Why Facebook’s Dislike Button Would Be Great for Brands

Yesterday, tech and media offices around the country lost about 20 percent of their total productivity due to a surprising announcement from Mark Zuckerberg: Facebook is going to finally introduce something akin to a “dislike” button.

The hot takes were hastily tossed in the microwave.

Would it lead to cyberbullying?

Should they hide it for users under 18?

And what about the brands? Won’t someone please think of the brands?

With pleasure.

Should brands be worried about a dislike button?

First off, social media brand managers worrying about getting fired from a flood of negative engagement should breathe a sigh of relief. Facebook isn’t going to introduce a literal “dislike” button as a counter to the like. Zuckerberg made that very clear during the live-streamed Q&A in which he made the announcement.

If anything, it’s more of an “empathy” button.

“People aren’t looking for an ability to downvote other people’s posts,” Zuckerberg said. “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.”

Zuckerberg went on to explain that “it’s surprisingly complicated to make an interaction that you want to be that simple,” adding that they’ll have something ready to test soon. In all likelihood, Facebook will use some sort of language- or URL-analysis software to surface the button when appropriate. It’s unlikely to be a universal option, and I’d wager that it’ll rarely show up on brand posts, if at all.

A dislike button would actually be good

Zuckerberg is right that people don’t need brutal feedback on what they share, but brands do. They need as much feedback as possible; the more data points, the better. No one needs to worry about hurting a brand’s feelings.

“[Brands] are too insulated from the world’s distaste of what they’re doing,” Deacon Webster, founder and CCO of ad agency Walrus, told Contently. “I think brands need to hear it. If Walmart doesn’t know that people hate their pizza dipping ad, they’re going to keep doing it.”

Would a “dislike” button for brands terrify marketers in the beginning? Absolutely, especially if it caused executives to overreact. But smart brands will come to see the data as valuable—the same way it is in focus groups, or even on YouTube, where the “thumbs up” and “thumbs down” buttons provide much-needed insight beyond juiced pre-roll view counts.

Ultimately, dislikes might also force marketers to evaluate why Facebook nuked their reach over the past two years as opposed to blindly blaming the social network. They would likely adjust and invest more in content, telling bigger and better brand stories instead of pushing self-promotional schlock. (Or, if they don’t, get replaced by someone who will.)

Of course, there’s a very thin chance this will actually happen. But if Facebook wants to extend true empathy to marketers, it should.

Image by Catwalker/Shutterstock

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