As of November 5th, 2014 Facebook has officially killed the Like Gate, in one of the biggest social media marketing updates in latest memory.
This change was announced back in August, so it’s not taking anyone by surprise or anything. However, it still has huge impacts on how businesses run social media marketing campaigns on Facebook.
If you’re freaking out about this change because you’ve used like gates in the past or you just want to know how to approach future Facebook campaigns, we got you covered. We’ll break down like gates, what the new update means for your campaigns, how to make sure you’re following the new rules and ways to look at Facebook campaigns moving forward.
The Glory Days of Like Gating
If you’re new to social media marketing campaigns, like gating was a tactic where Facebook business pages would offer some sort of incentive to visitors in exchange for liking their page.
When a user would land on the like gated page or app (page tab) Facebook would see if they were a fan or not. If they were already a fan, they would be shown one version of the page. If they weren’t a fan, they would be presented with a different version of the page that requested their like in order to see the restricted content.
One of the most common uses was to Like Gate some piece of premium content. So, for example, if you wanted to read a marketer’s latest tricks and tips about beating Google’s algorithms you’d like their page and then get access to the report. Other businesses used like gates for contests, giveaways, early bird mailing lists and so on.
It’s exactly like content marketing using an email list sign up.
All the user had to do is click the “Like” button, so it was very easy, fast and painless. The page owner gave away something of value but in exchange they got a new like for their page and the ability to reach that Facebook user through the organic reach of their posts.
It was a win-win for all involved.... or was it?
The Problems with Like Gating
While many successful marketing campaigns utilized like gating, it was far from a perfect system.
As you can imagine, incentivizing users to like your page by rewarding them with something they want doesn’t always create the most engaged fan base. I’m sure every Facebook user has been guilty of this at one time or another, right?
While that might not be a big deal in traditional website content marketing, it had much bigger impacts on Facebook, because of how the organic algorithm works.
When you create content on Facebook, it doesn’t automatically shoot out to everyone who has liked your page. Facebook's algorithm has to decide who to show the content to and how long to pipe it into fans’ news feeds.
They send the content out to a certain percentage of your fans and then based on how those fans react, they either expand the reach of the content or cut it back. So, if you send out an update that your fans like and share with others, they know they have content that is interesting to fans like you and fire it out to more users. If your fans don’t do anything with your content, then they know you’ve posted a dud and stop further distribution.
A stronger, more engaged fan base means more organic reach for your posts. If you built your page likes using free iPad contests, there’s a good chance you were sabotaging your future social media content marketing efforts.
This is also why buying Facebook likes doesn’t work all that well.
Facebook Stock Holders
Do you know why Mark Zuckerberg is stupid rich? Well, it’s because he owns a whole lot of Facebook stock.
In order for that stock to rise in value, Mark and the other Facebook stock holders not only need the company to keep making money every quarter: They need to show revenue growth every quarter.
Businesses creating giant fan bases for free and then being able to market further to them through their pages’ content all means these businesses don’t need to buy ads from Facebook or pay to “boost” a post’s reach.
That’s no good for Marky Mark and the Facebook Bunch. So, the rules got changed.
What You Need to Do
Whether you like it or not, Facebook fan gates have gone the way of the Dodo.
Here’s what you need to do to get back on track:
Update Your Content
First and foremost, make sure to get rid of or update any content you have on your page that references a like gating set up.
All Facebook users will see the gated content regardless of their fan status, so make sure your messaging, images and other content reflects that.
Tweak Your Tactics
Facebook has removed the technology from their platform that allows page owners to require a like to get access to their content. But that doesn’t mean you can’t use a variation of this strategy to still encourage users to give you something of value for your premium content.
For example, you can integrate an email list subscription form inside a Facebook app or tab. If the user joins your list, they get the content. Sure, you don’t get the like, but you’re getting information worth a whole heck of a lot if you know what you’re doing with it.
And finally, you’re not prohibited from simply asking for a like. Yeah, it’s mind blowingly simple, but it works. Produce great content and explain why it’s in the user’s interest to like your page and you’ll have a much more engaged fan base than simply withholding content by force in exchange for a like.
Oh, and if you don’t mind playing right into Facebook’s plans, you could always pay for ads and exposure. Those mansions, yachts and sports cars aren’t going to buy themselves, people.
Are You Ready?
The post-Like Gate Facebook world is upon us, so it’s time to get ready for it.
If you were an active gater, then hopefully you have already started making the needed changes. You have a multitude of options moving forward so there’s no reason to throw your hands up in defeat.
Facebook, just like Google, Twitter and other large online media players, will continue to evolve their business practices along with their technology. As they mature as companies, take on shareholders and expand, there will be changes which are going to affect us marketers one way or another.Don’t get frustrated about how things used to be. Accept that these changes are constant and focus on growing as a marketer along with these companies, and you’ll be successful (or at least not as angry).