With a dislike button, Facebook could change the face of marketing...

What’s to Like with the Facebook Dislike button


When Zuckerberg hinted in December 2014 that Facebook was considering a dislike button, the media were quick to react and point out the many flaws of this idea: the possibility of cyberbullying, of fostering hate feelings, and many other potential negatives.

But the dislike button doesn’t have to be cruel or mean, meaning “hate.” It could also be used to suggest something like “That’s too bad, I don’t like that situation either.”  For instance, Facebook users could click “dislike” to express caring and compassion when they want to show their concern over a friend’s loss of a loved one, or to share understanding when a friend is having a bad day, such as missing a flight or losing their wallet. The company has thrown out many ideas and accompanying icons to suggest what various dislike buttons could mean.

Meanwhile, a dislike button has quietly made its appearance on Facebook here in Canada, but only as a trial. The results and counts of the number of dislikes are not yet being shared with the public.

Frankly, I see the dislike button as a potentially valuable tool for consumers. The icon has the potential to change the face of marketing forever. Here are six benefits we can gain:

 1. True feedback: Giving a voice back to the consumer

The dislike button is badly needed to balance out a world where companies today only obtain good news via social media, e.g., increases in the number of followers on Twitter, the number of likes or new fans on Facebook, or the number of click-through to their website. Since only likes are recorded, the consumer voice has been effectively half muted. Our social media world today is a gigantic market research tool, but where only good opinions show up in the final statistics.

2. Halting the false “win-win” game

Adding a dislike button to a company’s Facebook page would help counteract the power of social analytics engines such as Sysomos or Radian6 that allow companies to delete negative comments from their websites. Customers would gain the power to make sure both sides of the story are heard: the good votes about the product or service, but also the bad votes about its flaws.

Furthermore, given that senior management is essentially playing a win-win game, using sanitized reports of their progress on social media to justify further expansion of their social media marketing budget, the dislike button would eliminate a crucial blindspot among decision makers higher up.

3. Deriving new learnings from polarizing views

It is often thought that companies might become the target of intentional negative feedback campaigns with the dislike button. However, this really would not make a difference though in today’s world. As even my  teenager reminded me, anyone can already leave negative comments about products and services on sites like Yelp and elsewhere.

I believe that such polarizing views—the very negative ones—can be a gold mine of learning for companies, pushing them out of their comfort zone, and forcing them to question unchallenged assumptions (e.g., is it normal that an airline shifts responsibility for cruelty inflicted to animals under its care to a subcontractor on the tarmac? Can a company really accept to offer a product or software with known bugs?) YouTube has a Thumbs down button, and it does not seem to have created major issues or crisis for them.

4. Conquesting over competitors

By adding a “dislike a competitor” button, companies can more easily target unhappy customers of their foes. This is not revolution (try searching on Twitter for #Fail and you’ll see today’s negative feedback about them). For instance, Adam Justice wrote in a recent article (http://socialmediasun.com/the-dislike-button)  how Verizon offered AT&T customers a coupon worth $100 off the initiation fee of a new contract if they displayed a negative comment about their AT&T service.

“The campaign generated a 140 percent click-thru rate and proved the effectiveness of responding to dissonance in social media,” Adam noted. 

“The key factors were dissatisfaction, a popular alternative, a valuable incentive and the ability to target each customer at the exact moment that their hatred for the current service provider was at its peak. Anger and hate are unique in the fact that their amplitude peaks immediately and tapers off over time. Missing the peak by even an hour could have been the difference in being ignored and converting a user to their brand.”

5.  Creating communities of displeased customers

If a company could identify its unhappy customers, or those who do not have a clear intention to buy their product, ignoring them would result in the management missing out on the opportunity to improve their products or services. For instance, the Enemy Graph creates communities of Facebook users who dislike the same things. This type of idea could be an opportunity for companies to test out new concepts and improve them in real time by tapping into a segment of their target customers who actually dislike their product (https://www.facebook.com/EnemyGraph ) or http://enemygraph.com/ ).

6. Illuminating Boards of Directors

A dislike button could provide valuable insight to a board of directors and serve as a sort of independent source of information. The directors would not only see the typical dashboard showing the increase in fans, likes, etc., but they could also hear what the other side of the story is.


In conclusion

With all these benefits, the question is: will Facebook agree with me and implement a dislike button everywhere? I think they probably will do some version of it. And if not them, I bet someone else will. In fact, French developer Thomas Moquet created a Firefox extension that adds a dislike button on Facebook, with easy to understand thumbs down icons (see https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/facebook-dislike/.)

In the meantime, while there is no dislike button on this blog, feel free to add your comments below...

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