The top story in today’s SmartBrief on Social Media is the news that Facebook is making a subtle shift to the way users and brands interact on the network: Instead of becoming “a fan” of something, you will now just say that you “like” it.

As Erik Sass notes, the change is significant because it erodes the distinction between brands and individuals on the network. The change makes a lot of sense for Facebook — the network wants users to engage with brands more, so that it can become more profitable. But it is also a really great example of a key social-media principle at work: Allowing brands and customers to interact on a more informal level.

Say I like a particular kind of soda. Am I really a fan of the company that makes it? I don’t know if I’m ready for that level of endorsement. I’m kind of a commitment-phobe where companies are concerned. But yeah, I’ll admit to liking a product. For people like me, this shift makes interacting with brands feel like a more natural act. By breaking down barriers, the network is encouraging these kinds of tacit connections. And once a company establishes that weak tie, it can then work to win the customer over big time.

What’s your reaction to Facebook’s change? Are you more comfortable saying you “like” a product than bestowing it with “fan” status? Do you think brands will see a higher level of engagement because of the shift?

Image credit, Morgan Lane Photography, via Shutterstock

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18 Responses to “Do you "like" the changes to Facebook's fan pages?”

  1. Wendy H says:

    Personally, I believe this change dilutes the value of a brand's Facebook fans. My hypothesis is that we will see a big growth in fan numbers AND a big growth in 'unsubscribed' fans after they find out that 'liking' really means following a brands updates.

    • Randy Mullins says:

      Wendy – I could not agree with you more.

    • Randy M says:

      In addition to a big growth in fan numbers & unsubscribes, we'll also see a big decline in qualified fans, an issue that Facebook Fan pages already struggle with.

    • @InfluencySW says:

      I agree. People can choose to be a fan or not, so if they don't want to endorse the company (vs the product) they shouldn't. Why not go the other way…allow people to fan a company or like a product. This I would like a lot!____I'd also like Fan pages able to fan other pages, rather than personal pages only. As a company I'd like to fan places that I don't necessarily want integrated with my personal page. For this reason, I have yet to bring up my fan page.

  2. I don't necessarily think we will see a higher level of engagement, but I do think we are likely to receive more "thumbs up" or likes, since liking something is far less of a commitment than being a "fan".
    Will be interesting to see how the changes affect businesses and consumers alike.
    Thank you for the thoughtful post. :)

    • jstanchak says:

      I wonder if down the road will see Facebook acknowledge that there are different levels of involvement. There are some brands I'd like to have a little contact with, some a fair amount and some I'm pretty rabid about. Maybe it would have made more sense to introduce a casual fan option, rather than just changing the name of the feature.

  3. Kyle says:

    It takes a lot of commitment to go to a brand's page and actually become a fan. So I think a consumer, at that point, would be more of a fan, than just "liking" the product. This would dilute the value of a brand on Facebook.

  4. Michael K says:

    I have mixed feelings on this. On one hand it will seem to be an easier entry – less commitment to "like" a brand.

    But on the other hand it is a little misleading as it connects you in a different way vs when you "like" a post on someone's wall. It also waters down the act of being a "fan" which people implicitly get and use to make a larger desired connection to a brand.

    I think it will lead to more confusion in the near term since "like" will now be more like "friend"… but not really the same as "like" for a post.

  5. @adamsherk says:

    To me it seems a little manipulative. I think the average user may not realize that by clicking "like" they'll be allowing updates from that Page to be included in their newsfeed, etc. It's almost like they are trying to trick users into allowing more interaction with brands.
    My recent post Does Google Want Brands in Your Social Circle?

    • Travis O says:

      I would agree that it's a bit manipulative since I think most fb users are familiar with the "like" function in the newsfeed. This would seem to blur the lines of distinction between that, thus, creating some confusion. This might lead to what Wendy was pointing out above. Overall, this will probably end up generating more fan noise than actual growth.

  6. April S says:

    Can we just have the same Facebook layout rules etc for one quarter without changes? Enough already – Over the last two month I have noticed a market decrease in FB activitiy among those who are "friends" Maybe people are getting frustrated with changes and tiring of the whole thing. I believe this will add to the confusion. Fan Sites and becoming a "Fan" is much better than a like when the term is already being used on FB for something totally different

  7. Ginger D says:

    It feels like Facebook is working overtime to stay ahead of the innovation curve. I have only negative responses to 'improvements' that seem like they're done only to validate the claim that one is doing one's job (by upgrading, innovating, being creative, whatever). I think the value of the fan designation for the brand will be completely compromised, and for the individual it will be vague and misleading. I also agree with April S – just leave it be for a minute or two. Breathe, rest, relax — let some of your staff take a vacation.

  8. Jim G says:

    It depends on what purpose the company or brand has in mind for their Facebook page. If you only want rabid fans to subscribe to your page then you are only looking to keep existing customers updated, sell them more product and/or service your customers in a self service format.
    If on the other hand you are looking to build your brand, attract and sell new customers, you like "like". It allows you to pitch those new prospects and tell your story. If they unsubscribe, so what, that is the nature of sales and marketing. Some will, some won't – not everyone will buy your product or service.

  9. Diana Galligan says:

    I agree – this is manipulative and unnecessary.

    The "redesigns" are being done for the sake of them – "tinkering" for the sake of it….if they want to improve advertiser's relationships, why don't they allow halfway decent ad formats. Those unprofessional, ugly picture/text combinations are amateur looking. There are standard ad formats that are used on other sites. At least if I don't like a company, I can appreciate a good looking ad.

    i can't image the desire to be a fan of my deodorant company…the trade off of personal information for what…a coupon?

    Can the tricks and don't get too big for your britches. There was a mass exodus from mySpace because facebook had privacy and tagging pictures, and people will leave facebook just as easily when the next new innovation comes along.

  10. Dawn Hibbard says:

    Nope – I don't really care about my friends' opinions of soda (etc.), and I don't feel the need to share that kind of minutiae with them myself. I would like to add that I HATE (I cannot underscore this enough) the new photo uploader feature – it does not work at all and is seriously impeding my ability to do my job!

    • @ladolcetati says:

      I agree about the photo uploader Dawn. That's why for the pages I manage for Hot Topic, I went so far as to switch from Firefox to Chrome then when attempting to upload photos chose to not download the new uploader so I could do it manually. Much more effective.

  11. Perhaps they should introduce a "Love" button – users can upgrade to this after some time. And then when this grows, they can introduce an "Adore" button; then maybe a "Cherish" button; then a "worship" button, and then….well you get the idea!
    My recent post Who cares what you want? It’s about what they want!

  12. @MikeRobert says:

    I've gotta say, I'm all for change I can believe in;) But I like things how they are:) In particular, I'm concerned how this change will impact "brands" in the non-traditional sense, such as non-profits and government agencies…
    My recent post MikeRobert: LOVE how @deviantART changed avatar profiles to @LadyGaga and Twilight :) My favorite: ” target=”_blank”>http://bit.ly/c8tfGR

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