Facebook has just added 3 new features to the ‘Like’ button that hold a promise of greater connectivity and better analytics. Not unusual for Facebook, the release came on a weekend, so no real chance yet to thoroughly explore the bells and whistles – and the implications. And there’s a lot to take in! ‘Like’ acts more like ‘Share’; Facebook analytics are beefed up; and Facebook Pages get to pipe their content right into the newsfeeds of all who ‘Like’ them.
Here’s a quick first look at two of those features -- and a somewhat closer look at that potentially game-changing third new feature.
1. Comment and Share Functions
The iFrame version of the ‘Like’ button now acts more like the ‘Share’ button, letting Facebook users share your content with their personal networks on Facebook and adding their comments.
Like: Easy sharing is good, and the addition of comments acts as a personal endorsement by the user, which encourages those in their network to pay closer attention than they do to a simple link. For non-profit organizations on Facebook, looking for ways to expand their networks, this is a positive change.
Unlike: To enable this feature, your web page layout must allow for a button width of 450 pixels or more.
2. Better Facebook Insights
The addition of ref and source parameters lets you A/B test and optimize the ‘Like’ button on your website, to see what type of button and placement will work best to meet your goals.
Like: Better insights into how and where Facebook users are interacting with your non-profit’s content are good. That’s the kind of information that can help you to reach a wider audience of people who already have demonstrated some level of interest in your mission or message – and, equally importantly, can lead to a more thorough understanding of who that audience really is.
Also, it’s good to see Facebook acknowledge the privacy concerns that rightly come up around any kind of user tracking:
When you use the ref parameter, we will also add a new fb_source parameter to our referrer URLs, which includes the stream type ('home', 'profile', 'search', 'other') where the click occurred and the story type.... We sanitize referrer URLs from Facebook to protect user privacy, but this parameter allows us to remove personally identifiable information while still exposing anonymous, yet useful data for developers interested in tracking and optimizing the performance of their Like buttons.
Unlike: Some comfort with tech stuff is required for non-profit website and Facebook admins to take full advantage of these “more robust analytics”: this is not a plug-and-play feature. (On the other hand, it’s not hard to figure out – so this is a very small caveat indeed.)
3. Send Messages to 'Likers'
This is the biggie. When people click on any of your ‘Like’ buttons, anywhere on the Web, they effectively give you permission to contact them directly via their Facebook newsfeed.
Here’s how Facebook explains this new publishing feature:
You can publish stream updates to the users who have liked your page just like you can with Facebook Pages. There are two ways to get to the publishing interface:
- From your Web page, click Admin Page next to the Like button.
- From Facebook, click Manage Pages under the Account tab, then click Go To Page next to your page name
You can publish stories to your users the same way you write a Facebook post from your own wall: by typing in the Publisher, the field at the top of the screen that says "What's on your mind?" The stories appear in the News Feed of anyone who has clicked the Like button on your webpage.
If you associate your page with a Facebook application using the
fb:app_id meta tag, you can publish updates to the users who have liked your pages via the Graph API...
Like: How many of us have complained that Facebook Pages lacked the same communications functionality as the old Groups? Well, Facebook listened. Greater connectivity – here it is!
Unlike: Facebook may have just opened the door to an unprecedented influx of spam. Or, at least, increased the risk of alienating a social media audience that’s already staggering under information overload and an increasing number of demands on their time and attention from within social networks (viz the social media contest fatigue we talked about last week.) Be very cautious about how enthusiastically you take advantage of the new power to publish messages directly to those who ‘Like’ your content – it’s just as easy to click ‘Hide’ or ‘Unlike’ as it is to click that big thumbs-up button!
Upside: Connectivity vs. Downside: SPAM
We’ve seen it all before. Any time a new channel of communication opens, there are opportunistic hucksters who rush to fill the space with unwelcome advertising messages.
And it’s only just beginning.
We’re getting into an area where ethics and etiquette are still evolving in shades of grey. Robert Cole (Is Requiring a "Like" Click to Enter a Website Evil?) points to the example of K2 Ski Company:
Much more recently, in a bold effort to engage its website users with Facebook, which some may prefer to call “Like-bait”, K2 temporarily shut down its website and provided one navigation option – to its Facebook page. The main attraction is an exclusive preview of K2′s new 2010 ski line on Facebook.
But here’s the catch, to access the preview, one must click the Facebook Like button and become a fan first.
So here is the question, is it ethical to make the “Like” button part of the site navigation? Or, is pretty much anything OK as the user can opt-out of clicking Like and skip the content, or click Like, view the content, and then click Unlike to return to the status quo?
His on-site opinion poll is running 71% “yes” at the moment, by the way – as in, yes, it’s unethical to make people ‘Like’ your content in order to access your site.
(How would you vote? )
Facebook has provided both the tools to engage and the opportunity to mess up that relationship of trust very badly. In a Twitter conversation this morning, Andy Huston’s reaction was a mirror of my own:
If/when abused, all will hesitate to LIKE - unless brand is trusted (nonprofits need to leverage that trust to engage)
Fortunately, non-profits generally get to start from a position of strength (trust) that businesses must struggle long and hard to attain and retain. So perhaps there can be a real opportunity here to show respect for your supporters’ time, attention, and sharing of your message – to hold firm focus to the long-term goal of building sustainable relationships with supporters while abusers of the privilege drive their ‘Likers’ away in droves...?
It feels to me like we’ll all be feeling our way along here cautiously for a while, as new “best practices” evolve to go along with this new chance to connect.
What do you think?
Are the Facebook ‘Like’ button’s new superpowers a plus or minus, on balance?
Will the new ability to push content to ‘Likers’ call for a new page in your social media strategy handbook?
Will Facebook users be told that they’re “opting in” to get messages, every time they ‘Like’ something online? (With the new ‘Like’ features just launched yesterday, and not yet widely deployed, I’ve yet to find an answer to this – so, if you happen to know, please drop a note in the comments?)