Facebook has announced that come November this year, it will be banning the practice of ‘like gating’ for Pages. The ability to create a like gate is to be removed from the API, which will make it impossible for developers to add a gate from that time.
Like gating is commonly used to cloak the content of a page until a visitor has liked it on the gateway page. It’s used for competitions and to entice users to click like on something that they may not usually and it’s for this latter reason that the feature is being discontinued.
So is this good or bad news for Page owners, since it effectively means that there’s going to be no real way to have a separate landing page on the social media site?
According to Facebook:
“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.” (source)
So essentially, Facebook is saying that likes gathered from gateway pages are not really indicative of whether a page has been liked for its content or purely because of the offer on the gateway page.
I think this is a good thing and that Facebook is right on this one. Personally, if I come across a like gate then it’s usually enough for me to click away again. I don’t enjoy being forced to like a page just to have the ability to enter a competition or gain access to a special offer, it should be on the main page. Like gating is purely a device for increasing the number of likes on your page so that it looks more authoritative.
Under the new update, page owners will still be able to run contests and special offers on Timelines, to incentivise people to login to a Facebook app that is owned by you and to enable check-ins.
One of the issues with like gating is that whilst using it may mean that the numbers on your page rise, it will only be in relation to fans, rather than engagement. When someone has liked your page merely because they wanted to view a certain post or access a special offer, then it’s very likely that they won’t become an engaged user.
However, without a like gate, it’s possible that you’ll see a good increase in engagement as you will be attracting fans with a genuine interest in your product or services. Surely it’s always going to be better that a fan comes along and likes your page by themselves without having to be forced to.
To drive engagement and likes in future, you’re just going to have to be a little more inventive, but you still have to take care as Facebook also doesn’t like those posts that ask others to share/like a page in order to win something. However, these can be used, you just have to make sure that they are used sparingly or you will be penalised.
How to Increase Reach
It seems that the only real way of increasing your Facebook reach now, as well as to gather email and other audience data, is though Facebook advertising. It’s a powerful platform but one that has come in for a significant amount of criticism in recent years.
Organic reach has been increasingly difficult for the smaller brands to achieve, so without advertising there seems little hope in getting your message to the masses through Facebook. Whilst once a post on a page with a fanship in the 1000s might have seen reach of up to a few hundred, these days even on a page with a good fanbase, it’s difficult to get a reach of above 20 or so if a post doesn’t receive any engagement.
You can increase organic reach using a good mix of posts and of course, images. These traditionally do well and it’s always worthwhile putting up amusing images relating to your niche as these can and do increase engagement by more than 10X.
Facebook Advertising Woes
The main problem faced by smaller businesses though is not just the lack of organic reach, but the cost and effectiveness of advertising on the platform. Nathan Latka, chief exec of Heyo.com said in an interview with the Wall Street Journal that price increases on Facebook’s advertising platform is “great news for Facebook’s top line, but it buries the small-business owner who has a limited ad budget.”
I would tend to agree. Facebook’s platform for ads is powerful, but it also requires a certain amount of cash to be thrown at it in order for it to be effective and provide the necessary ROI.
It’s worth pointing out though that this is due to the ever-increasing popularity of the platform, which naturally creates more competition and in turn increases the amount that’s needed to be spent in order for an ad to be seen.
With all of this in mind, in order to be successful on Facebook in the future, it’s necessary to come up with a sound strategy. This should include content from blogs, news, engaging with users as much as possible and some advertising. Whilst like gating is on the way out, there’s nothing stopping you boosting a post in order to promote a competition or giveaway. You can also encourage shares by offering incentives, but care should be taken when using this approach.
Facebook has many great features and it’s still worth using for business – I’d say it’s essential to have a presence. However, smaller businesses should trial advertising campaigns to measure potential success and ensure that they have a sound plan going forward. It’s also useful to look at the Website Custom Audiences feature as this has proven to be a solution that provides results for many businesses.