Why Facebook’s New Button May Not Actually Say ‘Dislike’ After All

Marketers need to get ready anyway

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said today during a town hall-style event at his company's Menlo Park, Calif., headquarters that it's developing alternatives to the "like" button. Many observers immediately reported that there would be a "dislike" button, but an examination of the transcript of Zuckerberg's statements—which Facebook sent to Adweek—reveal that he left a lot of leeway about what exactly the button will say. 

"People have asked about the 'dislike' button for many years, and probably hundreds of people have asked about this, and today is a special day because today is the day that I actually get to say we are working on it, and are very close to shipping a test of it," Zuckerberg said. "Not every moment is a good moment if you share something that's sad like a refugee crisis that touches you or a family member passes away, it may not be comfortable to like that post…I do think it's important to give people more options than liking it."

Facebook declined to comment on whether there would be a "dislike" button. Judging by Zuckerberg's vague language and the company's unwillingness to confirm the button, it's probably wise to wait for more specific details to emerge before jumping to conclusions. Facebook likes to test, and, per its chief, the testing is just getting started. 

At the same time, it seems clear that a button is coming to Facebook that will allow users to express an emotion that's more negative than "like." Whether the new button says "dislike," "disagree" or "smh," the development is going to get the attention of social-media marketers.

"No matter what the button says, it is going to affect the consideration model of what you decide to put on the platform," said Robert Henzi, senior strategy director at We Are Social. "It could result in better content and better creative. I think people in general—regular users and brands—will think twice about what they post."

Facebook's already rich in marketing data, because users so often express their personal interests on the platform. Taptica COO Galia Reichenstein pointed out that another layer of emotion-based stats could be in the offing.

"This continues to make Facebook one of the strongest data giants and advertising platforms," she said.  

We also asked marketers this question: What if Facebook ends up incorporating a "dislike" button?

"The dislike button [would] give brands a better way to gauge social sentiment," said Chicago-based marketing consultant David Deal. "The 'like' button is a joke. It's meaningless because Facebook members have no other alternative to vote on content with a simple click. Finally, brands can more effectively track whether people are clicking 'like' because they really like what a brand shares with them."

Rick Miller, vp of customer insights at Networked Insights, largely concurred. "Consumers certainly [would] use Facebook's 'dislike' button to express disdain and disapproval for branded content on social, and brands might be a little wary," he said. "But brands should be more concerned about accurately gathering insights from the 'dislike' button."

Meanwhile, Zuckerberg addressed the question of whether Facebook was essentially getting into the business of "downvoting," a feature on Reddit that lets users show disapproval of what people post. (Some Reddit users believe downvoting creates an open and honest environment, while others think it too often is a form of bullying and toxifies people's experience on the site.)

"That isn't what we're here to build in the world," Zuckerberg said. "What they really want is the ability to express empathy. Not every moment is a good moment."