Like gating has been one of the biggest motivations for page owners to install tabs on their Facebook pages for the last four years. There is no doubt about this. Like gating was simply the way to require participants into any type of contest or promotion run via an application to become a fan of the page before they could enter.
That was made possible by Facebook API that allows app developer to “read” Facebook’s information about the participant and see if that person was a fan of the concerned page or not. This ability is going to be removed from the API, making it technically impossible for developers to create a fan-gate mechanism. But more importantly, apart from the technical restrictions, Facebook will now forbids this requirement, effective as of November 5. Let’s have a closer look.
Facebook like gates have been used on Facebook by the majority of page owners, no doubt about this.
Facebook was a virtual Eldorado for apps, contests and giveaways:
- First they could be used as the landing page of a Facebook page,
- Second, they could require users to like the page to enter and
- Third, page owners had no choice other than to use an app to organize a contest or giveaway on their page.
The landing page option disappeared two years ago with the Timeline release. Marketers and page owners were pretty vocal about it, but life went on. After all, the amount of organic traffic a page was getting was very small and most contest app participants entered because the page actively promoted the contest.
Then, in August 2013, Facebook changed its policy and using an app to run a contest was not a requirement anymore, page owners were now able to run contests and giveaways directly on their page’s timeline, without using an app. But here again, life went on. Timeline contests didn’t allow page admins to “fan-gate” the participants or to collect their email addresses. So the Timeline contest option was not deemed a “threat” to the benefits of using an app.
Yesterday, Facebook announced that like-gating will not be allowed after November 5, so the question is: Will life go on as it did with the two previous changes? How will this change impact page owners and app vendors?
Let’s try to look into this.
1° Forcing “likes” was not such a good idea, was it?
One of the main reasons Facebook is using to support its decision is:
To ensure quality connections and help businesses reach the people who matter to them, we want people to like Pages because they want to connect and hear from the business, not because of artificial incentives
I have to admit that I kind of agree with their statement. It could definitely be argued that users who like the page simply because they want to (and not because the “have” to) will definitely be more likely to later engage with the page. That argument makes sense.
Forcing people to do something because you want them to do it and not because they want to do it has never been the best way to get the most out of any action, whether it is becoming a fan, a follower, an email subscriber or anything else related.
In a way, one could argue that this is good news because this will increase the quality of your fans.
2° But an awful lot of pages saw “like-gating” as the biggest benefit of using a contest
I know for a fact that a significant number of pages have been using Facebook contests and giveaways to “fan-gate” them and grow their fan base.
At least 80% of pages launching contests and promotions on their page using Agorapulse were doing so using our “fan-gate” option, whether or not this was good practice to ensure the quality of their fanbase.
Does that mean that removing that option will make them abandon their Facebook contest efforts altogether? It’s hard to say at this point. Most probably won’t, but some will.
Will this change impact app vendors? It probably will, but it’s hard to predict the magnitude of that impact.
3° What does this mean for Facebook page owners?
The first obvious thing this means is that you shouldn’t look at contests and promotions as the main ways to drive fan growth on your page. They will still drive fan growth as you can ask participants to like your page, but because this can no longer be a requirement, the number of new fans gained using a contest or promotion will plummet compared to what you can get today.
In this case shared by BrandGlue (http://brandglue.com/), the cost per fan using a sweepstakes was 17 cents. This kind of cost will be much harder to get in the future.
However, think twice before throwing the baby out with the bath water, the other options available to you may be even more expensive (Facebook ads for example) and a well-executed contest or promotion may be a more cost effective way to acquire new (quality) fans. That’s something you’ll need to dig deeper on for your own page, but if Facebook ads give you a $1 per fan acquisition cost, chances are that, even if it is optional, a contest or promotion will not cost you more.
And that contest will also give you qualified information (such as emails) that you won’t get using a Facebook ads to get more fans.
On the positive side, Facebook contests and promotions are still the only way to gather emails and other valuable data about your audience, whether they become fans or not. You may not be able to retarget them via your page newsfeed, but you will be able to retarget them using email (for free) or custom audiences (via paid Facebook ads).
As organic reach is not what it used to be anymore, and more and more brands are now paying Facebook to promote their content and offerings, this option remains valuable. The lack of free organic reach having recruited those new fans may not be deemed as such a downside by many page owners.
In a nutshell, page owners who were looking at apps to grow their fanbase will be disappointed, and may want to test other means to compare cost. But those who were using apps to gather qualified data about their existing fans, or to use this type of campaign to gather qualified data with Facebook just being on the their acquisition channel, will probably not be that disappointed.
4° What does this mean for app vendors?
Well, it certainly means that being exclusively a “Facebook apps” vendor will soon be a thing of the past. Many vendors already anticipated that, long before Facebook made this announcement.
Numerous vendors have repositioned themselves as “campaign builders for Social Media, the Web and Mobile”, and have made Facebook just one of the possible channels.
Others, like us, have decided to go “cross channel” and add more social networks, and therefore more engagement features that are not contest or promotion related.
A big shift is going on; it will be interesting to see what directions the ecosystem of app vendors will take over the next few months. One thing is for sure, they will all take (or continue to take) directions that take them away from dependency on “Facebook only”.
Your turn: What’s your opinion on that announced change? Do you think it’s all good, all bad, or somewhere in the middle? I’d love to hear your thoughts!