Facebook Decides You'd Rather 'Like' than 'Be a Fan'

Facebook will soon swap the "Become a Fan" buttons for "like" buttons on brand pages, according to reports from ABC News.

Businesses and brands can create free Facebook pages to interact with their customers; customers who are on Facebook can then click the "Become a Fan" button if they want to follow that brand. Users are placed on the brand's "Fan Page," and the brand is listed as one of the user's pages.

"Like," by contrast, is a link placed by pictures, wall posts, and status updates on Facebook -- users can click on "Like" if they want to give a thumbs-up or a nod to the picture, wall post, or status update. If users click on "Like," they are sometimes notified (depending on their e-mail settings) when other users "Like," or comment on, the same post or picture.

According to Facebook, users click "Like" almost twice as much as they click "Become a Fan" -- so, it follows that if Facebook changes "Become a Fan" to "Like," more users will click on it.

Right?

Er . . . wrong. Facebook is completely forgetting the real reason that people click on "Like," and not on "Become a Fan" -- and that's involvement. "Liking" something on Facebook is a quick, easy way to acknowledge something -- give it props, say -- without having to be involved at all. At the very worst, if you "Like" a picture or a wall post, you'll receive e-mail notifications when other people "Like" or comment on the same picture or wall post.

"Becoming a fan," on the other hand, is a completely different thing. If you "Become a Fan" of, say, Starbucks, your name is added to their fan page, and their brand is listed on your profile. And you cannot be a fan without the brand being listed on your profile -- trust me, I've tried. My Facebook privacy settings are set so that people who aren't my "friends" can't even search for me -- yet they can still see what brands I'm a "fan" of. I thus rarely -- if ever -- "Become a Fan" of anything.

Facebook seems to think that it's the language that's stopping me -- and that I view "liking" something as less involvement and therefore easier to click on than "becoming a fan" of something. This, at least, is true -- I do view "liking" something as less threatening than "becoming a fan" of something. But that's because it is true.

But now "Like" is going to become just as much of an involvement as "Become a Fan" -- because it's only the language that's changing. According to a Facebook spokesperson, "The core functionality of Pages will remain unchanged. Pages will still have distribution into News Feed, and the administrators of those Pages will still be able to call the people connected to their Page, 'fans'."

What that means for you, Facebook user, is that nothing will change except the words.

So, unless Facebook's plan is to trick users with language (according to a Facebook spokesperson, they're trying to make the process of connecting with a page "more consistent" with how users already interact with things on Facebook), here's my prediction: Facebook users will click "Like" on pictures and wall posts and status updates almost twice as much as they will click "Like" on brand pages.

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