Is Asking for Likes on Facebook Penalized?

FacebookOne of the main adages of the marketing world is to ask people to do what you want them to do. This is called the “call to action” and anyone in marketing is very familiar with it. When you are trying to build your audience in Facebook, therefore, it would seem that asking people to like your page is a great call to action. However, I recently read something which made me rethink and research this idea.

This article on CNN.com about like farming on Facebook has some useful information for end users about the dangers of clicking Like in certain situations. And its something I think we have all done. I recently saw a picture of a girl with Down’s Syndrome with the caption to “Like to show her you think she’s pretty.” They make the rounds of Facebook and scammers and Black Hats can use them for various nefarious purposes… all without the person featured in the picture being aware. I know that, after reading this, I’ll be more careful about what I like in the future. But that’s not what this post is about. Part of the article really caught my attention. It said (emphasis added):

People have told us they associate requests to like or share a post with lower quality content, and receiving that type of feedback helps us adjust our systems to get better at showing more high quality posts,” a Facebook spokesperson said via e-mail.

“If you see a post that’s low quality and seems to be focused only on gaining traffic, hover over the top-right corner of the post and click the arrow to report it.”

Facebook, after getting feedback from users, has associated posts which ask people to like or share with lower quality content. Now it occurred to me that Facebook may not be differentiating between companies who make this their call to action and farmers who are just trying to get likes for nefarious purposes. Especially if the system is automated.

Update: April 14, 2014: Facebook has issued a news article saying that their policy on “Like-baiting” is changing. They say:

“Like-baiting” is when a post explicitly asks News Feed readers to like, comment or share the post in order to get additional distribution beyond what the post would normally receive.”

It seems Facebook is planning to penalize this behavior in frequent offenders. How this will exactly play out in the news feed is yet to be seen, but I’d err on the side of caution and, if you do ask for Likes and Shares, do it a lot less frequently until the effects of the new changes can be seen.

Original post: January 22, 2014: According to Edgerank Checker, they haven’t seen any evidence that Facebook is currently penalizing likes. According to them, asking for likes “still increases Viral Reach and overall Engagement.”

Asking for likes still increases Viral Reach and overall Engagement

They say: “When using a Like call to action (asking for people to Like the post), we see a significant increase in Viral Reach. The increase in Viral Reach is due to the additional engagement the post is receiving:”

Asking for likes increases engagement

They further said: “It’s obvious that calls to action for Likes is still working to improve engagement. However, this only paints part of the picture. To further investigate any potential penalization, we examined how Organic Reach was impacted:”

Like call to action impact on organic reach

Their conclusion, as of August 2013, was that there was no penalty by Facebook for asking for Likes. However, even with this in mind, it is probably a good idea to really think about your calls to action in the future. Even if Facebook never decides to penalize people for asking for likes, the people receiving the posts may hide them if they aren’t interesting or diverse enough.

The bottom line: be creative with your calls to action and careful with what you choose to like.

What have your experiences been with asking fans to like your content or your page? Have you ever gotten any negative feedback?

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