Facebook was not the original social media platform, nor even the first website to popularise the concept. MySpace was the first site to really reach a large consumer base in the social media sphere. But there is no doubt that Facebook has completely taken over the market since then, and is now the dominant social media site by some distance. Facebook has been extremely successful at monetising its vast numbers of users, with its monthly active mobile user base recently exceeding 1 billion per month.
To like or not to like
Given the prominence of Facebook, it is not surprising that concepts which it introduced and then popularised have become widely used. One of the most obvious and well-known examples of an approach the website has adopted is enabling people to ‘like’ content. This encourages people using the site to approve various aspects of content, and thus propel them to a more prominent position within the website.
The ‘like’ has become almost a de rigueur part of the Internet. It is almost impossible now to think of video sites, social media pages, newspaper comments sections, in fact pretty much any viral site on the Internet without such a model being implemented. But everything moves on quickly in this fast-moving world, and no more so than on the ‘net. Facebook has recently announced that the model which has served it so well needs to evolve to better fit the needs of the contemporary marketplace and Worldwide Web.
Facebook has recently announced that it intends to implement a system that will enable its customers “to ensure quality connections”. This is intended to enable businesses to reach the people who actually matter to them, and to ensure people like pages for legitimate reasons, and not due to artificial or false incentives.
Naturally this is going to impact significantly on companies and organisations who currently utilise Facebook, particularly if it is an essential part of their marketing strategy. And, let's face it, this applies to pretty much any serious company or organisation today. Certainly it would be difficult to name too many significant brands that don’t embrace social media in some form or other.
The impact on travel companies and destinations
But what does this news actually mean for travel-related companies and organisations who already utilise Facebook? And how will their approach have to change going forward? Well, the first answer to this question is indicated in the blog post which Facebook made to indicate its changing policy. The social media giant indicates that businesses must no longer incentivise individuals to use social plug-ins, or like a page. Facebook defines ‘incentivising’ as meaning offering rewards, apps or other content based on whether or not an individual has liked a page.
Although Facebook states that it will still be possible to offer incentives in order to induce individuals to login to a particular app, check in at a certain place, or participate in a promotion, it is clear that many companies’ strategies for Facebook are going to have to have to be altered pretty radically.
In future, holiday destinations are going to have to drop the so-called ‘Like Gate’ strategy, which has involved acquiring fans and followers through giveaways and incentives, because they will quite simply become obsolete. Contemporary marketing strategy on Facebook will instead have to switch from a quantitative approach to one that is more qualitative. Holiday destinations, tourist boards and travel-related companies are going to have to ask themselves how best to reach the people that really count for their brand.
Although companies can continue to employ the ‘Like Gate’ strategy until November 5, it clearly makes sense to make the change now. What this will mean is that travel-related organisations will need to exhibit creativity in order to attract people to the social media streams that truly value what they are doing.
Dealing with the Facebook changes
One of the best ways to do this is to create an e-mail list. This will mean that instead of requiring users to like your page in order to receive a particular incentive or promotion, they can instead receive it via e-mail and be signposted towards the organisation’s social media streams.
Digital marketers will already be working on ways to change their Facebook strategies, and it has also been pointed out that existing likes that have been acquired via ‘Like Gating’ will remain completely legitimate. For established brands this may not but in the long run it is important for travel-related organisations to understand that the way to market on Facebook is changing, and changing for good.
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