In the early days of Facebook, my newsfeed was inundated with statuses and groups demanding a dislike button from the popular social media platform. Users felt they needed a way of expressing a negative reaction to posts that they disagreed with yet the platform only offered the option to react positively with likes.
Since then, Facebook has grown tremendously in size and is now the largest social media platform in the world. As a result, it has inevitably grown in influence, which in turn places it under far more scrutiny and criticism. Despite releasing additional reaction features such as love, laughs, wows, sadness and anger, the site is yet to launch an actual dislike button.
Interestingly enough, Facebook has recently announced the news that they have (finally) started trials of a new downvote button. Unfortunately, this isn’t the dislike button so many people crave. Instead, similar to other popular sites such as reddit, users themselves will be able to ‘vote’ on content. If the user does not like what they see, they downvote it, which then indicates to Facebook that the user sees it as offensive, misleading or simply off-topic.
The downvote button will potentially look like this on posts:
This feature is currently only available to a select few in the US (shown in the image below) and only applies to comments, but if its implementation expands, we may see this feature develop into a highly prominent part of the platform.
Why introduce the downvote button?
Facebook’s aforementioned criticism has been heavily amplified in the last two years, particularly with the rise of fake news in an increasingly tumultuous political climate. Fingers have often been pointed at social media for fanning the flames of this phenomena, with spurious articles being rapidly shared throughout platforms such as Facebook with alarming engagement rates.
Because Facebook is taking the brunt of this criticism, they have repeatedly reinforced the idea that they are primarily a platform, NOT a publisher. Martin Garner, tech analyst at CCS Insight, put it best when he said: “It has become very clear that Mark Zuckerberg doesn’t want Facebook to have the responsibility of identifying what is offensive or misleading – and what is not – because that would put him into the position of being a publisher rather than a platform.”
As a result, Facebook wants the responsibility to be more on the user, enabling the Facebook community to potentially filter out poor, irrelevant or abusive content. In turn, this would aid Facebook in creating a ‘better newsfeed for you,’ an ethos that the company has focused on much more in the last few months.
What does this mean for Marketers?
Currently, the impact on marketers is unclear. We have already seen some changes in the latest platform update which could impact engagement. These steps are in place to ensure advertisers are prioritising good quality content, and not spamming people’s newsfeed with lazy or irrelevant posts.
The downvote button essentially reinforces this attitude. Users have the option to vote and consequently feedback to Facebook what they think of content appearing on their newsfeed, which means ad relevance and content could become increasingly important. With a more positive outlook, the ability to vote on posts could aid Facebook in ensuring that advertisers are really hitting the right people with the right content. At the end of the day, that’s we marketers really care about: reaching those most likely to engage with what we put out.
Currently this change is just at the trial stage and any significant change would be slowly rolled out. Whilst Facebook are becoming more conscious about quality content, they of course also want to keep investors happy and ad revenue high. I personally predict we will see the downvote button available to all, however, its impact on Facebook in the long term is yet to be seen.