What’s So Bad About Like-Gating?

You’ve probably heard of the adage “there is no such thing as a free lunch”. And when it comes to Facebook Pages, it is becoming more common to see companies offer something free to consumers….if they “Like” a page.

It’s a technique known as “Like-Gating”, and it has attracted critics who believe it’s lazy way to build a community as opposed to nurturing a community through engagement and compelling content. In many respects, this criticism is valid because you want someone to “Like” you for who you are rather than free stuff.

On the other side of the coin, “Like-Gating” can be an effective approach to get a foothold with consumers who tend to be fickle and multi-taskers. If it takes “Like-Gating” to capture their attention – even if it’s temporary – then it may have its role.

The key to effective “Like-Gating” is providing value and great content after the “Like”. Once someone has “Liked” a page to get access to a special offer, there’s a small window of opportunity to convince them to stick around.

It’s like offering free samples outside a restaurant. If a consumer likes what they taste, the restauranteur needs to follow up with great service, a good atmosphere and an appealing menu. If they fail to deliver, the consumer will walk out the door pretty soon.

The biggest mistake and risks in “Like-Gating” is not having anything of value to offer afterward. If a consumer doesn’t see other things to pique their interest, they will leave and probably “Unlike” the page in the process. Facebook used to make it challenging to “Unlike” but that has changed recently.

“Like-Gating” is a tease or a loss-leader. It’s a way to stand out from the crowd in a marketplace becoming increasingly crowded. For companies looking to embrace it, the “rewards” for “Like-Gating” need to be interesting and worthwhile, otherwise they will be ignored.

At the same time, “Like-Gating” lets you get a foot in the door. But the only way to really win someone over is following up with engaging, educational or enlightening content on a regular basis. In other words, there has to be a lot more than just the initial reward for liking a page.

This is where real strategic planning comes into play. After the “Like”, companies with a plan of attack that includes an editorial calendar, contests, polls, interesting content and a commitment to engagement have a good shot at keeping people around.

This is when the hard work happens and, unfortunately, a place in which many companies fail because they only think short-term. After the “Like”, they expect people to stick around simply because they have signed up – something that doesn’t happen in the fickle digital world in which we live.

  • Bobble Bardsley

    I think the problem is forcing people to become a brand advocate BEFORE they’ve had the freebie. People should judge your product or service FIRST, then tell their friends. You’re never going to get legitimate buzz built by forcing word of mouth on people – consumers are too savvy these days, they’ll get wise to it and soon enough nobody will trust ANY positive word of mouth they see on Twitter or Facebook (cf. #spon tweets).

  • Mark Evans


    You make an excellent point. It really comes down to real “Likes” vs. uncertain or motivated for other reasons “Likes” – aka quality vs. quantity. Thanks for the comment. Mark

  • Comment for reward is the driver behind most outdated marketing research approaches and pollutes what social media should be about. That said “like” function provides little insight anyway. How about “dislike” “offended” and “I am your lemming” options?

  • The thing is that there are two separate functions for the Like button – one is becoming a brand advocate, and the other is signing up to get content and updates. The goal of “Like-gating” is the latter, but since the two functions are intertwined, you end up with the problematic issue of signing people up as advocates before they really are. The solution (not supported by Facebook) is to disaggregate the two functions and have “Like” and “Follow”.

  • I think most brands get a c- when it comes to Like gating. They’ve figured out how to get my attention, register me in their database, get me to like their page, and even tell my friends that I liked their page by providing an initial deal/discount/promo….. however, not one brand that I’ve liked has come back to me with any sort of follow up. They lack any actual strategy beyond ‘let’s get 1million names’. They should have had a schedule of ongoing engagements pre-planned before setting about their like-gating efforts.

  • Peter da Silva

    I see what I didn’t know until this moment was called “like gating” as fundamentally dishonest and creepy. It’s no different, in my mind, from paying people to write reviews for your products, except it’s cheaper because you’re not actually paying them.

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  • “Like-gating” gets a bad reputation because it doesn’t give a user the choice to like page on their own terms. However, If done right it can be an effective tool but for most companies it will probably only earn them an initial “like” rather than a life long loyal customer. Because Most people will click the like button if something is promised this concept sort of creates a false and one time only customer base. Its better to create content or products worth “liking” than content that is only worth a “like”.