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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?"