Facebook Fan Page “Forced Like” Ethics

I recently dove into a project to set up Facebook Tab Manager, a cool plugin from David Carr that feeds a Facebook fan page it’s content from your WordPress install. There are a couple cool features of the plugin for turning off certain WP filters that makes it especially nice. Otherwise, you can create your fan page content just like you create your blog content — same interface, editor, and plugins.

The challenge I set up for myself was to get the much touted “forced like” feature integrated for my friends and clients. I let a few people know that I was looking for testers and my friend @ShelHorowitz sent a DM on twitter mentioning that he boycotts any pages that use “forced like.” This got me thinking.

So here was my question: is having more content available to those who “like” your fan page on Facebook any different than sending exclusive content to those who subscribed via an email capture page on a web site?

For those that don’t know, the idea of a “forced like” is that in order to see the content on a Facebook fan page you would have to click the “like” button and become their “fan” first. I’ve seen people selling poorly thought out schemes for collecting a bazillion fans overnight that rely on the curiosity factor around this hidden content as the only reason to become a fan.

I suspected that the reason Shel found that objectionable is that the reason it is named forced like — it is typically done with such hype and strong language that it is assumed you won’t be able to see anything unless you are a fan. In the extreme cases, where the only content on the fan page is the single piece of “hidden” content, it is probably true that you’d have to “like” it before seeing anything. The funny thing is, if that’s all there is to see, it’s probably not worth the time/energy/attention to like it.

There are many legitimate uses for splitting publicly viewable content from fan/like/subscriber-only content. Rewarding those who “join the tribe” is a great thing, you just need to make sure you’re giving other reasons to join besides just the “bribe.”

Personally, I intend to use this splitting of content in much the same way that Seth Godin suggests we use cookies — giving those who have not opted-in and “liked” the fan page useful information that A) they may need/want before deciding to “like” the page and B) they probably won’t need after they have opted-in because they’ll be a part of the tribe. Then, and only then, I would consider a bribe if deemed necessary.

You shouldn’t need the landing tab to include things like contact info because that is always visible on the “Info” tab, and with congruent activity the wall posts should give people a good idea of what to expect in their news feeds as fans. Depending on the level of tech-savvy of your audience, you may need that landing tab to include explicit instructions for a visitor to browse your other tabs and/or click “Like” to receive future updates and describing how they’ll get those updates.

It turns out that not being able to see much content was only a minor part of Shel’s objection, which he elaborated to me later in the day. The main issue around liking pages, forced or not, is that of implied endorsement in a public arena and the reputation management that goes along with that Like/endorsement being spread across your friends’ news feeds.

This adds a new twist on the old aphorism:
Now you need people to know and trust you enough to “Like” you!

With all that in mind, if you’d like to be notified when I have my updated version of that plugin ready for a wider audience, go ahead and enter your name and email in the form below and opt-in.

(See, that wasn’t so hard to do — a little relationship building, sharing some good info, and then suggesting the next action for those who are interested. Go do the same thing on your Facebook fan pages and you’ll be just fine.)