Mar 30 2010

thumbs up, fans down


Out with “fan”, in with “like”.

So, Facebook is officially mothballing the terminology of Fan, in favor of the kinder, gentler Like.  According to All Things Digital, the decision has been made.

Sometimes subtle changes in terminology can drive meaningful impact and unintended consequences.  My commentary below  is on how this might impact a Business’ Fan Page marketing.

a soft handshake?

Fan has always felt like a term derived of celebrity worship, that has morphed unnaturally into business and brand following terminology.  While I do believe Fan is far from a natural term, the act of fanning a business feels like a more meaningful statement of support than does the term Like.  When you Fan a business, it feels like an implicit statement of loyalty.  Saying you Like a business is akin to a soft handshake, positive but less committed.

As pointed out in Mashable,

The change could make it easier for brand advertisers to accumulate fans quickly. But it also means that users might not totally understand what they’re opting in to.

While building a larger social graph is arguably good news for brands and businesses, I tend to be in the contrarian camp.  This creates a new problems that I feel will make it more difficult for businesses to know how far they can go in leveraging their Facebook connections. It will likely raise the overall noise, and it introduces uncertainty as to the implicit contract with your social connection.

i <heart> follow

Personally, I prefer the Twitter term Follow, when it comes to business-consumer relationships.  To a marketer, a follower feels more like a genuine opt-in consumer than someone who likes you.  It feels like an implicit request to expect offers or news. I feel this is most acute for small and local businesses, where the majority use case for your social network interaction is around promotion and simple information sharing.

Could this move potentially cede competitive ground to Twitter when it comes to small business marketing?  Perhaps.  As the Facebook user base revises their behavior, the new ambiguity will present challenges.

Meanwhile, Twitter followers feel like a more predictable lot, when it comes to their intention.  At the end of the day, business value will be driven by performance, and predictable intention in marketing is a definitive edge.

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