What Facebook Dislikes Could Mean for Data-Driven Marketers


The Internet is abuzz with Facebook’s latest ‘innovation’, the dislike button (or something like it). Despite CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s fervent wish that it not be used to turn Facebook into a troll haven of downvotes, there’s a good chance that some users will use it expressly for that purpose.

Says Zuckerberg via CNBC:

‘”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,” he said.’

Why would we call something dislikable a gift to marketers? It’s a gift for the data it will presumably bring to us. Right now, in Facebook’s analytics, we see a few basic functions that get lumped together as “engagement” – likes, comments, and shares. Likes in their current incarnation are a nearly passive way for a user to acknowledge that they read something and engaged with it minimally:


When you look at social media analytics, you’ll often see reports indicate a percentage of engaged users vs. all users who Facebook posts reached. This is your engagement rate.

By adding an acknowledgement of dislike or other non-positive sentiment, Facebook can broaden our understanding of engagement to indicate sentiment around engagement. If I post a photo of {insert politician here} on Facebook, a dislike button now gives us negative sentiment (dislike), neutral sentiment (no engagement), and positive sentiment (like). Suddenly there’s a little more color to engagement. In fact, with commenting and sharing effectively being “really like”, we now have the full spectrum of expression to analyze.

As communications professionals, we always strive to understand our audiences better. Today, any audience member who is neutral or negative about a Facebook post simply keeps silent, or at worst hides us from their social stream. When the Dislike button rolls out, we’ll be able to see what content resonates negatively with our audience and adapt much more quickly to serve their needs (where possible).

In order to make it serve its intended purpose, I expect Dislikes to not factor into Facebook’s News Feed algorithm at all. Disliking a brand post probably won’t reduce its appearance (there are already tools for that), and should hopefully reduce trolling of “Dislike this picture of {actress} if you agree” memes by not interacting with the algorithm at all and giving no favor to such posts.

However, as a data-driven marketer, I absolutely do want that data for analysis and insight development, so I hope it makes its appearance in the data soon. (as of this writing, it’s not in Graph API 2.4)

Dislike it or not, Facebook has said it’s coming soon. Prepare your analytics and social media metrics tools accordingly!

Christopher S. Penn
Vice President, Marketing Technology

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Posted on September 15, 2015 in Analytics, Facebook, Marketing, Marketing Technology, Metrics, Social Media

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About the Author

Christopher S. Penn is an authority on digital marketing and marketing technology. A recognized thought leader, author, and speaker, he has shaped three key fields in the marketing industry: Google Analytics adoption, data-driven marketing and PR, and email marketing. Known for his high-octane, here’s how to get it done approach, his expertise benefits companies such as Citrix Systems, McDonald’s, GoDaddy, McKesson, and many others. His latest work, Leading Innovation, teaches organizations how to implement and scale innovative practices to direct change. Christopher is a highly-sought keynote speaker thanks to his energetic, informative talks. In 2015, he delivered insightful, innovative talks on all aspects of marketing and analytics at over 30 events to critical acclaim. He is a founding member of IBM’s Watson Analytics Predictioneers, co-founder of the groundbreaking PodCamp Conference, and co-host of the Marketing Over Coffee marketing podcast. Christopher is a Google Analytics Certified Professional and a Google AdWords Certified Professional. He is the author of over two dozen marketing books including bestsellers such as Marketing White Belt: Basics for the Digital Marketer, Marketing Red Belt: Connecting With Your Creative Mind, and Marketing Blue Belt: From Data Zero to Marketing Hero.
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