Getting A Return On Investment In Facebook Like-Gates

Think through the value equation before implementing any kind of like gate, says North Social's Managing Partner Alex Bernstein.

Nearly every business on earth is doing whatever they can to grow their fan count. From big brands tagging the end of their TV commercials, to local merchants plastering their windows, doors, and table tents with “Follow us on Facebook” stickers, we’re starting to see that little “F” icon in places we never imagined it would go.

With brands so excited to grow their fan count, we’ve seen the emergence of applications that help achieve this goal. These apps use a gate of some kind, which forces the user to take some kind of public action in order to get where they want to go.

The first iterations utilized simple like-gate apps, which require the visitor to like the page in order to gain access to some kind of unique digital asset. These apps work really well if the offer is compelling enough to draw the users mouse up to the little like button.

Coupons, free downloads, and sweepstakes prizes all seemed to add enough value to get most users to like a page in in order to receive status updates from that brand. It’s usually a pretty fair trade, a user likes the page and gets something in return.

On the heels of this success, apps developed a new twist, which used the same principle as the like gate, but employed another user action as “payment” for access to the digital reward. These share-gate apps emerged: if users completed an optional wall post (using Facebook’s share function) they would unlock something of value. These tools work really well, too, but again, only if the offer is compelling enough to get the user to take a more public action.

The third phase in this evolution was brought to market by Facebook itself through their location based deals app. The equation remained pretty much the same. You check into a location (which gets posted to your wall for all your friends to see) and that business can reward you with something in return. Pretty straight forward, and it makes sense for everyone.

Today as the evolutionary path of “gating” continues we’re starting to see some new concepts emerge that are stretching the concept to a point that is bordering on the absurd. So absurd that I can’t help but wonder if fan pages are starting to imitate digital versions of the toll booth in the desert made famous in the movie Blazing Saddles. Sound familiar?

Some of the more complex “gates” involve high effort and cumbersome user actions in order tounlock, or reveal something of “value.” Now, I’m not saying that the concepts here don’t work,but in order to get a user to take an action that benefits a brand, the payoff needs to clearly exceed the value that the user provides in order for the deal to make sense. An example of this would be a multi-friend invitation app.

This concept not only asks you to like a page, or share something on your wall, but the user needs to personally recruit five friends to also like the page in order to unlock their reward. Without even knowing what’s behind door number one, that seems like a heck of a lot of dimes.

This begs the question, how much effort are consumer willing to exert in order to get something in return?

Well, a recent Audi Fan Page promotion is asking users to get their Klout score (a start-up company that ranks individuals social media influence) in order to download a photo of one of the Audi race cars. While this “app install gate” sounds simple enough, the actual process involves allowing the Klout application to deeply penetrate your personal profile in exchange for an image of a car.

Handing over personal info, email permission, access to my news feed, and the right to sniff through my personal data at any time in the future in order to download a photo of an Audi?

Seems like a pretty steep price for a measly car photo.

So, before you run out and utilize one of the various gate apps where you ask users to take some kind of action in exchange for a reward, do your brand a favor and think through the equation of value first.

Alex Bernstein is a managing partner at North Social.

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