It's been widely reported in the past day that Facebook will be introducing a new dislike button to its platform. This has caused quite a bit of concern from those within brands who consider such a change as a threat to their content. The reality is, though, that some media have perhaps jumped to a few conclusions about the announcement - and when you look a little deeper you understand that actually this is a move that makes sense.
Is Facebook introducing a dislike button?
No. Mark Zuckerberg specifically said: “People have asked about the dislike button for many years. We’ve finally heard you and we’re working on this and we will deliver something that meets the needs of the larger community.”
That's widely been reported as confirmation that he is - but he was actually saying that they were creating something along the lines of a dislike button. It would not, it was stressed, be a voting system where users could like or dislike a post. One could only imagine the arguments that would create!
In fact PR Week said that if Facebook decided to brand the button "dislike" that would be "dumb".
So what is Facebook doing?
According to the Slate's Will Oremus: In December 2014, [Zuckerberg] flat-out stated that the company will not build a “dislike” button that gives people a way to disapprove of one another’s posts... rather, he said, Facebook was exploring ways to allow users to convey fuzzy sentiments like surprise, laughter or empathy.
The whole root of the possible change (which, by the way, has no timeline as yet) is down to the fact that sometimes liking someone's sad post can come across as insensitive. If my friend's cat dies I don't "like" that... so Facebook is putting thought and time into building something which allows people to respond appropriately. For example - if a post is sad the user may be able to select what the response option is - such as "sympathise".
This could actually benefit brands. This whole new set of data could prove fruitful in analysing an audience and creating content that works for them.
Why Facebook will never introduce a dislike button.
For all Mark Zuckerberg and his team talk about how the brand is built for people, in reality the platform is just as much about being for brands. Facebook's share price rise is almost solely because brands value its advert platform as a way to reach new audiences and drive sales (see my recent post on Facebook's recent e-commerce drive).
If Facebook was to introduce a voting system it would put company brands at risk. Yes, Facebook is arguably already an open platform where users can comment how they wish, but a dislike button encourages such a practice. It creates a culture around disapproval, and invites internet trolls, or just the disaffected, to have their say. There's nothing wrong with that in general, but there is if you're a brand.
But let's say Facebook did, for some reason, introduce the dislike voting system. Brands would likely do one of two things. First, they may decide to make their content safer, more guarded, less "fun" - or second, they may close the page down altogether! Neither is good for Facebook, for brands, for the public, or for transparency and corporate access as a whole. There's only one response to that. Dislike.