One of the longest-running requests for Facebook is the “Dislike” button, a hypothetical counterpoint to the iconic “Like” button that would allow users to express their disagreement or discontent with a post.
For the entirety of Facebook’s mainstream history, disapproval or dissatisfaction could only be expressed in comments or as an addendum while sharing the offending post. Facebook’s reasoning has been well-intentioned: negativity looks and feels very different to the receiver than it does to the sender. The potential for mixed messaging (for example, a “playful” Dislike that comes across as condescending) could compromise relationships and communication. Additionally, unlike the Like button, a Dislike button wouldn’t promote or indicate good content, so it would have an overall dampening effect on sharing and the proliferation of creativity.
But the very concept of “liking” or “disliking” something on the internet looks very different today than in Facebook’s early years, when the notion first surfaced. Reddit, oft-touted as the internet’s frontpage, has the “downvote,” a marker of quality that (in concert with upvoting) helps surface society’s most interesting and important stories. We know that Likes improve organic reach on Facebook in the same manner. On Twitter, a retweet could be considered a vote of approval, but it’s also used sarcastically to spotlight material in a negative light. Even favoriting a tweet isn’t necessarily a vote of confidence, as many Twitter users favorite tweets simply to bookmark them for later viewing.
Whether from these changing definitions or increased pressure to innovate, Facebook has changed its stance. A Dislike button is in development and will soon be rolled out to users in a limited way. It remains to be seen whether the button will appear universally on all post types, either right away or down the line, or indeed whether the button will appear for Pages at all.
But if there’s one thing that’s held true for Facebook features over the years, what’s successful for a few will soon be experienced by all. It stands to reason that, before long, the Dislike button will appear for everybody in every place you already see a Like button. Here’s what that means for brands:
1. More Customer Sentiment
The Dislike button is like the one piece that was missing from a brand’s posts and advertisements being “Yes/No/Other” surveys. Suddenly, there’s an implicit question on every status update: Did you like this? Why or why not?
Unfortunately, without clarification in the comments, it will be hard to gain actionable insight from how many Likes or Dislikes a post garners, but brands will be able to draw tentative conclusions based on engagement history and the post’s content. Does your brand commonly receive complaints and negativity on posts? Then you can safely assume some of the Dislikes are a mere function of who you are. But if that’s not usually the case, the Dislikes mean something more. Is your offer not attractive enough? Is your image offensive? Is the language of your ad pandering? A large number of Dislikes should raise these questions and, at the very least, be an instigator for self-reflection.
2. A New, Important Metric
What a high volume of Likes or Dislikes actually means might always be nebulous, but one is definitely a better sign than the other. Right now, accurately measuring consumer sentiment around a brand, product, or topic requires advanced social listening. For smaller businesses and agencies without an interest or need for such tools, comparisons of Dislikes month over month, year over year, or by post type and content could be telling. It could soon be commonplace to gauge the effectiveness of community management by the ratio of Likes to Dislikes or the volume of each, and brands should be paying attention to significant swings.
3. Don’t Worry About Content Voting… For Now
For marketers, perhaps the biggest shake-up that could come from the dynamic between Likes and Dislikes is content voting. Like on Reddit, where users decide what content lives and dies, control over who sees your content would be even further diminished and placed in the hands of users. This is scary at first blush (though it would be just as much an opportunity for brands with good, valuable content to shine), but rest assured this is exactly what Facebook wants to avoid.
That comes from Zuckerberg himself, who made the announcement of a Dislike button in development earlier this month. “We don’t want to turn Facebook into a forum where people are voting up or down on people’s posts,” he said. “That doesn’t seem like the kind of community that we want to create: you don’t want to go through the process of sharing some moment that was important to you in your day and have someone downvote it.”
Instead, Zuckerberg intends for the Dislike button to function as a show of empathy, understanding, or solidarity. “Not every moment is a good moment,” he said. “If you share something that’s sad like a refugee crisis that touches you or a family member passes away, it may not be comfortable to Like that post . . . I do think it’s important to give people more options than liking it.”
Let that assuage worries that users could downvote your brand’s content (or, even worse, the advertisements you’re paying for) into oblivion. It would also be redundant: users can already tell Facebook they don’t want to see a given ad, and advertisers already have the Relevance Score to gauge their content’s quality. Indeed, both Likes and Dislikes may come to boost organic reach. After all, by Facebook’s definition, both Likes and Dislikes indicate a post is worthy of engagement in a general sense.
Whether a universal Dislike button is right around the corner or a couple years off, social media marketers should carefully watch for any news about organic reach from its limited appearances. But whether the impact on reach is dramatic or insignificant, every brand should get ready to pay greater heed to their Facebook following than ever before.
Today, the vast majority of consumers expect your brand to have a social media presence, and it’s perhaps the best way to convey authenticity, enthusiasm, and dedication to those consumers. With an additional tool for expressing discontent, Facebook is about to make the internet’s favorite pastime easier. Brands with an ear to the ground and a knack for nurturing positive sentiment will win this battle.
For more digital marketing insight and commentary, check out our thoughts on Comedy Central’s clever use of Google AdWords, the scoop on Gmail Sponsored Promotions, and more.