In a recent Q&A session at Facebook’s headquarters in California, FB founder Mark Zuckerberg announced that the social network is working on and almost ready to roll out a dislike button for its users.
Surprisingly, this news has been met with a lot criticism. I say “surprisingly” because for years, many users have been suggesting and requesting the addition of a dislike button. So what’s changed? Perhaps we’ve seen too much trolling, cyberbullying and generally unkind behavior on the Internet?
While introducing a dislike button has been described as “opening a can of worms”, Zuckerberg stated that its function is to express empathy, for example in response to a post about a tragic event. Supposedly it won’t even be labeled as a “dislike” button.
Thumbs down for a dislike button?
On a personal level, I like the idea of a button—any type of button—that conveys something other than a superficial, meaningless “like”. (I also enjoy the thought of “disliking” the ridiculous gym selfies that keep popping up in my newsfeed!)
However, if you run a Facebook page for your brand or business, the prospect of a dislike button could be troubling. People might use it to down vote your page posts, ads and sponsored posts, which could create another signal for FB’s algorithms to decrease your organic reach.
If you compare the FB dislike button to the YouTube one (or that of most online forums), a dislike does not show empathy or solidarity—it implies anything and everything negative: from disappointment and disagreement to frustration and anger. Worse still, it could be used as tool for harassment or a way to harm your online reputation.
So instead of trying to garner likes, shares and clicks on posts, are we going to have to spend our time and energy fighting off dislikes?
The positives of a dislike
On the other hand, as long as the button is not labeled as a “dislike”, such a feature could come in handy for certain types of pages. Let’s say you have a cause/community page, and you post regularly about global crises or personal stories of woe.
“Liking” such posts would feel inappropriate if not insensitive, yet commenting and/or sharing is just too much effort (hey, we’ve become lazy online). So a dislike or empathy button—or whatever else it will be called—can be useful in that case. Furthermore, pages can use it to gauge audience reactions and emotions to their content.
In any case, two simple strategies could help you to counter the effects of a dislike button, if and when it’s released:
- Share positive content. Yes, the pessimists (like me!) will always find something to be unhappy about, but posting a genuine, heartfelt message or an uplifting image is more likely to gain a like than a dislike. Positivity invites more positivity.
- Think before you hit “post”. This is why you have to know your audience and what they’d like to see in their newsfeeds. And before commenting or replying to other content, consider how it would affect your image online.
If you’re a page manager, how do you plan to use the Facebook dislike button to your advantage?