By Sharang Shah:
In a Question and Answer session (Q&A) last week, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg announced that the company has been working on creating a ‘Dislike’ function. The purpose of this button will be to express empathy with posts covering events that seem inappropriate to like, such as tragedies.
Calls for creating a ‘Dislike’ button have been around ever since Facebook first created the ‘Like’ button in 2009. The creator of the popular social media network said that hundreds of people have asked him about creating this feature over the years but he wasn’t keen on making one because he didn’t want Facebook to become a forum for people to up-vote or down-vote content.
In this context, a rose by any other name would not smell as sweet. The branding of the button will play a huge role in the way people use it. If Facebook were to name the button ‘Dislike’, it would probably be used for everything, but the intended purpose. Brands could use the button to down-vote competitor’s posts and limit their reach; people could use it express disagreement with posts on ideological fronts; and trolls could use it to do what they do best – ‘trolling’. Naming it a ‘Solidarity’ button may go a long way in making sure it is used as intended. However, there is always a certain level of uncertainty with these things and even the noblest aim could be twisted.
The biggest impact, however, will not be on the number of trolls, but on your news feed. As most users may know, the posts appearing on your Newsfeed are anything but random. They’re selected by an algorithm that traces, among other things, your history and browsing patterns on the site, and processes those to show you posts that it thinks you will be most interested in.
The more likes a post has, the more likely it is to appear on your newsfeed and if a number of your friends are among the people who have liked the post, the likelihood of it appearing on your news feed increases even further. If a ‘Dislike’ button is added, it will probably have an opposite effect on the algorithm. Thus, the content you see will be shaped by your friends preferences like never before.
The announcement may have made daily users of the social media website break a smile, but it would have definitely left brands and data analysts absolutely ecstatic. The addition of a ‘Dislike’ button will have not only a direct impact on your news feed, but also an indirect impact on the content that is published.
Up till now, analysts with different brands and pages have only been relayed limited amounts of data on negative feedback of their posts. They could see how many people had seen the post but chose to ignore it completely as they could not tell whether such people were disinterested in the content or were repulsed by it. Only the opinion of the vocal few who took time out to comment on their disagreement could be heard. However, majority of users do not take their time out to actually express their disinclination towards a post. The ‘Dislike’ button would be a game changer in this regard.
Brands will finally have reliable data on whether their content is being perceived negatively. This will most likely lead to a situation where irrelevant content will be completely removed and only content that the customer can relate to, will be produced. Thus, this is another significant stride in moving towards customer-driven content.
Despite so many advantages, some questions are more pertinent and still remain unanswered – Will users perceive this button as a ‘Dislike’ button or will Facebook be able to prevent that from happening? And, is user-driver content the best way to go, especially for delivering the news, as it can now be filtered and presented?