At its recent F8 developer conference, Facebook announced a raft of new developments which have been causing ripples in the worlds of technology and marketing ever since. The one that arguably has the biggest implications is the roll-out of social plug-ins and the Open Graph API (you can read my thoughts on that here if you’re interested.) However it’s another announcement – the ditching of the term “fans”, which could have a bigger impact on advertisers.
Previously, when users associated themselves with a brand, they did so by becoming fans of that brand’s official Facebook page. Now, users will simply ‘like’ a brand page; the idea is to bring the terminology in line with the actions that users carry out with items in their news feeds as well reducing the level of affinity a user has to have with a brand in order to connect with it. As Facebook put it:
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.
It would appear that what Facebook is looking to do here is to increase the number of users that connect with brands, in order to encourage more brands to use the site and to spend on their advertising products. However, if this is the case there might actually be a danger that Facebook damages the very system it’s trying to improve. The most recent research from Nielsen, as part of its partnership with Facebook, showed the value of consumers connecting with brands on the site, but this was based around the old concept of fans; if the connection is now diluted, due to the change of terminology, will the power of social recommendation and advocacy be as strong?
Because not only does the change of words change the nature of relationship but if (as Facebook seem to be hoping) it results in more users connecting with more brands there is a danger that users will be swamped with updates about their friends ‘liking’ brands. And as countless studies across multiple mediums have shown down the years, when consumers are hit with too much of any form of message, they either become blind to it or stop valuing it in the same way.
It seems obvious that Facebook will have considered all of this and feel that it’s a risk worth taking. But for brands looking to use the site to increase interaction with consumers it means that it’s now more important than ever to invest not just in building connections, but also in improving them, with relevant updates, exclusive content and truly positive interactions. Because if everyone likes every brand, you really need to try harder to make people love yours.
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