Reaction: Facebook to release dislike button

By Stephen Lepitak | -

September 16, 2015 | 8 min read

After years of rallying from some users it seems that Facebook is finally about to introduce a Dislike button, or at least that's what it sounds like chief executive Mark Zuckerberg's plans are. Some are still not convinced that the feature that is ultimately released will be quite what it sounds, however.

The Drum spoke to some marketers steeped in social media for their reaction to the announcement and what they think the feature could actually entail.

David Parkinson, head of digital for Africa, Middle East & India at Nissan

It's likely user pressure. Zuck has long said he was against it and wanted FB to be an overall positive place. If someone did not like something they should say in comments. Probably two reasons they relented. Some posts are sad and people would like to quickly, without commenting, express that they agree. Clicking a like button on a story about refugees for instance instinctively feels wrong.

From a brand view I feel it may also force better quality posts and advertising with more obvious feedback on if something we did was received well or not. A like/dislike is the quickest and lowest friction interaction, a comment usually takes more effort and so people are more likely to dislike where they would not have left a comment or a like before.

Dom Burch, senior director of marketing innovation and new revenue at Asda

Zuckerberg says that Facebook's goal is to implement the button in a way that makes it a tool to "express empathy"

But could also be to enable viewers of videos to mimic the same functionality that's always existed on YouTube.

It is little weird on Facebook that you 'like' a post of someone when they are describing a misfortune. So makes some sense to test a dislike button I guess.

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There's plenty of tests on Facebook that haven't rolled out though. So let's wait and see.

Jerry Daykin, global digital director for Carat

It's often said they don't have one already to protect advertisers, though I think a fair few of those could do with a gentle wake up call! The reality is a 'dislike' button is potentially far more offensive to individual users and could easily put those off using the site. Teenagers in particular already feel a huge pressure about anything they share on social sites, but the worry about actively getting dislikes rather than generally low level engagement could be a new low.

Zuckerberg was quick to point out that the dislike is more about empathy than actively negative sentiment, and I'm sure we've all had times when we've wanted to affirm a friend's sad status but a 'like' feels inappropriate. It makes perfect sense on paper but it remains to be seen if users can be persuaded to use it as such.

I suspect Facebook doesn't plan to liberally place Dislike buttons across the site next to every Like button, and could go so far as to only allow it to appear on statuses which it deems sensitive, or not to publicly show the counter. Obviously that in itself would be incredibly tricky to accomplish and might explain the delay.

Advertisers are often shaken up by any changes to the Facebook platform but this shouldn't put them off - even if people are eventually allowed to dislike an advertisers posts that sort of feedback could ultimately be quite useful.

Sonia Carter, head of digital and social media marketing for Europe at Mondelez Intl

Hmmmm, will it actually end up being a dislike button? It sounds more like something for posts that were about serious or negative topics. For example; you can't really 'like' a post where someone says their pet died but you might want some way of quickly acknowledging you read the post and empathise if you don't want to comment.

Good that they are responding to user demand for features.

Adam Woodley, managing director for North America at 1000heads

Whilst Mark Zuckerburg has made it clear that the 'dislike' button is designed to express empathy over negativity, it’ll be interesting to see how this is rolled out. Will both the ‘like’ and ‘dislike’ buttons appear together? Will users be able to pre-select which buttons apply to their post? And ultimately, will these even be applied to branded content? Should both buttons appear together, users will inevitably use it to provide feedback on posts.

This presents an interesting dilemma for brands. On the one hand, they could better tailor content to their communities; and on the other, businesses may find themselves paying for content and advertising only to receive negativity.

Dan Beasley, founder of social mobile company Puzzle​

Hard to say why they are doing it, they have been very anti-dislike for a longtime now. I can only think that they must have found a way to introduce it that won't negatively impact on advertisers. If anything, maybe they will use the data of what you dislike to better target you in the future?

Sandra McDill, chief digital officer at 7thingsmedia

The battle for a dislike button comes as many people feel they cannot engage with statuses of bad news or grief where a like is deemed inappropriate. While Zuckerberg deliberately didn’t confirm that the button would be called 'dislike' he did say that what they would introduce would allow users to "express empathy".

For brands this could mean a fundamental change in the way consumers interact with them. Currently negative brand engagements come in the form of comments; however the dislike would allow users to effectively vote on the appeal of a brand or their post.

From an advertisers point of view this 'dislike' information can and will just be as vital as a positive engagement. Given the ability to better understand your audience with this alternative to a like, for example you will then be able to profile what they dislike, what unpaid and paid messages they dislike, and then therefore chose whether to engage with them in future campaigns

With the hint of a test launch shortly, we will have to see if the 'anti-like' changes the tone of the social platform and if similar sites follow suit.

Kieran Bass, strategy director at Roast

The naming of this button will be a very sensitive and delicate affair, and it can’t be called 'dislike'. Facebook is too much of a personal platform, and to call it ‘dislike’ would be akin to upvoting or downvoting, something that is totally at odds with the business. It’s a personal judgement, whether that be on someone’s appearance or their life choices and Facebook knows that’s bad for retention rates and ultimately, business. Cyber bullying is a contentious issue at Facebook and adding a tool to facilitate that activity just won’t be considered.

They’ll also need to decide who has access to it. I’d imagine that whatever name or feature they choose for it, it won’t appear by default. Perhaps they’ll offer an option that will suggest that this post is of a more sensitive nature, and the like button will be removed, to be replaced with the new one. You can’t have both live at once turns each post in to a voting platform.

Finally, they have the issue of how they deal with brand pages. A feature like this makes sense for the likes of the BBC or Sky News as they report the news, but has absolutely no place with an FMCG or parody news sites. We could see a new form of like baiting, where unscrupulous pages trade off terrible events, emotions and news stories.

No wonder it’s taken them so long.


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