September 24, 2004


After November 5, developers and Page Admins will no longer be allowed to incentivise people to use social plugins or to like a Page. This essentially means those Facebook app competitions that require users to become a fan of the Page in order to enter, will be no more.

Why is this happening?

In a Facebook developers blog post, the company announced:

facebook fan gate notification

Facebook Developers – Changes to Platform Policy (excerpt)

Gated Facebook apps are a commonly used tactic to grow fan numbers. If you aren’t familiar, it essentially works like this: a Page hosts a competition via Facebook app, offering a prize. A user comes across the competition, however, before they can enter, they are required to Like the Page so they can gain access to the competition app. Users like the Page to enter the competition and the Page subsequently achieves fan growth as a result of their competition.

These competitions are resulting in people becoming fans of Pages that they aren’t truly interested in. E.g. someone who comes across a competition to win $500 cash prize on a baby clothing brand’s Facebook Page, but who doesn’t have kids and so would not have any further interest in the brand beyond that opportunity to win a prize.

The problem for Facebook is now that it is focusing on creating revenue through its advertising feature, fan gated apps are both distorting advertising targeting and resulting in users having a newsfeed that contains content they aren’t interested in.

It appears Facebook is trying to improve the accuracy of their audience targeting by reducing any factors that may result in people becoming fans of content and brands that aren’t relevant to them. This is important as distorted targeting data will drive down advertising results (increases the likelihood of paid content being circulated to irrelevant audiences) therefore reducing value to advertisers.

What next

What does this mean for marketers? While it was an efficient tactic when used responsibly, social media marketers will simply need to get more creative with campaigns and come up with interesting and new ways of achieving objectives.

Competition apps can still be used effectively.  One method is to ensure competition prizes are relevant to the brand. By maintaining consideration for the profile of the target audience, and what this demographic would be interested in winning, the likelihood increases that entrants will be genuinely interested in the Page’s product or service, will welcome a Page’s non-competition related updates and potentially convert in future.

Another tactic that can be employed is to focus attention on using Facebook apps for collecting data. While Admins won’t be able to ask for a Like in exchange for entry, apps can still invite people to opt-in to an eDM list so communication can continue via email. These are also effective for conducting market research by including simple questions or tick boxes in the entry form.

To us, the end of fan gates is just another update in Facebook’s ever changing service offering, which it is constantly tweaking as it evolves from communication network to advertising medium. And if there’s one thing we can be sure about when it comes to social media, it’s that the only constant is change.