a click as a contest entry.  So, it’s harder, but this is a quantity vs. quality issue.

EXAMPLE: Let’s say that I have a Facebook Page for my new pizza restaurant in San Francisco. To learn more about my target community’s interests, I search for “Favorite interests of people who like Restaurants and live in San Francisco, California.“ Facebook tells me that my target community also likes cooking, wine tasting and traveling.

  1. This information is great to have at hand when I’m thinking about what to post on my Facebook page. By posting content that my audience is interested in (for example, suggesting which wines go well with my pizza) they will share it with their friends and help me get more Facebook Likes. This same content will also attract likes from people who come to my Facebook Page from my website, email signature, or a Facebook search.

So, as you can see, this isn’t nearly as direct a method to get new Likes as requiring them, but if you’re garnering Likes as a product of great content, your Fans will inevitably be more engaged (and this expands your Reach) than they would be otherwise.

  1. Use Facebook Ads – As much as it pains me to write it, using Facebook ads for things like Likes are unsurprisingly becoming more of a necessity.  To get the most out of your ads, you can target by your community’s interests to find people similar to your current fans. In the image below, you can see how I’ve used the information that I got from Graph Search and how we’ve targeted my ad for our new SF pizza haunt.

Experiment with different types of ads to see what works best for your organization, and make sure you choose the option that allows Facebook users to like your page directly from the ad.

For more tips on getting more Facebook Likes, check out this article on 10 Easy Ways to Get More Facebook Likes, as penned by our resident Swedish Facebook expert.  (But skip #6, because it’s been torpedoed.)