Facebook 'dislike' button – should brands be on alert?

By AdNews | 16 September 2015

After years of speculation, it is finally happening – the 'dislike' button is coming to Facebook.

Overnight at a Q&A at Facebook in Menlo Park, California, CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced the social media giant is working on a new way for people to share how they're feeling on a post.

Zuckerberg clarified that the new functionality isn't a dislike per say but is more about finding new ways to interact than giving the 'thumbs up' to posts on their feed.

“It took us a while to get there because we didn't want to just build a dislike button because we don't want to turn Facebook into a forum where people are voting up or down on people's posts - that doesn’t sound like the kind of community we want to create,” Zuckerberg said.

“I do think it's important to give people more options than just like as a quick way to emote and share what they’re feeling on a post.”

But while it might be intended to give more shades of grey to people's responses on the social site, what will the impact be for brands that are diving heavily into the social space in an attempt to engage with their audiences?

ING Direct is one brand with a particular social slant, with its recent campaign asking customers to tell them what they think of their service using social. ING exeuctive director, customers John Arnott said innovating beyond the 'like' button is a good thing for users.

" In today's world, transparency is critical. If what people are seeing on Facebook and what they're hearing down the pub is different then it starts to question how in touch Facebook is with word of mouth," Arnott said.

"I think it's important that Facebook continues to innovate to ensure it remains transparent and truly reflective of what people think. Offering people different ways of expressing their opinion, I think it's a good thing to continue to find new ways to do that."

Arnott said that it will also have benefit for brands, which will be able to gauge customer feedback.

"Brands use Facebook quite extensively today," Arnott said. "With this potential new functionality being introduced that will be an opportunity for brands to put themselves out there to get feedback, warts and all.

"All this is down to Facebook making their feedback circle more rounded and I think that's important for brands." 

Stan CEO Mike Sneesby said Facebook is an important social channel for the network but giving people another way to emote could have its benefits.

“There is a real gap where it's not so much a case that you want to dislike something, it's more that you want to make your network aware of something you don't really like,” Sneesby said.

“Having another form that isn't 'I’m endorsing this particular idea' is certainly a gap.

“On the other side, of course the internet is full of trolls with negative things to say and it might actually help some of those trolls to have a button to press. It might mean they can say less and 'icon' more.”

Vodafone head of social Tanya Phull agreed it will allow brands to have a more engaging conversation with their followers on the social site.

“It’s great to see that Facebook has listened to its customers who have longed for a dislike button,” Phull said.

We think the new functionality will deliver greater transparency around consumers’ expectations for brands as publishers. We welcome the dislike button and its potential to offer more insights on a deeper, multidimensional level.”

By understanding how consumers are feeling about pieces of content, Optus head of brand and communications Corin Dimopoulos said the additional functionality might make brands step it up on the channel.

“Optus is passionate about entertainment and offering customers the best possible content, whether it’s the latest Netflix show, a funny YouTube clip or a new ad campaign,” Dimopoulos said.

“Facebook’s dislike button will put brands on notice to produce even higher standards of content for social media users and we’re excited to take on that challenge."

G Squared co-founder and campaign director, George Pappas, said providing more ways to express emotion is a positive thing for advertisers but noted it does come with risk.

“Adding new ways to engage with content pieces is a positive for brands,” Pappas said. “It's an opportunity to further personify and humanise a brand's voice.

“It could, however, lead to content hijacking if used negatively and not empathetically.”

Red Agency account director Adam Freedman said the launch of the new function will be a good alternative for general users but a "completely different ball game for brands" depending on what form the button will eventually take.

"The imminent launch of this new function presents a conundrum for brands. Right now, to express negative sentiment about a brand, you have to post a comment to that effect and it's likely it will remain that way for the forseeable future," Freedman said.

"However, brands will need to be more switched on when considering their use of Facebook to connect with their audience if there is a tool available to consumers which makes it easier to provoke negativity.

It also has implications for Facebook's own commercial model and I'd expect they would be consulting very closely with brands to reassure them that they'll be able to maintain a good level of control over how their audience engages with them."

So how far away is the button? A Facebook spokesperson in Australia confirmed the new functionality to AdNews this morning, noting that while it is in the works, no timing is yet confirmed.

“As Mark said in today's 'town hall', we're looking to test how to add more ways to react to a post on Facebook beyond just a 'like.'We have no details to share right now on timing or what the update will look like, but we'll keep you posted as and when we do."

- By Sarah Homewood, Rachael Micallef and Pippa Chambers.

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