Facebook 'dislike': "Whatever it's called, brands will benefit from data"

PR pros welcome the move, but caution it could lead to more timid content from brands, especially in Asia

Facebook is working on an alternative to the 'like' button

The announcement that Facebook is working on a ‘dislike’ button should be welcomed by brands because of the data and insights they can garner from it, PR pros said today.

Yesterday Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg said the platform was working on long-standing calls for an alternative to the ‘like’ button.

"I think people have asked about the dislike button for many years. Today is a special day because today is the day I can say we’re working on it and shipping it," said Zuckerberg

However, he stressed this would not be used to create a ‘like’ versus ‘dislike’ voting system for posts.

Instead, he said it would be used to express empathy for posts where a ‘like’ is not appropriate.

A timescale for the introduction and the name of the new button has not yet been finalized, but one exec told PRWeek Facebook would be "dumb" to brand it ‘dislike’.

Daylight Partnership founder David Ko said: "The ‘dislilke’ button is a long requested feature by Facebook users who don’t feel comfortable liking a post that shares sad or negative news, even if just to offer moral support, because of the meaning of the word ‘like’.

"I hope Facebook won’t be dumb enough to actually call it a ‘dislike’ button, because that would open up a whole can of worms such as cyberbullying, so I’m skeptical until I see how it will be implemented."

Ko added that brands would welcome the introduction from a data perspective, but said he hoped it would not lead to more timid content.

"Brands will welcome this because this offers more data on how content is received, and can potentially lead to deeper insights and more tailored and purposeful content creation," he said.

"However a negative effect will be brands becoming more timid in the content they post, because instead of parsing the comments, we can actually see, with a simple number, how much a particular post is disliked. The last thing our industry needs is more bland, tame content."

Angelina Ong, Asia president at Cohn & Wolfe, agreed the additional data would be welcome, and added anything that Facebook introduced to empower users to direct and refine their content experience was a favourable move.

"For Facebook, it will provide more data for their web analytics, resulting in deeper insights and better targeted media, which can then be merchandized to advertisers," she added.

However, she warned that Asian brands and users were more likely to be wary of a new button.

"From a cultural perspective in Asia, where ‘face’ is important, there may be an initial dip in terms of content postings as Asian users in certain markets may be concerned about receiving ‘dislikes’ to their postings, thereby causing embarrassment," she added.

Gavin Coombes, president of Edelman Digital APACMEA, welcomed the new metric that would be available for measuring what doesn't work, but cautioned: "Anyone with thin skins – clients or agencies – should think twice about posting on social channels once this mechanism is in effect. Some do react badly to any sort of criticism.

"But in my view even this is beneficial. Being able to quantify both positive and negative sentiment means that marketers will be able to adjust, fine tune and improve their marketing over time – provided they are willing to listen to their audience and take a few knocks, especially in the early stages."

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