My 'dislike' of Facebook's new button

As a social media professional, I spend a worrying proportion of my working life consuming images of fluffy kittens and online articles demanding I 'click here' to reveal the biggest scandal to hit the world ever, writes Caolan Mahon of Shine Communications.

Will a ‘dislike’ really feel like a sympathetic arm around a shoulder, asks Caolan Mahon?
Will a ‘dislike’ really feel like a sympathetic arm around a shoulder, asks Caolan Mahon?

You would be forgiven for assuming, therefore, that I would be pretty receptive to Facebook’s upcoming ‘dislike’ button introduction – but you’d be wrong.

That’s not to say that the idea isn’t without some merit. With our Facebook feeds filled with as much doom and gloom as it is pictures of new babies and weddings, a way of showing support for saddening news updates shared on Facebook is both worthy and absolutely needed.

After all, you can’t exactly finish an article titled ‘Dog passes away after health battle’ with a ‘like’.

So when Mark Zuckerberg announced recently that an opposing option – a ‘dislike’ button – would be introduced to the platform, many saw this as the perfect solution when responding to news less ‘likeable.’

I disagree. The issue for me is not the function, more the terminology. If there are limitations to how a ‘like’ can be appropriately used, what of a ‘dislike’?

Giving users a single icon to express empathy may solve the difficulty of finding the right words in a comment, but will a ‘dislike’ really feel like a sympathetic arm around a shoulder? Unlikely.

Surely a more encompassing term – such as ‘support’ – would be more demonstrative?

I am not suggesting scrapping the idea entirely; however, giving users the option to disable it on their own accounts would allow us all to reclaim a sense of control in an increasingly unforgiving online world.

For brands, the impact is also significant. The prospect that customers visiting their Facebook page will soon be able to register antipathy without a moment’s consideration (and one so instantly visible to other users) will have community managers reaching for the crisis-management documents as often as their content plans.

A wider implication could see brands reverting back to their obsession with vanity metrics of a few years ago.

The introduction of the ‘dislike’ button threatens the progress of measurement within social media, with many brands likely to shift their focus back to vanity tracking.

This shift of focus may ultimately be to the benefit of the consumer, however.

The added threat of public disenchantment etched over every post makes brands even more accountable for the content they share - throw up a lazy post without any consideration for your audience and watch those ‘dislikes’ roll on in.

Facebook’s algorithm may have forced brands to think twice about what they post (before throwing cash at it regardless), but with the potential for negative feedback so easy to administer, brands will be forced to up their game significantly.

Caolan Mahon is senior digital account manager at Shine Communications

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