Facebook recently announced the version 2.1 of its Graph API.
Along with a few enhancements and improvements, Facebook changed its policies to reflect the following –
You must not incentivize people to use social plugins or to like a Page. This includes offering rewards, or gating apps or app content based on whether or not a person has liked a Page.
It is a common enough practice to offer value only after the users “like” the page. With this small change to the policy Facebook has banned developers from using their API and doing so.
So what does it mean to developers? Will plugins like SocialLocker also suffer? Read on to find out more.
While the definition provided in the announcement does not go into the definition of what a page is, the actual policy thankfully defines everything for us.
If you have have been using Facebook apps on Facebook site itself, from a third party application through your computer, or mobile phone, you would seen something on the lines of this –
This is no more allowed as per the terms of Facebook API.
The policy is clear on what to do –
Only incentivize a person to log into your app,
like your app’s Page,enter a promotion on your app’s Page, or check-in at a place. Don’t incentivize other actions. Effective November 5th, 2014, you may no longer incentivize people to like your app’s Page.
So, you can get people to login into your app or enter a promotion, as you were doing it earlier. You will not be able to use the app just to unlock functionality or content when people like the page.
In technical terms, the API from version 2.1 onwards is not going to return a variable “Liked” boolean that indicates whether user has liked “something”.
What happens to your own website after this policy change?
In one word – nothing significant (subject to terms below).
Plugins like SocialLocker enable you to unlock content on your website when they “like” the web page. The plugin hides some content, and will show content if likes are recorded.
With the change in policies, and when they upgrade to the new API, this hard unlocking is no more possible. Although the instructions are not clear about what will be done on an external website, Facebook policies are always implemented on the most strict manner.
That possibly means you will not be able to use the “like” for rewards using a Facebook app. And, that includes your social plugins too.
However, there is a work-around. Previously social plugins did something called “soft unlocking”. This meant you would still prompt user to like/tweet/etc., but you don’t check the action from Facebook or Twitter. With just the clicking action, you go back and unlock the content.
Of course it does not work well for smart users. They will use some or the other browser plugin so that the lock itself becomes ineffective.
It would have been a bigger problem if you had developed an app yourself for unlocking tabs/functionality on Facebook page. But, one of the advantages of having your own website is that YOU are in control. This is another example of why you should not build your business on other’s platforms.
You are also free to continue asking people to tweet, or share their emails for the unlocking content.
The Ethical Question
Is it ethical to offer rewards for people “liking” a page? Yes, I would like to believe so. Typically readers are lazy (with exceptions like yourself). Users do not feel compelled to do an action and sometimes need to be nudged in that direction.
You have published a great post on a new money saving technique, and also offer a Google spreadsheet to use that technique only for those who “like” the page. This is a method followed by a lot of marketers out there – for incentivizing readers for their likes, tweets or emails. One of the great articles on Backlinko puts the 785% increase in conversions by following providing content upgrade for such user actions.
In conclusion, do not stop using the plugins to get likes for your web page or blog post due to Facebook policies. If Facebook does ban, your plugins may just remove Facebook from the list of actions supported.
Facebook API is Facebook’s own platform, and they are entitled to do what they think is right for the sake of their users. Reward Facebook with your actions, not by rants 🙂