Opening the Floodgates: How like-gating impacts the social media marketing dynamic

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Last week, for our Social Media 101 series, I wrote on the topic of like-gating. Today, we’ll look a little more closely at the concept and its impact on the business-consumer relationship.

A quick refresher: Like-gating is when a company requires a Facebook user to like its Facebook page before accessing exclusive content. The benefit of this strategy for the company is easy to see. People want exclusive content, so they like the page on Facebook, thus increasing the overall number of page fans and expanding the company’s digital audience.

Every time a person likes a company on Facebook, the company’s posts flow through the person’s Facebook news feed. The more people who see the post, the more the marketing message spreads, and the higher the company’s potential ROI on its social media marketing becomes. Because of this, likes have become a serious social currency. Like-gating is one way to leverage the phenomenon—but what impact is like-gating having on the business-consumer relationship?

In a recent social media survey hosted by an organization in Chicago, one of the questions asked why Facebook users would unlike a page that they previously liked. The result was fairly astonishing in that a surprisingly high number of users claim they are not likely to unlike a Facebook page at all. Once they like a page, they’re likely to like it for good.

This is good news for companies. They apparently need only to get a foot in the Facebook fan door in order to increase and keep up their pages’ likes. But there’s a negative side to this coin as well. It’s easy to like a company on Facebook. It’s terribly easy. It might be easier than falling out of bed. So while your fans like you, they also might like your competitors, and companies in other sectors, and companies in other industries, and retail outlets and wholesale sellers and non-profit organizations and sandwich shops and shoe stores and mega-chains and yoga studios and magazines and art galleries and production companies and cell phone service providers and photographers and news outlets. According to the study, they’re not likely to unfollow any of them. The more companies a person likes, the more crowded his news feed becomes.

Think of it this way; let’s say you’re on a road trip. As you motor along, you chat with your friends, and once every 50 miles, you pass a billboard. Odds are, because they’re so rare, you’re likely to take note of the billboard and its message. But the longer you drive, the more billboards you see. Soon, there’s a billboard every 50 feet. Now the road is lined with giant advertisements, and they’re so common that you don’t even register them. You ignore them, you focus on the conversations with your friends, and the billboards start to blend in to the background.

That’s the danger of too many Facebook likes. If I follow five companies, I can afford to be pretty tuned into their posts, because the marketing messages are fairly infrequent. If I follow 50 companies, I’m losing them in the background. The key to successful like-gating is to stay relevant on Facebook and rise above the chatter. Once you have someone’s attention, make sure you reward him for it by continuing to give him unique content and by paying him some attention in return. Always be aware of the competitive environment and know that the more popular Facebook gets, the more work you have to do to stand out from the crowd.

As always, we at Gremln try our best to practice what we preach. Like us on Facebook and check out the exclusive Gremln content you won’t find anywhere else!

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