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If the numbers are any indication, publishers really like Facebook's new Like button. But should they?

For obvious reasons, Facebook is attractive to publishers, and it wants to keep it that way. It provides publishers with plenty of tools that they can use to bring Facebook-driven experiences to their websites. The Like button is one of the newest offerings for publishers but there are several reasons publishers may want to think twice about putting it on their pages.

It isn't guaranteed to work. This week, Facebook Like buttons around the web stopped working, a reminder to publishers that they have no ability to control third party scripts that they embed on their websites. In this case, the harm was minimal, but as we've seen before, third party scripts can become huge liabilities.

It shares valuable audience data with Facebook -- gratis. Many publishers (if not most) share important information about their users with third parties. The problem: they often get the short end of the stick. That's arguably the case with the Like button. By placing it on their sites, publishers are sharing potentially valuable information about their audiences with Facebook, a company that has its big ambitions and a spotty track record when it comes to privacy.

Scammers like it. Scammers are already liking the Like button, as evidenced by a new worm Facebook worm that uses a malicious Like button to spread. If Like buttons become associated with worms, phishing scams and the like (no pun intended), it's possible that some users will lose trust in them, defeating their utility and reducing their value to publishers.

It promotes Facebook. There is no doubt that Facebook is something that publishers shouldn't simply ignore. The social web potentially offers a lot to publishers, and the social network is arguably the most important player on the social web. But by adding widgets or plugins to their sites, publishers are promoting the Facebook brand at no cost. That may not be such a bad thing if they're getting enough value out of it, but the problem is that most publishers don't assess the value of adding these things in the first place.

You can enable Facebook sharing without it. Giving your users the ability to share your content on Facebook does have value, and thanks to Facebook's Share functionality, you can give them this ability without embedding any third party code on your pages.

In short, while there may be plenty to like about Facebook's Like button, there's also a lot to dislike. Publishers interested in tapping into all that the site offers them should not push strategy and pragmatic considerations aside simply because Facebook might be the best thing since sliced bread. When it comes to the Like button, liking isn't enough. Instead, publishers should ask "Is this something that I can really love?"

Patricio Robles

Published 3 June, 2010 by Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles is a tech reporter at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

2390 more posts from this author

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Sam Brown

I really want to 'like' this article too :(

about 6 years ago

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Louis Gagnon, Digital Exec at Confidential

Your position ignores the main benefit of the Like buttons for the publisher - especially the small ones : it potentially drives traffic back to them from the user updates. One needs to balance this tangible benefit (who knows how that converts so far...) against the points that you mention. Personally, I would think that the benefit potentially outweighs the risk that you mention.

about 6 years ago

Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles, Tech Reporter at Econsultancy

Louis,

Traffic in and of itself doesn't necessarily have much value. How many publishers:

  • Track how much traffic the Like button delivers?
  • Analyze the value of the traffic in terms of key metrics (sales, email subscriptions, total page views or time spent, repeat visits, etc.)?
  • Assess the relative value of this traffic compared to traffic from other distribution channels being employed?

From what I've seen, many publishers do only the first. But publishers can't realistically determine whether the potential benefits outweigh the potential risks unless they're doing the last two things.

Note: this shouldn't only apply to Facebook, but to all distribution outlets, especially those that require an investment or involve third parties.

about 6 years ago

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Louis Gagnon, Digital Exec at Confidential

Patricio Essentially, what you are saying is : if one does not precisely measure the benefit - in this case, the entire visit funnel - one cannot measure if the benefit outweigh the risk... Well, allow me to ask you wehther YOU have quanitatively measured the impact of the 5 risks that you are warning against? No, of course. Therefore, following your argument, even those who could measure the benefit would not be able to make the call... hmmm. In real life, when people, just like you did, do not have the time or resources to measure and back up everything they think, they apply their judgement and form an opinion (just like I did in my original post). I also disagree when you say that traffic measurement is not a KPI in and of itself. It actually remains the business model (CPM ads) for most publishers that I know. To go back to the question of whether FB Open is good overall, there are 2 questions that one is free to apply his/her judgement on. 1) Can the traffic be significant? I would argue that for a small publisher that writes or produces material that people like, it can be very significant. 2) Can the traffic be quality traffic? I would argue, theoretically, that because it is contextual and socially vetted, it will be at least as good quality as alternative sources for most publishers. Applying that judgement, I beleive that NOT doing it can be the wrong decision for many publishers. That's the only point I wanted to make. Thanks for the post and ideas!

about 6 years ago

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Miki Breitner, DataMind

Personally, I have very positive experience with Facebook LIKE (Addthis.com version) on www.allegra.hu and www.magneb6.hu. 5% of the traffic is via Facebook thanks to this tool. I am not sure that Facebook generate other benefits than traffic and valuable content. So far it is a win-win situation. If we follow the 3C concept (context-conversation-recommendation) it is even better. This is a net EARNED MEDIA.

about 6 years ago

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Silviu

I *like* this! :-P

over 5 years ago

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Chris

I added the "Like" code to just one page on our site as a test and after clicking it through my personal FB account, I received 10 spam emails, all different products but the same formatting and origin email (Notification at financialtu dot com) in less than two hours. These all had passed by my spam filters, and were full of FB buttons to Like or "Spam", which linked out to other fraudulent pages to validate my address.

There is no way I'd want this happening to our customers. Could this in any possible way be a coincidence? It just looks like phishing I technically allowed through FB.

about 5 years ago

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