Facebook Turns “Fans” into “Likes”

Facebook will soon move the familiar “Like” function to fan pages, removing the existing “Become a Fan” call to action, according to a post by Inside Facebook. Facebook announced the change in confidential emails sent to ad agencies (and leaked to ClickZ and MediaMemo).

Given the audience for their email, Facebook was obviously upbeat on the benefits to businesses who put up fan pages (and buy ads to drive traffic to them). According to their internal data, users click “Like” links twice as often as “Fan” links. Using “like” makes it easier for someone to express their interest in a brand when “fan” may overstate their level of engagement. That sounds like a big opportunity to get a whole lot more fans.

It also sounds to me like an opportunity to breed ill will, especially if users are slow to realize the weaker wording doesn’t change the fact that they’re still giving the company permission to post updates to their news feed. Facebook optimistically projects that “users will understand the distinction through explicit social context, messaging and asthetic differences.”

Likable Facebook adsI’m not so sure. Particularly when you look at the examples they give of the “Like” function in practice. It’s not a matter of just changing the link at the top of a fan page. There’s also a big change to Facebook ads. It’s now possible to “Like” an ad, which automatically enrolls you as a fan (in the old parlance) of the advertiser.

I’m all for friendlier wording. And I’d love to have more people receiving updates from the fan pages I administer. But I think it’s important to be transparent and honest. I’d prefer a term more like “follow.” It removes the “fan” label but still makes it clear what the result will be when you click that link.

The greatest strength of social media is inviting users to interact with you and share their experience with their friends. Replacing the old broadcasting model of shoving your message down the consumer’s throat is what’s so new, interesting and effective about it. Anything that seems disingenuous or makes the user feel tricked is destined to backfire.

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