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 


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.

“One of the great things with social media is people’s tendencies to share information,” Belosic said. “Gathering user-generated content is a great example of action-gating.” 

Here are some ideas that make use of action-gating. Rewards could include a contest or sweepstakes entry, a coupon or discount or a content download such as a special report or e-book:

  • Upload your best recipe
  • If you’re using our product, send us a video showing us how you use it
  • Send us a picture of you wearing our t-shirt (jeans, shoes, etc.)
  • Vote for our product
  • Post an online product review 

Another tactic Belosic recommended is location- or zip-code-gating, in which a customer must enter a zip code in addition to other information, such as dining preferences. 

“The customer puts it all into the form and marketers can collect actionable data right there,” he said. “A marketer can get a lot more mileage from that than they can get from a like.”

Learning Opportunities

Show Me the ROI


ShortStack illustrates the potential for increased ROI from action-gating with an example from its own aforementioned e-book launch. For the May 2014 launch, the company ran a campaign in which visitors had to provide an email address in exchange for the download.

“At no point did we like-gate the ability to get the e-book,” said Sara Piccola, mistress of propaganda (Ed. Note: real title) for ShortStack. “In fact, our posts and ads on Facebook consisted of sending visitors to the landing page on our blog.” 

Piccola stated that, on average, the company gets between 800 to 1,000 likes per month. During the e-book promotion, the number jumped to 1,020 Likes, even though the promotion was not running a like-gate. 

In addition, she said the promotion generated 5,000 leads, which the company can directly correlate to $10,000 worth of revenue to date.

“We could have gotten 5,000 likes instead of leads, but the leads are obviously more valuable, seeing as they continue to convert to customers,” Piccola said. 

“The fans that did ‘like’ our page after reading our e-book are more engaged fans, since they chose to like our page because they enjoyed the content we were putting out instead of being forced.”

Belosic concluded that, although the new like-gate policy may generate some negativity by those just starting out with Facebook who may not be familiar with other methods of engagement, in the long run, people will “be happy that it has been forced upon them.”

“I would rather have 1,000 super, super engaged fans who provide feedback and share, than 100,000 likes falling of deaf ears.” 

Title image by richsouthwales/Shutterstock.