Do “Gated Likes” dilute the value of a brand?

Undercurrent has a provocative blog post today titled, “How Brands are Killing Facebook.”

I have a lot of problems with the content in it. No offense to Jim Babb (whose excellent work, btw, I have followed and am a huge fan of) but the few points I want to make below, need to be heard and made.

The blog post asserts, “Hiding content behind a “Like-wall” is killing the value of a Facebook Like. In doing so, these brands are eroding the value of the Like and damaging their own social presence.”

This is not true. And here’s why:

1. There is no way to quantitatively differentiate the earned, paid and gated likes. And because it is impossible to do that, it is impossible to segment and understand the behavioral implications of these fans. Plus, most conversion studies I have seen say that a gated page does not negatively impact the behavior. It’s the content that makes or breaks it. Without any data to back up the assertion, I’ll be hard-pressed to make such a recommendation to my client.

2. In an ideal world, it will be nice to not use “Gated” likes. But here’s the reality. I just finished a study at JWT New York to understand how we use social media and what the behaviors are. When we asked our respondents, what were their reasons for connecting to a brand on Facebook or Twitter, the top three reasons were to do with incentives.

67% said they like a page to benefit from a specific promotion or offer;

63% said they like a page because to search for promotions and special offers.

53% said they like a page to participate in competitions and win prizes.

Point is, data and user behavior already suggests that the primary reason they are coming to a page or liking a page is for promotions and sales. Whether the page is gated or not, has nothing to do with it. Instead of focusing on the gated vs. ungated aspects of the puzzle, we are better off focusing on what to do and how to engage with these fans once the enter the turf. How they get there is important but more important than what we do with them once they get there!

If “Gated” likes have worked as a tactic to attract them and since they don’t yet show (at least to my knowledge) any negative impact on brands or consumers  – why not experiment with it? And use it as a tool to bring more people in?

Also, lets get off our high horses regarding Facebook and “fans.” Who says these people that like our page are our “Fans?” Facebook calls them that but it doesn’t mean they are truly our fans. Personally, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with gated likes. In real life, to avail of a discount, you still have to step in the store. And that’s what I think a Facebook page is now. We call them “fans” because Facebook told us to call them fans. They could all just be people “in your store” – shopping or not.

We need to be careful in making recommendations that aren’t backed by data. I’ve done this before to0 – made recommendations that “feel” right for an ideal world. But we aren’t living in an ideal world. Brands are putting in a significant investment of resources, time and hard cash to grow their social footprint. This field is nascent but to move forward, we need to be able to sift through what “feels” right and what is accurate.

Just my two cents.

One Comment

  1. Jim Babb February 15, 2012

    Thanks for thoughts Jinal!

    I’m flattered that you’re a fan of my work… perhaps you would Like my Facebook page?

    1. Being unable to differentiate who and why people Like a page has left us with the near meaningless metric of number of Likes. Leading most marketers to believe that more equals better. You’re right and that is part of the problem.

    2. I certainly don’t dispute your numbers, but who is more valuable: people that Like your page looking for promotions or advocates and legitimate fans? The issue is the actual mechanics of a Facebook Like and how it differs from an email list. Sure, brands can always use another channel to reach consumers who want promotions, but what does it mean for Facebook? The promise of Zuckerberg’s social graph is to connect us with the people and things that we want to hear from (dare I say like?) and make those connections visible to other people. Diluting a single relationship in that ecosystem inevitably caters toward a loss in value across the system.

    3. I agree that what a brand posts on a Facebook page matters more than a Gated Like, but that was not the focus of my piece. Having quality content, promotions and community engagement makes it possible to avoid resorting to dirty tactics like a Like-wall. How a brand uses its page is why people are there. If a brand only runs promotions… then their community will Like them only for their promotions.

    A final thought:
    The major issue here is that brands, like people, are more often than not looking for short-term gains rather than the long-term solutions/effect on their brand. The short-term gains of garnering more Likes vs. the long-term effects of devaluing the system they are trying to succeed in. As for me being an idealist… perhaps I am, but perhaps I’m suggesting building a less corruptible system? As for my clients, we encourage them to seek long-term and sustainable ways to measure brand value, engage with actual fans, and use promotions to those ends.

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