I got into an hour-long debate last week. Would/should Facebook ever add a dislike button? I say yes.

Millions of Facebook users have called for a dislike option on Facebook. The main reason being that there is no easy response when a friend posts something such as, “Ugh so much work to do” or  “Totally attacked by mosquitoes last night.”
The strongest opponents of a dislike button argue the option does not align with Facebook’s interest in connecting people and that it will lead to too much negativity on the site.
My position is that the amount of information gained by a dislike button will outweigh what I see as exaggerated potential disadvantages.

First, my thoughts on the main arguments against a dislike button:

Dislike isn’t social
Mashable founder Pete Cashmore recently wrote, “While Like buttons connect Facebook users to their interests, Dislike buttons serve no such purpose. Like buttons are about connection; Dislike buttons are about division.”
However, millions of people have already joined Facebook groups and pages about things they dislike. Do a search for ‘I hate’ or ‘sucks,’ and see that people do connect based on common dislikes.

Dislike will make Facebook hostile
The reality is people overwhelmingly use Facebook to connect with people they know. Just because a dislike button exists, doesn’t mean people will start giving thumbs down to their friends’ shared items.
In fact, you might think twice about being negative at all if you knew your friends would see it. As it is now, you can leave a nasty comment on YouTube, down-vote something on Reddit, write a mean review on Yelp or say something critical on a Huffington Post article, and it is unlikely your friends will see it. But what if that action were broadcast to your whole network?
And what will people think of someone who constantly shows up in the News Feed for disliking things? It’s possible a universal dislike button that publishes stories to your wall might actually be good for integrity online.
Even if that ideal isn’t reached, I don’t see people being bothered too much by the dislike button. YouTube has a like and dislike, and though the anonymous comments occasionally get vicious, it has little affect on overall use of the site.

Now, what are the benefits of a dislike button?

Good for people
I know people want a dislike button to say “sorry your goldfish died” in one click, but the reasons for the button are broader. Facebook like and dislike would become a simplified rating system for all products, places and media across the web.
This is good for people who will increasingly make decisions based on recommendations from their social network. When I go to Yelp or Netflix or Amazon, I want to know what my friends think about what I am considering. As it is now, I might see that a few of my friends like a restaurant, movie or product, but what does the absence of likes mean? Does it mean my friends dislike it, feel neutral about it, or that they are unaware of it? Dislike adds another category without overcomplicating the system, which would prevent people from responding at all.

Good for Facebook
Facebook already knows so much about people because of what they like. Knowing what people do not like gives Facebook even more information to leverage in unique ways. I see a dislike button as one more advantage Facebook would have over Google in both search and ads.
A dislike button would also increase engagement on Facebook and connecting sites. Writing is hard. Clicking a button is not. I would click dislike on bad photos of me, I would click dislike when people share bad news, and I would click dislike to make a statement about products, places, recipes, books, movies, videos and other items across the web — whereas now I only perform a Facebook action when I like something.

Good for Brands
Knowing what people dislike creates unique marketing opportunities. Facebook ads are great because you can target people based on declared likes and interests. Imagine the possibilities for advertising to people who have declared dislikes. You could serve unique ads to change their minds about a product or you could pitch a competitor.
Facebook has been revolutionary for brands because it creates a direct line of communication with fans. A dislike button would connect brands to people who don’t like the brand or a particular product. Think about what you could learn from these people. Wouldn’t it improve products and services?
It would even improve marketing. As it is now, a brand posts something to Facebook and partially judges its success on number of likes. But if a post doesn’t get many likes does that mean people didn’t like it? Does it mean people didn’t read it? Or did they read it and feel neutral? A dislike count would help brands develop better Facebook strategies.

I do see the problem of having a branded fan page that shows how many dislikes it has. Facebook would need to change the wording again on fan pages to eliminate this problem. I would recommend “follow” because the question I ask myself when I come upon a brand page is not “Do I like this?” but “Do I want to get this content in my feed?” Then like and dislike would be used on individual posts.

For instance, people might follow the Gap to know about upcoming sales and new items. People could like or dislike individual articles of clothing. Then I could go to the page and get an idea what is popular among my friends. I’d mark some likes and dislikes. Then the Gap would give me better recommendations. Or H&M could send me an ad with alternatives to the things I disliked.

What’s not to like about that?

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