Friday, April 02, 2010

Will Brands “Like” Facebook’s New Round of Changes?

The social media marketing world is abuzz with word that Facebook is set to change how users interact with Brands on the site. Currently, when a user comes across a company or brand’s Facebook Page, he/she can choose to “Become a Fan” by clicking a link or button. The new format changes the language slightly, invoking an already widely used Facebook function – the “Like” link or button.

The reason for this change, according to Facebook sources, is that users are already comfortable “liking” content on Facebook and do so twice as often as they “fan” something. I think most Facebook users thoroughly understand the current difference between liking content and becoming a fan of a content source, so is Facebook comparing apples to apples here?

“I compare becoming a fan of something to, essentially, adding someone as a Facebook friend,” says Shawn Perry, an avid Facebook user. “I see a huge difference between liking something on Facebook and indicating that I want to continue to see updates about something in my News Feed. I’m curious about how Facebook is going to differentiate between these two activities so that users know what will come of each action they take.”

How will brands and users feel about this change?
For brands that have spent the past 2-3 years building momentum for their Facebook activities, using “Become our Fan on Facebook” and “Visit our Facebook Fan Page” badges on-site and off, there are going to be some rebranding efforts ahead to help smooth the transition. While it will remain acceptible to continue using the “become our fan” terminology, over time it will need to phase out in order to eliminate user confusion.

Pam Abbazia, Manager of SEO and Social Media Programs, weighed in with some additional thoughts:

“At first glance, it feels like a semantic bait-and-switch to use the ‘Like’ button as the opt-in mechanism for Fan Pages. ‘Like’ is a casual act, while ‘Become a Fan’ implies a commitment to receive Page updates in your News Feed. We may see a rash of accidental ‘fan’ opt-ins early on but, as Facebook users get used to the change, it could improve traffic to Facebook Pages and improve overall engagement in the network. A potential downside is, brands may have to work harder to engage fans because there will be more competition from other pages in the News Feed. You’ll need to be special to stand out.”

Facebook hasn’t made an official announcement, so it will be interesting to see how they handle the roll-out. Hopefully, like most of the improvements they have implemented in the past, this change will enhance the relationships brands are building within the Facebook community.

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