Is Facebook's New 'Like' Policy Designed To Force Brands To Promote Posts To Get Reach?

Has Facebook gone too far? In barring incentives to get a "like" has it yet again acted in self-interest to force companies to promote posts in the guise of stopping malpractice on the site?

If you'll pardon the pun, nobody likes Facebook apps that force you to "like" them before you can see the content they are offering and nobody likes giving a publisher or brand access to their news feed and their friends' details.

The irony of liking a brand before you've actually had a chance to see what they have to say is up there with those Web sites that ask you to review them the second they appear on your screen -- how would you know yet if you "like" them?

So, getting rid of likes that are forced on users is great. So too is railing against people who try to build huge audiences with pictures that are often fake, asking people to "like" if you want some kids to go to Disney or you think something that is clearly wrong is actually wrong. These encouragements to click on a picture to say it's wrong to starve pets or we hope you get to a million likes so you get a dream trip are clearly annoying, and usually just there to get a huge audience for the page owner. Same with the whole "terrible things will happen" if you don't like and share this post, the last person who didn't got killed in a car crash, and so on.

All these spammy ways of getting likes should be consigned to history. They simply get in the way and clutter up news feeds from friends who are unwise to unscrupulous marketing tactics.

What about responsible brands? Those that are trying to do what they thought Facebook was there for -- build an audience you can communicate with for free. Well, we all know what has happened to organic reach -- but still, brands are obviously keen to raise their potential organic audience with encouragements to like a page. 

If you own a business, what better way of growing your fan base than offering a prize for those who like and share a post on your page? It may seem a little obvious if done too frequently but a bar giving away a meal or a hotel giving a spa day seems like as a good a way as any to gain new followers. And if you want a call to action, and why wouldn't you, asking people to like if they agree with what you're saying in a post hardly seems like a crooked marketing method. Fans can chose to unlike a page if they find the brand clutters their feed with unwanted promotions.

You can see that Facebook is trying to do some good here by getting rid of what I would call "like bait." If it doesn't want people to give away competitions prizes and other inducements to click "like," then they really ought to know they are part of the problem. Brands now have to gain more followers than ever before because organic reach has been dialed down. So, what option do brands trying to build a following have?

The answer here is the rather obvious one -- which from what I can see, is at least half the reason behind everything Facebook does, particularly when it mentions "spammy" news feeds. 

If you can't ask people to click "like" to win a magnum of wine or tickets to a fun fair, then the marketing route open to you is -- you guessed it -- paying to promote a post. 

This is not beyond the marketing budgets of big brands -- but for small businesses that are trying against the odds to build up a loyal following, and despite Facebook's tinkering, reach them regularly -- it is becoming virtually impossible to reach their goals without promoting posts.

Facebook talks about brands needing to have deeper, more meaningful conversations with consumers, rather than going for the wide reach of "like us to win a VIP shopping trip" approach. That is for the very good reason that it is focussing brands on depth and leaving reach to promoted posts.

So has Facebook gone too far this time?

Not if it is going to limit its policies to "like" traps -- but yes if it carries out its policy to the letter of the law and forbids a "like" as a competition entry.

As ever, the part it does to make the site more usable is to be commended, but the part that forces brands to spend more on promoting posts, is not.

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