+ Update = Shocking? When it comes to policy updates, the social networking giant goes through more changes throughout the year than the Cleveland Browns’ starting quarterback lineup in the past decade.

With that said, Facebook recently announced a significant modification that is truly worth mentioning. They will now remove “like-gating” as a requirement for consumers to engage with Facebook Pages on November 5.

Harshdeep Singh, a software engineer at Facebook, outlines the change:

“You must not incentivize people to use social plugins or to like a Page. This includes offering rewards, or gating apps or app content based on whether or not a person has liked a Page. It remains acceptable to incentivize people to login to your app, checkin at a place or enter a promotion on your app’s Page.”

What will change?

In the past, like-gating (or fan-gating) was a common fan-building tactic that allowed brands to require consumers to become Facebook fans in order to view exclusive brand content, redeem coupons or enter sweepstakes (e.g. “Like first to enter”), therefore, allowing brands to “organically” increase their audience sizes. This practice became quite common as brands began to see declining organic reach (as low as 2%) within the platform over the past few years.

With the new policy change, consumers will not be required to “like” a Page in order to participate. Essentially, fans who visit the app and/or Page will have the same experience and have access to the same content as those who are not fans of the page.

However, Facebook did note that brands may still “incentivize people to login to your app, check-in at a place or enter a promotion on your app’s Page” through opt-in or supplemental methods (e.g. “Like our page if you’re interested in hearing more”).

Why the change?

Facebook’s rationale on this is quite logical. When you “like” a , Facebook wants to ensure that you actually like that Page.

Facebook would prefer people to “like” a Page because they want to hear more about that brand’s offerings or have vested interest behind the brand itself, not because they want to earn a single entry into a sweepstakes or any other incentivizing freebie or perk.

What does it mean for brands and marketers?

While the consumer experience will certainly be enhanced as they’ll now be seeing content that they truly want to see within their Newsfeed, the policy update also has mutual benefits for brands and marketers, such as:

  1. Better understanding of your audienceFacebook wants your fans to like you for you, not just the free iPad you’re giving away.Think about it? You see a great “deal” appear in your Newsfeed and you want to satisfy your instantaneous gratification of potentially winning something (I mean, who doesn’t like free stuff?). But after the contest is over, what happens? You guessed it – “Unlike” – or even worse, “Hide all ads from timeline.” And at that point, you’ve now become an added padded statistic to the declining “People Reached” metric (providing no real value or insight). In fact, as you’re no longer actually engaging with the Page and/or its content moving forward, you’re actually depreciating the Page engagement metrics (drinking all the Gatorade on the bench).With the decrease of “casual” or “one-off” fans and the acquisition of fans who are actually compelled to interact with your Page, brands will now acquire accurate insights into a more qualified subset of core fans who have vested interest and loyalty into the brand. These valid and actionable insights will allow brands and marketers to develop and produce quality content that will also be more relevant and shareable, and therefore, more incentivizing for their fans and their audiences to engage with.
  2. Better Targeting
    With more insightful data and relevant content, brands and advertisers will now be able to be more precise in terms of their organic delivery (e.g. when their audiences are most active) and paid targeting efforts (e.g. Promoted Posts), knowing when and where their real fans are and how to reach them on the platform. And upon obtaining stronger engagement with their content, brands will subsequently garner further reach and potential audience growth, as the content will be optimized for further exposure within Newsfeeds due to Facebook’s Social Graph algorithm.
  3. Meaningful Results
    With “like-gating,” audience growth is not necessarily synonymous with expanded audience engagement. Garnering “likes” for your page that then has no residual feedback is like drafting a prospect to just sit on your bench – there’s no long-term proposition or business value. With more accurate insights and more relevant content, brands will increase the quality of their fan bases, and as a result, will be enhancing the brand affinity for those who matter most in the long run – your avids.With that said, the success of your Facebook strategy should never be measured in an individual social metrics, such as “likes.” And make sure that your social strategy always ladders back to your overall business objectives – whether that is “brand affinity” or “direct sales.”

As you can see, the removal of “like-gating” will improve the experience for both consumers and brands.

In the short term, the transition might be a blow to brands that rely on like-gating to grow their initial audience. But ultimately, the update will encourage brands and marketers to focus on strategically growing an engaged, relevant audience. It is an indication that social marketing is evolving past goals like “getting more likes,” and evolving into a practice that is focused on delivering real business value for a more strategic cost.

“Like” this post if you found this article to be informative for you and your brand’s marketing strategy.