Why Facebook's 'Dislike' Button Will Be Both A Challenge And Opportunity For Brands 

This article was first published on Digital Marketing Magazine here. 

Having previously rejected the button – which will act as an opposite function to the ‘like’ button’ – due to fears of Facebook turning into too much of a voting-based system, Zuckerberg has admitted he’s changed his mind following high-profile stories such as the ongoing Syrian refugee crisis.

“What people really want is the ability to express empathy. Not every moment is a good moment or lends itself to a like,” said Zuckerberg earlier this week.

He also hinted that other buttons allowing users to express opinions could be on the horizon. There isn’t currently a launch date for the dislike button.

The challenge for brands

However the move to introduce dislikes could easily create brand embarrassment according to Peter Markey, CMO at the Post Office.

“It’s an exciting and intriguing move by Facebook and one which mirrors ‘real life’ well – we all have likes and dislikes and now Facebook will finally give us the chance to express a view either way,” he told Marketing Week.

“But it’s a challenge for brands too as customers will actively choose if they dislike a brand and its content. This ‘real time’ customer feedback could be a great asset or a potential brand embarrassment if the dislikes vastly overtake the likes! All in all it’s a great step forwards and another challenge which brands will have to rise to meet.”

The opportunity for brands

Jonathan Earle, Telefonica UK’s head of strategy, planning, innovation and experience, is less worried about the possible trolling a dislike button could create.

“I know the experts are worried that the button will be trolled, and in reality it probably will be at the start, but a self-regulated service like Facebook should be able to deal with that and the company’s brand able to handle any PR fall-out,” he told Marketing Week.

Earle said the dislike button will potentially become “invaluable” as it will provide information on disillusioned customers and subsequently allow for better targeting.

“Knowing in real time what key segments of the 1.4 billion Facebook users Facebook are thinking is invaluable and allows you to be much more on your toes when it comes to product, proposition, experience or service creation. Tweaking, for example, your beta product and testing again quickly and then comparing would be very compelling,” he added.

“The dislike button can allow for better targeting. Understanding that a customer doesn’t like or empathise with a product should drive better use of precious marketing budgets going forwards; why would I be interested in marketing my revolutionary product to someone who has no disposition for it? I would certainly pay more for that information.”

Seeking out dislikes

Andrew Mabbutt, CEO of Feefo, a consumer ratings and reviews platform which integrates reviews into SEO campaigns for the likes of Google, expects brands to actually seek out dislikes.

“Our understanding is that the dislike button will not be a prompt for users to simply ‘vote down’ a post, but rather express sympathy on a particular update,” he explains.

“This emotion has strong marketing validity and will open up a plethora of posts that will tug at the heartstrings. It is likely that brands may actively look for dislikes if they are looking to evoke a sympathetic emotional response.”

Over recent years there has been a rise in emotionally charged campaigns with social themes such as Dove’s ongoing message on empowering women’s bodies or Vodafone’s anti-domestic violence stealth app.

Phillip Dyte, strategy director at digital marketing agency iProspect UK, believes Facebook has simply taken note of this trend with the introduction of the dislike button.

He said: “We are seeing a wave of brand activism and even Facebook itself now finds itself using its creative platforms to tackle serious issues.

“It may then be the case that, far from avoiding ‘dislikes’, they shall now be able to explore these more humanistic messages more fully, with less of the ‘like’-based cognitive dissonance that sometimes hampers credibility.”

‘Dislike’ is subject to change

However not all marketers believe it will be as simple as a ‘Like’ and ‘Dislike’ button. Leah Spears, Asda’s senior manager of content and social media, is convinced the addition will come under a different guise altogether.

She concluded: “At face value, a ‘Dislike’ button for brands would be useful. A quick, easy way for customers to engage with us and let us know how they feel either way about our products is just what we need as it’s information that helps us shape our offers.

“But if Facebook want functionality that allows people to express empathy, I’m sure they will come up with something more appropriate than either Like or Dislike.”