A minor change was made on a Web site, and a tremor was sent through the brand marketing collective. The Web site was Facebook, and the change was the wording around a user’s interaction with a brand. Instead of committing to being a "fan," now a user can just state he or she "likes" the brand -- a small change with big implications.
Wait, now what?
Let’s back up and provide some context: Lots of speculation that the branded Facebook destination may have killed the mini-site for good. Facebook allows brands to set up these pages for free but encourages them to use Facebook PPC advertising to promote the pages. When a brand has a fan, there are all sorts of cool things you can do. One of the most significant things you can do is leverage one's trust in other advertising.
As you can see in the image below, this ad leverages the relationship I have with my friend to make it more likely that I will click on the add. The reason my friend is mentioned is because at some point he became a fan of this brand. This is probably the central implication of changing the wording. "Fan" signifies commitment; everyone knows that they will be associated with the brand. "Like" traditionally has been more casual.
Why did it happen?
People click “like” almost two times more than they click “become a fan” -- it is easy to speculate that there was a savvy Web analyst behind this decision. Research can easily demonstrate that people click one thing more than another. What simple clickstream research does not demonstrate is why.
It may be because of the way the user feels about that particular word. Certainly, the field of conversion optimization has demonstrated that just changing the color or the wording on a button can have a big impact on whether people click it -- even when the results of clicking the button do not change.
This is a significant departure from because the results of clicking the button have changed. People have been trained to "like" have changed from simply acknowledging that you appreciate something to being associated with it in future messaging.
The change makes it easier for brands to gets fans quickly. It is likely that the increased incidence of people being associated with these brands will increase the reach of the advertising. This increases revenue for Facebook.
The other side of the story is that people will probably not understand what they’re opting in to. When they start receiving updates in their news feed, a certain percentage of users will associate that as spam from your brand rather than associating it with a change in the way Facebook does things. This should be taken seriously.