Facebook Nixes Pages Promotion, Marketers Unfazed

In the name of more authentic connections, Facebook is prohibiting the promotion of brand Pages and social plug-ins with what it considers to be “artificial incentives” like “rewards,” and access to apps and content.

“We want people to like Pages because they want to connect and hear from the business, not because of artificial incentives,” Harshdeep Singh, a software engineer at Facebook, explained in a Thursday blog post. “We believe this update will benefit people and advertisers alike.”

Marketers, however, may still incentivize Facebook users to log in to their apps, check in at a particular location and enter a promotion on their app’s Page.

Marketing execs said the changes shouldn’t impact legitimate businesses, and might even discourage dishonest marketing tactics on Facebook.

“Over the last 12-18 months, major advertisers and big brands have organically moved away from tactics such as ‘like gating’ -- or providing incentives to gain new Likes,” said Jamie Tedford, CEO of Brand Networks, one of Facebook’s “preferred marketing partners.”

“This policy is likely to only affect a small group of bad actors who have always, and will continue to try to game the system for short-term gain,” Tedford said.

Social experts said the changes seemed inevitable. “As mentioned in the company’s [second quarter] earnings call, Facebook remains focused on creating [a] superior user experience,” said Addie Conner, chief innovation officer at SocialCode, a Twitter marketing platform partner.

Facebook "recently identified that, when brands explicitly request audiences to ‘like’ a piece of content, it disrupts user experience -- often resulting in users ‘hiding’ posts, marking them as spam, or expressing low relevance in future surveys,” Conner noted.

The changes appear to be part of a broader effort by Facebook to encourage greater engagement levels -- often at the expense of Page-level reach.

In fact, Post-level reach declined 27% over the past quarter, according to data released in May by Shareablee. Yet among 150 brands, total organic reach grew 11% between the fourth quarter of 2013 and the first quarter of 2014 -- thanks to a 65% rise in engagement rates -- the social analytics start-up found.

Facebook said it is expecting developers to update their apps to comply with the policy changes by November 5.

Reached for comment, a Facebook spokeswoman declined to elaborate on the policy changes. Reiterating Singh’s sentiment, she said: “Forcing someone to click Like before they can progress in an activity is not always a positive experience.”

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