A couple of weeks ago, Facebook announced that it would no longer allow brands to "like-gate" apps or campaigns. The announcement worried a lot of people because the practice of rewarding someone with "fan-only" content--especially entry forms to contests and sweepstakes--in exchange for liking a page has been, for years, a popular way to increase the number of likes on a brand's Facebook page.
I've been recommending against like-gating for awhile now because it's not a way to learn much about your users. It doesn't give you a way to reach your fans outside of Facebook. And there's no way to tell if they're liking your page because they actually want to see your posts or if they just want to enter to win the iPad you're giving way.
The concept of action-gating--asking users to do something besides like the page (e.g., share a piece information about themselves) in order to get something from you (e.g., an extra entry into a contest or access to a promotion) turns out to be a way to get more useful data.
Here are three things you need to know about Facebook's like-gate ban, and why you should action-gate instead.
1. Facebook wants your fans to like you, not just your contest.
One of the top reasons that Facebook users say they like a brand's page is to gain access to special content, including contests, coupons, and discounts. But guess what happens once they've gained access to that content, or once the contest is over? Yep, they unlike the page. Or worse: They hide your posts from their feed. Facebook considers hiding a page negative feedback and if you get too much of it, pretty soon no one will see your posts.
Facebook says the ban (which goes into effect November 5) will improve the Facebook experience for users, businesses and advertisers, ultimately making it more valuable for everyone.
2. Action-gated campaigns give you data that's potentially more valuable than likes.
People who come to your page but only leave likes might as well be ghosts. You have no way to get in touch with them in the future, or to communicate news about your company or your exciting new campaign.
A quick anecdote: My team recently published a new e-book that we didn't like-gate. Instead, we asked people who wanted the e-book to give us their e-mail address. In one month we collected 5,000 e-mail addresses which gave us a way to follow up with the folks who downloaded the e-book. And as of today, we've linked those e-mails to more than $10,000 worth of revenue. Our Facebook likes also went up slightly more than average during the first month the book was available, even though liking our page wasn't a requirement to get the book. We've realized that when users don't feel forced to like a Facebook page, they will do it anyway, as long as they are being provided with valuable content.
Another example comes from Kate Spade New York. I've often written about KSNY because they do so many things right on Facebook, including action-gating (as far as I know Kate Spade has never like-gated). To gain access to Kate Spade's popular 75 percent off surprise sales, and access to their other Facebook "exclusives," users first have to provide an e-mail address.
Bottom line: E-mail addresses that you can use for future marketing, certain demographic details (so you know where your customers are), and user-generated content submissions (especially photos and videos, which you can use on your social media platforms), are all examples of information that's more valuable than likes.
3. The like-gating ban is better for your users.
As I mentioned earlier, presumably one of the reasons Facebook is putting the kibosh on like-gating is that it wants to improve the Facebook experience for both users and brands. Just last week, on his #AskGaryVee Show, Gary Vaynerchuk addressed the issue in a way only he can:
"A lot of people who built their fan bases on Facebook in 2009-1010 by offering free iPads... [that] was insanity. Those were Apple fans, they weren't fans of your ... cereal. Facebook once again is making a hard-core move that is actually helping the users and the businesses."
Facebook's move will be a challenge for the brands that grew their likes quickly and constantly by like-gating contests and other promotions. But if you know what your fans find valuable--whether it's a contest prize, an e-book, a coupon, or some other helpful or entertaining information --and continue to give your most loyal fans what they want, everyone will win.