Facebook is no fan of fan gates.
During the past several years an ingenious (well, maybe just very helpful) digital advertising tool popped up on Facebook: the fan gate. Fan gates enabled marketers to require Facebook users to become fans of a business page before getting access to its content. This specific type of gate is more properly referenced as a “like gate.” The tool was often used by gaming companies and contest makers.
Like gates were made possible by third-party applications. Many were free and easy and fun to use. Most importantly, they got your message squarely in front of potential customers.
Businesses loved them. Consumers were lukewarm depending on what was “behind fan gate #1?” If the content was high-value, they were likely to like a Facebook page to get it.
But then, just as businesses were mastering how to best use fan gates, without much notice or fanfare, “like” gates very quietly will disappear on Nov. 5, 2014. No new gates will be allowed to be created now and users with gates up after Nov. 5 risk having their pages shut down, according to Facebook.
I encountered the problem recently while launching a coupon promotion for a client. I abruptly discovered that my trusty promotions and gate applications weren’t functioning properly, and did some quick research to find out why.
Though information is hard to find, it appears that Facebook’s reasons for disallowing fan gates is the notion that we shouldn’t incentivize people to like your page, that it’s not fair to require Facebook users to like a page in order to get content.
That wouldn’t be so bad, except that Facebook also did away with the ability to set the its landing tab to anything but a business’ main timeline some time back. This means a business can not even control the messaging users receive when they land on their Facebook page initially (think a big colorful graphic instead of just written, boxy content). So fan gates in general don’t work, even if a fan isn’t being forced to like the content. Simply going to a Facebook page no longer shows page visitors the content a business wants them to see unless the visitor also clicks on a separate tab.
The fact of the matter is that Facebook is looking bolster their own promoted posts and ads. And why not? It’s their company.
However, just because I understand it, that doesn’t mean I like it.
The widespread suggestion to replace the loss of the fan gate and “like” Gates is to post links repeatedly to a business’ Facebook timeline, or run the promotion through Facebook as a promoted post. Because Facebook also is blocking the installation of tabs that are visible on mobile devices, this is also the solution to address incompatibility with mobile devices. (Note: Tabs appear on its website, but don’t make the transition if viewed from a mobile device.)
Facebook eliminated these attractive tools for developers and page managers to build and maintain highly visible promotions. Facebook is its own company and can obviously do what it wants, but it’s really forcing the hands of the individuals who use it for business purposes.
It’s also taken the fun out of it for developers and community builders. Small businesses with minimal budgets have come to rely on it as a marketing tool, too.
Businesses will always be able to find consumers because there are so many users on Facebook, still the behemoth of social media. But if Facebook doesn’t work to be more friendly to third-party developers and business owners, the company may lose more of its share of the business pie than it intended.