Facebook is changing how users can interact with brands. No longer will someone have to go steady with companies or products by becoming a "fan" but can instead date casually by merely "liking" them first.
The reason for the change is that Facebook has found that users are far more likely to click on a "like" button than on a "fan" button. Facebook announces to your friends via your news feed and profile which pages you've become a fan of -- however actually meaningless the designation, psychologically it is a bigger commitment.
I see this switch as another in Facebook's path of incorporating features from FriendFeed which began even before Facebook purchased them last year. Since incorporating likes into the news feed at Facebook, users have become accustomed to "liking" items as a quick shorthand for acknowledging, bookmarking for later reading, and otherwise indicating general interest in an item -- rather than seeing "like" necessarily as support of or fondness for something.
Although it can be somewhat counterintuitive at first, users seem to quickly adapt to this form of expression because of lower perceived levels of ongoing commitment. While you might not care if your friends know that you like discounts, coupons, promotions or ads, you might hesitate to label yourself a "fan" in front of them.
There is likely to be some confusion in the transition period, says Clint Boulton at eWeek.com:
Altimeter Group founding analyst Charlene Li told eWEEK this should drive more people to engage, but will cause some confusion in the short term as the "like" of a brand, team, celebrity, etc. carries more weight than the "like" of an update status inside the News Feed.
Also, as described in the FAQ pictured below, the new language Facebook is initially proposing to companies and advertisers seems awkward. I suspect, however, many Facebook users will welcome the lower barrier to entry for interacting with brands, and will quickly appreciate the new system.
What do you think? Are you looking forward to being able to just like a page rather than becoming a fan? Confused by all this lingo flying around? Or do you not care because you are just on Facebook for finding people you haven't spoken to in 20 years and stalking exes?
Christopher Heine at ClickZ: Facebook Killing "Become A Fan," Embracing "Like"
Adam Ostrow at Mashable: Facebook Wants You to "Like" Brands
Peter Kafka at MediaMemo on D: All Things Digital "Facebook Waves Off "Fan," Gives "Like" a Thumbs Up"
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