Why Fan Gating Won’t be Missed

Facebook recently announced the removal of fan gates – the mechanism that forces people to like a page in order to enter a competition or access content.

Image source: engagement cards for sale on http://www.notonthehighstreet.com/

Image source: engagement cards for sale on http://www.notonthehighstreet.com/

In the early days, when organic reach was high, building a big fan base was important – and the quickest and easiest way of doing this was by running a fan gated competition. Brands filled their communities full of people who didn’t care about their business – they just wanted to win prizes. And that was fine – because back then organic reach was high so this gave brands a massive audience to broadcast branded messages to.

Then algorithm changes made organic reach more difficult to come by, shifting the focus from likes to engagement. The only problem was brands had filled their communities so full of unengaged fans that their engagement metrics looked awful – and they started to wonder if Facebook was the right platform for them.

The question really is: are you the right business for the Facebook platform?

The brands that are thriving on Facebook today aren’t the ones with the biggest budgets, they’re the ones who know why they are there and what they are trying to achieve. They’re the ones that understand three key principles:

  1. Facebook is NOT an owned channel. Brands don’t own their fans, their page or the platform. Facebook changes the rules to ensure the platform remains relevant and useful to their 1.1 billion users, not to suit brands. After all, isn’t that why brands are there? It’s time to stop thinking about Facebook as an owned channel and start thinking about it as an earned channel.
  2. Facebook is NOT free. Building and maintaining an engaged community requires resources – both human and financial. In order of importance:
    • Strategy. Understand what the business needs to achieve and how they will be measured. Know what conversations you want to have, what tools you have to bring them to life with and what you want to achieve with each and every post. Then build a reporting template that benchmarks these objectives over time.
    • Content. Facebook is a content-hungry platform requiring a constant stream of great content and conversations. Focus your budgets on good, creative ideas – because a good idea can be brought to life quickly and cost effectively using any one of the hundreds of online tools that filter photos, create infographics or short videos.
    • Community Management. Get a good community manager – someone who understands social media, but also marketing, branding, communications and customer service. And someone who has the time to monitor every comment and respond to every wall post or private message in a timely manner.
    • Paid Media Support. How much media support is needed depends on how well the three steps above have been done. Having a clearly defined strategy and investing in good content and community management will have a loyal, engaged community that requires only a small paid media investment. In addition, understanding the Five Audiences of Facebook and how to engage with them will also ensure paid media support can be focused on where it will drive the best results.
  3. Facebook is NOT about reach. And it’s also not about engagement. It’s about quality of engagement. Next time your community manager talks about engagement rates, ask how ‘engagement’ is being calculated. Facebook only counts likes, comments as shares as engagement – leaving ‘other clicks’ on photos, links and update expansions out of the equation. And for very good reason.

So it’s goodbye to fan gating. And good riddance I say.