Raise the gates! It’s time to retire ‘fan gating’

It’s popular now for social media “experts” to look back (at ourselves of just a few years ago) and sagely proclaim, “it’s not about ‘likes’ anymore.” What could we have been thinking? Luring in fans with sweepstakes or Facebook ads, and then hoping they would stick around to engage with the brand. 

The pendulum has swung a little far, in my opinion — because although I completely agree that likes for likes’ sake shouldn’t be the goal for any brand’s Facebook page, there’s certainly value in building up a critical mass to enhance engagement. And, I’m on record arguing that a brand shouldn’t be ashamed to use sweepstakes to build out its fan base. But — it is time for one relic of the like-acquisition era to fade to extinction. Let’s say goodbye to the “fan gate.”

We’ve all seen it (or, worse, implemented it for our clients). An ad or a link directs you to an amazing Facebook sweepstakes or contest. “Enter for a chance to win a dream trip to Paris!” But what’s this? When I arrive at the page I’m told, “Like us to enter our ‘Romance in Paris’ Dream Getaway.”

I’m not sure what’s changed, exactly. I didn’t used to mind. After all, a quick click of the “like” button seems a small price to pay for the chance to take my wife to Paris. But now, I do mind. After years of engaging with brands on Facebook I’m looking for a little more respect. I’m glad to take a look at the page having been drawn in by a sweepstakes. I very well might like it, after all. But — let me decide. Grab me with interesting content, and let’s leave the sweepstakes in a separate bucket.

I’ll tell you honestly that the last “fan gate” I came across I decided to leave closed and not walk through. It actually had the opposite of its intended effect, for although I was interested in the contents of the sweepstakes and inclined to like the page itself since it represented a destination that intrigues me, the fact that I wasn’t given a choice in the matter was off-putting. It felt like brusque, negative customer service. The brand was making demands of me before we even had a chance to get to know each other! So, I walked away.

I’ll just admit it, as a marketer, I’ve installed those gates on page after page in recent years. But I’ve seen the light. It’s time to raise the gates and let the fans decide for themselves. What do you think? I’d love to hear.