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The Carrot and the Stick

Facebook announced on Friday that it was getting rid of Like Gating – that is, the ability for marketers to require that a user Like a Facebook Page in order to participate in a contest or get a coupon.

This throws a wrench in the works of how to get those Likes for businesses that have been using the tool. The Like Gate may have its negatives – in its statement about shutting down the Like Gate, Facebook stated that it was concerned about the nature of those Likes, and that they may not represent real fans of the business. That may be, but I think Facebook is also concerned about the competition for marketing dollars against its own ads.

But essentially, the Like Gate was just a Stick, as in, the carrot and the stick. The point of it was to force people to behave in a certain way to get a reward (reward = carrot). There are negatives to that, because ideally, people would like your page only because they want to. But sometimes, if your business was struggling to get value from your social media marketing dollars, it was a tool that made sense. You dangled an awesome carrot in people’s face, and in order to get it, they had to like your page. It may have been a little obnoxious, but it worked.

Well, now the stick is gone. The good news is, we still have “the carrot.” The carrot being excellent content and other forms of engagement with the Fans of your page. Taking away the Like Gate simply means we have to go back to basics, and remember that if you want Likes, it’s all about the content.

What kinds of content will get those likes in the absence of a process that requires them?  There are a lot of things you *can* do, but not everything you do is going to have good results. Eliminating the Like Gate means that your coupons and contests can no longer require a Like in order to participate, but you can still run those programs – it will just be harder to get people liking your page if the offers are not really amazing.

So, without the Stick, how do you still get those Likes? Here are some proven ideas:

1) Post Great Content.  And by great, I mean REALLY great. Relevant, timely and useful. Not cat memes, not constant and obvious promotions for your business. Everybody loves a good cat meme, but the reality is those things aren’t bringing value to your customers and won’t engage them. The trick is to have a mix of content that is both relevant to your business and engaging for your audience.

In other words cat memes are fun, but probably not the best way to promote your business. Conversely, you can’t promote your business all the time unless you are doing it in a way that engages the audience. There might be a right time and place for cat memes – if your brand voice is slightly irreverent, maybe Grumpy Cat is your guy.

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Make a Compelling Offer.  No “Like gate” means users are no longer required to Like your page in order to win a sweepstakes, get a coupon, enter a contest or poll, etc., but it doesn’t mean they won’t still do so, if your offers and content are compelling enough. So make sure that you have a great offer if you are running a promotion. And by great offer, I don’t mean an expensive giveaway, but rather, something that is really useful to your target audience. If you are a real estate agent, it could be an eBook about the process to buy or sell homes, or some other educational content –  a market report perhaps. If you are a hair salon, it could be a coupon for half price service, particularly if that service could lead to repeat business. Whatever it is, it should be relevant to your business, engaging to your audience, and useful. This takes care of the issue of people simply visiting your Page to get stuff – an IPad, say – and then never coming back.

Leverage other social media. Facebook is actually fairly limited in terms of how you can search for and Friend people. You can target ads at people in certain demographics or locations, but you can’t search that way without paying for the ad. Plus, an ad is a less direct way of reaching them than a friend request. Twitter and some other platforms don’t have the same restrictions. So, another proven tactic is to leverage other social media as a way to get people to go to your Facebook page. This means making sure all the platforms are integrated – your newsletter should point to Facebook, your blog should automatically distribute all content across every social media platform you are using, and just to make life easier, you should be using an app like Hootsuite that makes it easy to write one post across all social media. These should point to Facebook as often as possible. Be consistent and your momentum will build.

There are a ton of other ways as well – these are just a few that spring immediately to mind. The upshot is – time to focus on the carrot.