You are here

Should marketers be scared by Facebook's 'dislike' button?

Matt Simpson, international business director at Zone, argues businesses should focus on utility over likeability in the wake of Facebook's new 'dislike' button

The news that Facebook is considering the introduction of a 'dislike' button has no doubt caused a certain degree of anguish within B2B marketing war rooms throughout the land. After all, not many people – let alone brands – want to be actively disliked and, were Facebook to go ahead, it would provide a very public barometer of unpopularity.

A reasonable response to this threat might be: 'We just need to make ourselves more likeable!'

Well, yes and no. Let’s use the hoary old device of the dinner party analogy. A new guest turns up. He seems pleasant enough. He’s got a nice smile. He looks like he probably wouldn’t starve your kitten if you left it in his care. But unless he tells an entertaining story, or gives valuable advice, or provides useful information, he’ll probably find that the dinner party invites dry up pretty quickly.

Then, let’s look at some of the most famous digital disruptors. Amazon, Uber and eBay, for example, don’t appear to place much stock in the 'likeability' of their brands. Instead – as organisations born in the digital world – they understand that their true value comes from their utility.  

So while branded utility is nothing new (the Michelin Guide, anyone?), digital has afforded every business an opportunity to be genuinely useful to customers and potential customers at scale.

This is even more important for B2B brands: after all, Innocent Smoothies can probably get away with simply trying to be likeable on its social channels, but if you’re a business selling industrial refrigeration units, it’s probably not appropriate to sound like your teenage sister’s unicorn-loving best friend.

That’s why American Express’s Small Business Saturday – in which the financial institution uses the weight of its machine to encourage shoppers to buy at local businesses – is such a smart piece of marketing. It’s genuinely useful to its audience, uses digital to distribute an array of assets (including the much-heralded OPEN forum) to help them thrive and gives the brand something meaningful to talk about on its owned channels.

Virgin Media Business recently went for a similar vibe with its Pitch to Rich campaign, in which start-ups compete to win investment, mentoring and legal, branding and marketing advice. While recently Zone helped Maersk receive an 11 per cent share of voice at the WTO Aid For Trade summit by distributing useful summary content to attendees via social media.

Which brings me back to Facebook. In the event that Mark Zuckerberg does pull the trigger and introduce a 'dislike' button across all posts – and this is pretty unlikely, to be honest – then B2B brands should stay calm. Just as we know 'likes' are a poor measure of genuine engagement, let alone business impact, so it will go for dislikes – a mild digital shrug of the shoulders at most.

More important is rather than striving to be more likeable, businesses should strive to be more useful. And then, who knows, your customers might like you a little more anyway…