Facebook to remove a Like button feature many marketers and publishers didn’t know they had

Facebook is changing the way Like buttons work on third-party sites, removing the ability for admins to send updates to users who Liked their Open Graph objects.

When Facebook introduced the Open Graph Protocol in 2010, developers gained the ability register their websites and individual pages of their sites as unique objects in the Facebook ecosystem. If a Facebook user visited a site and Liked an item, site owners then had the ability to publish information to that user’s stream. In addition, site owners got an administration interface and analytics tools, just like those of any Facebook Page owner. This was useful for sending targeted updates, but few marketers or publishers ever seemed to take advantage of the feature. Perhaps because they didn’t know it existed.

Now, instead of having an admin panel with the option to publish posts to anyone who clicked a Like button on their website, admins will have to create actual Facebook pages, associate their Like buttons with these pages, and make posts directly through the pages. For admins of existing Open Graph objects, this migration could lead them to lose some of their audience.

Facebook recommends these people create a separate Facebook page to represent their site or product, and through an update from their existing Open Graph object, prompt users to Like the new Facebook page. After the Like button admin page is fully deprecated on Nov. 7, Like button admins will communicate with fans exclusively through the new Facebook page. Because users won’t be automatically transferred to the new page, some connections will be lost.

People who create new Open Graph objects won’t have this problem if they associate the object with a page from the beginning.

Marketers and publishers never quite used Open Graph objects the way Facebook initially envisioned. When the company announced the Open Graph at f8 in 2010, it provided the example of a user Liking an NFL athlete on ESPN.com, and then ESPN later sending users an update on which team drafted the player. Former CTO Bret Taylor gave us another example in an interview that year:

“The basic idea was that if you were Green Day the band, it’s really inefficient for you to have GreenDay.com, and a Green Day account on Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, etc. Your internet identity is GreenDay.com. Through the Open Graph Protocol, that is the thing that users connect to and can add to their profile, and that’s the object sending users updates.”

Things haven’t quite turned out that way. Marketers and publishers became more focused on acquiring Likes for their main Facebook pages. And perhaps in part because the admin panel wasn’t very clear, many Like button creators didn’t even realize they could send updates to people who clicked the button.

Social media platform company Vitrue built a system for creating Open Graph objects and publishing to users who Liked them. McDonald’s was one of the brands that used this for segmenting its audience. Instead of publishing one update to the millions of fans of its main page, it could send a specific update to people who indicated that they Like the McRib and a different one to people who Like the Egg McMuffin. However, it’s unclear whether the company is still using the feature. Vitrue, which was recently acquired by Oracle, did not comment on how the upcoming Facebook change would affect its platform or customers that use it.

Developers that have created Open Graph objects for their sites can learn more about the “Like Button Migration” and how to maintain connections with people who have Liked their objects here.

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