After being the tactic du jour for generating more Likes on your Page, Like-gating will be completely gone from Facebook starting tomorrow. You might have heard about this, but if not, here's what happened.
In early August 2014, Facebook announced on their developers blog that page admins have until November 5, 2014 to knock Like-gating from their Facebook strategy.
The announcement cited two key changes with regard to Like-gating: a policy change and an API change. In this post, I'll go over both of these changes and what to do about them before tomorrow.
The Policy Change
The announcement reads, "You must not incentivize people to use social plugins or to like a Page. This includes offering rewards, or gating apps or app content based on whether or not a person has liked a Page." Their reasoning? "To ensure quality connections and help businesses reach the people who matter to them, we want people to Like Pages because they want to connect and hear from the business, not because of artificial incentives. We believe this update will benefit people and advertisers alike."
Although some might argue the motive behind these changes it to force businesses in the direction of paid Facebook Ads, the elimination of Like-gating is, at least in part, an effort to help fix the problem of fake fans and to encourage genuine fan engagement. Some businesses have reported frustration by the number of junk fans -- Copyblogger, for instance, deleted its Facebook page because it had accrued an overwhelming number of fake fans over the years, which led to decreasing engagement rates.
The risk of continuing Like-gated campaigns after tomorrow is not that you might get caught. This policy change is coupled with technical changes to Facebook's API that remove the ability to Like-gate at all.
The API Change
For the last few years, if a Page admin wanted to run a Like-gated campaign on Facebook, he or she had to run it via a third-party app (i.e. by installing a Page tab). Facebook's API allowed that app to "read" whether or not a Facebook user had Liked the Page -- so campaign content could be hidden from users who had not Liked the Page. Starting tomorrow, Facebook is removing that capability, meaning third-party apps will not be able to tell whether a user has Liked a page.
The addition of a policy change on top of this technical change is likely meant to discourage brands and developers from seeking other ways to find out whether a user has Liked a Page.
So here's the million dollar question for us marketers: Do we actually have to take any action to prepare our brand's Facebook page for these changes, or is it okay to do nothing?
Here's What to Do
The API changes only affect Like-gated campaigns that are currently active, so if you aren't running any at this very moment, then it's okay to do nothing.
If you do have active Like-gated campaigns running, then you should take the time to remove them today. Nothing will break if you don't remove them, but the copy on your campaigns ("Like our page to see this!") will not mirror Facebook users' experience, because they will have access to whatever content you'd previously gated behind a Like. In other words, Facebook's new API will show content you've designated through third-party apps to any Facebook users, regardless whether they've Liked your Page.
Upset about losing the Like-gate? To be honest, you're better off without it. Number of Likes is a vanity metric. The point of having a Facebook Page for your business isn't to rack up Likes; it's to encourage and increase engagement of people who are real fans of your brand -- and you know, hopefully turn them into customers. You may see fewer Likes on your Facebook Page going forward, but you can rest easy knowing the people who do Like your Page actually like your brand.