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Here's disappointing news for every consumer who likes to "like" a page on Facebook just to get a $10 off coupon or a by-one-get-one-free offer.

The social network has blocked companies from requiring customers to like a Facebook pages in exchange for contest entries or other company rewards — a practice known as like-gating.

According to a Facebook developers blog post, effective Aug. 7, companies are prohibited from incentivizing customers to “use social plugins or to like a page.” It's still acceptable to ask people to like your page — but they have to like it because, well, they actually like it. Existing apps have until Nov. 5 to comply with the new mandate.

Jim Belosic, CEO of ShortStack, said the move shouldn’t be a big surprise to most seasoned social media marketers. “The overall reaction has been great because I think that many businesses saw this coming, or if not, had turned away from Like-gating on their own over the last six months to a year,” he said. 

So, why have companies moved away from like-gating, and what can marketers use in its place? 

It’s Not All About the Like 

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Many experts agree that a high like count alone is not likely to provide the ROI that social media is capable of providing. “You could have a huge Like count, but that doesn’t mean that your cash register is ringing more,” said Belosic.

Stacey Miller, senior social media community manager for Vocus, agreed. “It’s not always about the quantity of likes,” Miller said. “Though the number of likes is the first step, true social ROI comes from engagement, click-throughs, traffic, leads and sales.”

In ShortStack’s recent e-book, "Why Every Business Needs to Stop Obsessing Over Facebook Likes," the company discusses why likes are overrated, and provides four reasons why like-gating is bad for business:

  1. Customers might go back and “unlike” your page after a contest has ended.
  2. The number of authentic likes could be inflated.
  3. Like-gates on mobile apps require many steps and can be confusing for customers.
  4. Like-gates limit the number of people outside of your fan base who could potentially interact with your brand.

Enter the Action-Gate

So, what can companies do to increase social ROI? 

Belosic advocates focusing on actions that increase true customer engagement, such as encouraging customers to share content in exchange for an email address or other information that provides high value to marketers — a concept known as action-gating. 

In a nutshell, action-gating means that a customer must do something (such as provide their contact information) in order to get something.