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Facebook will not introduce a “dislike” button because it’s bad for business

December 12, 2014

Facebook is constantly working to update its social networking site, but adding a "dislike" feature is something the company will probably never do.

Facebook is constantly working to update its social networking site, but adding a “dislike” feature is something the company will probably never do.

Users have expressed interest in a “dislike” button
According to BBC News, Facebook considered adding a way to dislike posts. Mark Zuckerberg indicated that it was one of the most requested features on the social network. Facebook figures show that the site generates 4.5 billion “likes” every day. Facebook will probably not add a dislike feature, however, because it could have several negative implications. Mark Zuckerberg explained that he does not want to facilitate the demeaning of people’s posts.

“One of things we’ve thought about for quite a while is what’s the right way to make it so that people can easily express a broader range of emotions,” Zuckerberg said, according to BBC News. “A lot of times people share things on Facebook that are sad moments in their lives. Often people tell us that they don’t feel comfortable pressing ‘like’ because ‘like’ isn’t the appropriate sentiment.”

A dislike button is not good for social purposes
While it is clear to the Facebook CEO that users want more control over their experience, the company is hesitant to introduce tools that could potentially hurt others or affect revenue earned from targeted advertising. Zuckerberg explained that while a dislike button may not be appropriate or socially valuable, adding features that allow users to express other emotions may be warranted.

“I think giving people the power to do that in more ways with more emotions would be powerful. But we need to figure out the right way to do it so it ends up being a force for good and not a force for bad and demeaning the posts that people are putting out there.” Zuckerberg said, according to Marketing Land.

A dislike button could result in a drop of revenue from ads
From a business perspective, a dislike button would be bad for revenue. Many companies run targeted advertising campaigns on Facebook that result in billions in revenue for the site. Allowing users to dislike certain products or brands could possibly deter advertisers from wanting to place ads for fear that one social media trend could kill their popularity. Paul Coggins, chief executive of ad firm Adludio, believes Facebook’s primary concern is revenue.

“They need to keep their advertisers happy. I would think it highly unlikely that they would come up with a button that says you can ‘dislike’,” said Coggins, according to BBC News.

The like button has been criticized for being the way that the social network collects information on its users’ online activity, but likes also provide insight on which products, persons or events are receiving considerable attention. Facebook has been recognized as the best driver of online traffic on mobile in particular. 

The importance of likes is evidenced by “like-farming” businesses, reported on by BBC News, that provide a huge number of likes quickly for clients. Like farms either use automated robots, or humans paid small sums per click, to generate the high volume of likes. Facebook has tried to fight these like-farming businesses, but according to the BBC, it is still possible to gain fake likes on the site. Guy Phillipson, chief executive of the Internet Advertising Bureau UK, explained why likes are important.

“If brands do put something out which people don’t like, they find out pretty quickly. It’s been a force for good – advertisers know more about tone, or when they’ve gone too far,” said Phillipson, according to BBC News.

The effect on the psyche
Facebook came under harsh criticism for its mood experiment, in which the company changed the news feeds of some of its users to see the impact it would have on their moods, reported Computer World. In answering a question about the experiment, Zuckerberg did not apologize for it, but indicated that the company needed to reconsider its internal processes for user experiments.

The takeaway from this is that Facebook needs to balance business decisions against their social implications.

Several studies have surfaced that link depression with spending lots of time on social media. If Facebook has the power to depress people and affect moods, then the company should definitely think twice about a dislike-button. For a person that is already on the edge, a barrage of “dislikes” for a profile photo or status update could cause that person’s mental condition to deteriorate. That would open up the company to a world of controversy and legal action. Some may argue that Facebook users should have the freedom to like or dislike whatever they want. While freedom of expression is important online, allowing people to channel their loathing of a particular subject through one narrow funnel may not be a good thing.  

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