“Like” should be “Follow”

May 17th, 2010

Topics: Measurement, Optimization

Congress Fan Board

I miss being able to Fan on Facebook.

To me, as a digital marketer of 13+ years, the Fan button and the cultural shift it created was a monumental move in the right direction. It was, at the time, the lowest barrier to opt-in ever created. As a consumer, I used it copiously — I’m a proud fan of 2 dollars bills, laughing when someone falls, Regretsy and Captain Bogg and Salty. As a marketer, my passion for relationship marketing was rekindled. Facebook was the future of Marketing, a complex balance between media, brand experience, relationship marketing and word of mouth. Wow.

Now, I’m not so sure.

Liking is different
Liking is a preference, it’s a gesture, it’s not an opt-in. As Justin’s recent post and the conversation that ensued so beautifully illustrated, it is not clear that when we like something we’re opting-in. Not only that, if we are willingly opting-in, it’s not clear what we’re opting in to. In Justin’s example, he opted-in to communication from a blog post, that’s just weird.

On the other side, as a Marketer, I don’t want the burden of deception. Generally, I want the right people to deliberately opt-in. I want it easy but I want it clear.

In the early days of email there were no best practices for opt-in and preference management. At that time, email wasn’t a very useful marketing platform. Once things like double opt-in and unsubscribe links became standard (not to mention CAN-Spam), email took-off for Marketers. Will the same thing happen on Facebook? Do we need to prepare for double opt-in social-style? I hope not. Personally, fanning felt like the right balance.

Here’s the official explanation from Facebook on why they made the change,

To improve your experience and promote consistency across the site, we’ve changed the language for Pages from “Fan” to “Like.” We believe this change offers you a more light-weight and standard way to connect with people, things and topics in which you are interested.

Sufficiently vague.

Common wisdom is that it was for them. That it’s a move towards owning the semantic web, towards beating Google at relevance by actually understanding people’s preferences instead of inferring based on page rank. I think the big mistake here is not thinking through the implications to us, Marketers and consumers. Facebook has been tight-lipped about how Liking works. As we discovered last night, they’ve left it up to us to figure out how to manage our army of likable objects and their likers – even requiring that we develop a tagging strategy. As far as I can tell they provide no new tools to manage or communicate back to our new segments.

At the end of the day, this is just semantics. We need more flexibility in what we call that gesture (stay tuned). The confusion on all sides will dissipate. Consumers have begun and will continue to Like everything everywhere. Marketers will become even more focused on Facebook but we’ll struggle to get the tools we need to be successful. Luckily, everything will change again soon.

Mashable Like v. Fan

Marko Muellner

About the Author

Senior Director of Marketing

With over 14 years in digital, Marko has managed cross-channel, integrated and multi-touch marketing strategy and creative development for MillerCoors Brewing, adidas America, Webtrends, Rent.com, Razorfish, Magnet Interactive, Digital Evolution and others. As the Sr. Director of Marketing he manages the Webtrends Marketing Studio and leads all marketing strategy, execution, measurement and optimization. Marko is passionate about iterative and insight-driven marketing and about the alchemy of remarkable digital marketing.

6 Responses to ““Like” should be “Follow””

  1. Marko Muellner Marko Z Muellner

    Nick – I like your thinking. They both play a key role, “Like” is great for creating the semantic web and allowing people to publicly share preferences, and “Fan” did a great job at the opt-in.

    I agree, “Fan”, “Like” and “Share” — pretty simple and powerful if you ask me.

    Thanks for the comment.

  2. Marko Muellner Marko Z Muellner

    Meng Goh, I’m all for easy but it was already really easy, all they did was change the meaning without being explicit. Before the change, when I “liked” something you had posted, it was an expressed preference, it was not an opt-in. Now, with no clear change to the action itself, it’s an opt-in too. I think that’s an unnecessary and deceptive change.

    Thanks for the comment!

  3. Nick Potter

    I think Fan and Like are both valid.

    If I have a blog you can be a fan of the whole blog.

    If I write a particularly insightful post, you might want to indicate you agree with my and sya you Like it. This is how the like button was pushed in the majority of places you saw it (beyond FB) – on individual posts not entire blogs.

    Its almost as they are two different functions. Both have their own place so perhaps Like should remain where it is but the problem is we need Fan bringing back as well.

    Being a fan handles the opt-in part and liking something just allows your fans to indicate appreciate for your work (as well as spreadhing the word on their stream).

  4. Meng Goh

    The exact reason that you don’t like “Like” is the same reason that Facebook change to “Like”, to lower the barrier of interaction. If I remember the sales pitch, interaction increase rearch significantly.

  5. Pam Moore

    Agree with you on this. I just can’t get the guts to ask the question “Will you like me? Please check the box yes or no!?”

    A fan is a fan. A like is something I save for my neighbor and someone who earns my trust.

    Hopefully FB will get the hint and care about what their customers think. Oh yeah, we’re not really customers, just the data populating the database ;)



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