Should Marketers Worry About Facebook’s Dislike Button?

Facebook revealed plans to release a "Dislike" button. Should social media marketers worry about this development?

Almost immediately after Facebook launched its Like button in February, 2009, its users began asking for an alternative option to express a broader range of emotion. Well, on Monday, September 14, 2015, Facebook’s founder and CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, announced that such an option was in the works and will soon be rolled out for testing by a limited number of users.

It’s ironic that users did not welcome this development with open arms after requesting it for nearly seven years. People took to social media to share opinions on how a “Dislike” button will contribute to more negativity online, promote cyber bullying and create an unwelcoming atmosphere for brands and businesses.  

Considering the value and success of Facebook’s Like button, the launch of a new means to express sentiment in a single click is a big deal and does indeed create many concerns for marketers. However, are these worries legitimate? Should brands and organizations worry about their futures on Facebook? In my opinion, marketers should always prepare to alter their strategies for any new feature, but the fear of a “Dislike” button stems from a misunderstanding of Facebook’s announcement.

In Monday’s announcement, Zuckerberg told the audience that “people have asked about the Dislike button for many years… today is a special day because today is the day where I actually get to say that we’re working on it, and are very close to shipping a test of it.”

Using the word “dislike” was a mistake on Zuckerberg’s part in describing the new button during Monday’s announcement. For years, social media marketers have been programmed to gauge their success by the quantity of Likes, along with Shares and Comments, that are accrued by their content. Therefore, it’s quite understandable why “dislike,” the complete opposite of the “like” that marketers have grown accustomed to, will arouse fears and cause them to misconstrue Zuckerberg’s message.

Instead, the point that should have been taken away from Monday’s announcement is that Facebook does not have any intention on building a function that promotes negativity, or can be utilized to express one’s displeasure with a certain piece of content. Instead, the new feature aims to express empathy, acknowledgement and/or understanding for updates and news regarding negative stories, issues and events; topics that deem a need for expressing emotion, but for which a “Like” button is weird or inappropriate.

“We didn’t want to just build a Dislike button because we don’t want to turn Facebook into a forum where people are voting up or down on people’s posts,” Zuckerberg stated in Monday’s announcement. “People aren’t looking for an ability to downvote other people’s posts. What they really want is to be able to express empathy. Not every moment is a good moment, right? And if you are sharing something that is sad, whether it’s something in current events like the refugee crisis that touches you or if a family member passed away, then it might not feel comfortable to Like that post.”

There is really no reason for Facebook to build a button that displays a disdain for users’ content. Aside from the fact that such a button would indeed, most certainly contribute to a cyber bully’s arsenal, let’s remember that Facebook makes its money by selling advertising to businesses and brands. I doubt that Facebook would haphazardly introduce a function that could potentially create an unwelcomed atmosphere for brands, in-turn causing them to flock to other networks along with their ad budgets.

Some people may say that a “Dislike” button would be valuable in refining Facebook’s algorithm by providing more data toward determining the content that users want to see and the updates they prefer to keep out of their News Feeds. This function would be redundant since there are already several ways to let Facebook know the amount of content that you prefer to receive from a Page or Profile. For any update in their News Feed, users can select “I don’t like this post” in order to let Facebook know that they don’t prefer seeing such content. They can also alter the frequency of a Page’s posts by simply going to a Page and unfollowing it. Additionally, users can choose to receive more content from a Page by selecting the “see first” option that would display the Page’s updates at the top of their News Feeds. Finally, Facebook users have the ultimate choice to simply unlike a Page, or unfriend a Profile, in order to stop seeing all content from that source.

I believe there is very little value, and a lot of risk, for Facebook to build a “Dislike” button. Besides creating negativity throughout the social network, it would not achieve Zuckerberg’s goal of making people more comfortable in engaging with subjects that are not entirely positive, or updates that share grim news. A mere dislike is not the solution since the term is as ambiguous, and therefore as uncomfortable and weird, as clicking the Like button for certain types of sensitive updates.

There are a number of alternative options, or emotions, for which Facebook can create a new button. Personally, I believe that it will most likely be a “Sorry” button, or a “Condolences” button, or any other variation of a “Sympathy” button.  However, it’s also a possibility that Facebook will indeed create a Dislike button that will work in conjunction with some sort of keyword monitoring. The button wouldn’t appear for all posts, but would automatically populate for updates that include some predetermined keyword. This, however, would be a big undertaking that would raise more privacy concerns for Facebook to deal with, so I don’t believe that it’s too viable of an option.

Currently, there is little information and evidence on what, when and how Facebook plans to launch its new sentiment button. Therefore, predictions about this feature are mere speculation and leave marketers with no choice but to wait until more info is revealed. Nonetheless, it is important to be prepared and adjust to any possible scenario, including one in which Facebook launches a Dislike button that makes it extremely convenient for users to express their displeasure with your content.

What are your predictions about Facebook’s “Dislike” button? Do you agree, or disagree, with my opinion? Share what you think in the comments section below.

Cj is an SEO/Content Specialist at DPS. His previous work experience includes serving as a Social Media Manager for a digital media agency in Chicago, working on accounts for several large retailers and an insurance organization. Prior to that, Cj was managing social media and online PR for clients of a firm serving franchise concepts throughout the United States and Canada.

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