Asking for or incentivizing Facebook Likes has never been a social marketing best practice, and the network is now formally banning the practice in some instances.

If you’ve ever seen endless requests to play Facebook games – or if you just see a lot of content from apps that your Facebook connections have Liked – you understand the power of social media marketing. Some companies generate results by offering an incentive in return for more engagement, but Facebook recently announced it’s putting an end to the practice.

The news came in an announcement about revamped Platform Policies that govern how third-party developers create apps. The most salient change for social marketers is that programs designed to interact with Facebook can no longer use Likes as a gateway to incentives. For example, users can’t be barred from seeing branded content until they’ve chosen to follow a company page or product profile.

No one Likes gatekeepers

Not every brand keeps apps or content behind gated walls that require Likes to open them. But Facebook doesn’t have any system in place to forbid companies from dangling discounts or promotions in exchange for followers’ Liking a post. What the network can do is remove mechanisms for software that uses Likes as keys, and doing so paints a very clear picture for marketers: Post quality content and use it to entice engagement. Anything else is manipulation that won’t benefit a business’ marketing strategy or the social users who could become customers.

However, it isn’t just Facebook or user distaste that can come from abusing the Like functionality. As Brafton reported, the Federal Trade Commission actually got involved when online retailers offered cash prizes for social activity, such as Pinning pictures of the company’s products. The FTC ruled this was a dishonest practice, as it was basically a bribe to get people to perform free advertising for the company.

There is one way to get the Likes, Pins and other types of social marketing engagement these approaches are intended to carry out: Quality content. Facebook is making it abundantly clear that tricks and attempts to game the system go against what algorithms and organic reach are meant to accomplish. Fortunately, brands’ needs and social network’s desires line up nicely, as readers who have engaged with quality content are also the ones who are most likely to become customers. 

Alex Butzbach is a Marketing Writer at Brafton. He studied Communications at Boston College, and after a brief stint teaching English in Japan, he entered the world of content marketing. When he isn't writing and researching, he can be found on a bike somewhere in Metro Boston.