Facebook's proposed 'dislike' button podcast - Fresh Egg

What does Facebook's recent announcement of the introduction of a 'dislike' button mean for users and businesses? Find out in our podcast.

Our head of innovation, David Sewell, quizzes inbound marketing manager Lana Burgess and director of digital marketing Lee Colbran about Facebook's recent announcement that a 'dislike' button is being planned. 

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Podcast transcript:

David: Hi, my name is David Sewell. I'm Head of Innovation for Fresh Egg, and today I'm joined by Lana Burgess.

Lana: Hello.

David: Lana is the Inbound Marketing Manager. And I'm also joined with the Digital Marketing Director, Lee Colbran.

Lee: Hello.

David: And today we're going to be talking about an announcement that made it out of Facebook yesterday, I think, from Mark Zuckerberg, that they're apparently thinking about adding a dislike button to the social network, and they are getting very close to launching this globally. My initial thoughts when I heard this was that it might be related to the emotional contangent experiment Facebook ran, with quite a lot of controversy, back in February, 2014, when they were trying to manipulate what people thought, either positively or negatively en masse across a social network. So, perhaps, in my view, it might be an interesting place to start, is why we think Facebook is introducing this button, and whether people will be using it.

Lee: I think I'll go first there. Reading between the lines, this isn't necessarily just going to be a thumb-down Dislike button. There's going to be more empathy in and around that. So it's not necessarily that we can all just jump in and dislike everyone's posts en masse. But it does bring back, in terms of, if I look at my friends on Facebook and how they interpret what the dislike button, in inverted commas, is going to be, it's very different to how we may perceive it, and what Facebook want to achieve and use from it. And from a marketing perspective, and being able to target us more specifically, that's where Facebook will be much more into the detail, but as I say I don't know if, Lana, from your perspective of any feedback you've seen from your circle of friends...I've got a few quotes I've got here from my circle of friends, and I might read one or two of those out, because I think it's fairly top line as to how it affects different people.

Lana: Indeed. Yeah, I think it's very interesting. From a marketing perspective there are clear reasons for it. It's giving us another metric, another way of understanding our audience, and another way of targeting things. So, there are clear reasons there. But I think, from a social perspective amongst friends, and within my network of friends, there's a very different reaction to it because it has a very different impact. For me, it may act in a way to oversimplify the conversations that happen on Facebook, because it's a lot easier to click a button than it is to actually properly respond to what someone's saying and actually form a sentence, form an opinion, tell someone how you're really feeling. It seems to be reflective of our increasing need for immediacy in that it's simply a click. But that has its benefits, it can be convenient. But does it, perhaps, limit the range of expression that we might articulate more fully without that?

Lee: Possibly. And interestingly, I think we've all used the Like button, and I can bring on a personal experience. My nan passed away a few weeks back. And of course, I've got family members who've put that on Facebook. People Like that. But actually, what is there to like about a close relative passing away? Whereas actually, the dislike, well you dislike the fact that your nan has passed away. But then it can be all sorts of different connotations there of how the empathy can be construed or misconstrued in terms of, "If I dislike that...What was he thinking? What was she thinking?" And yeah, it opens up possibly a can of worms in how...

Lana: Yeah, it could do.

Lee: ...different people could use that function as well.

David: I think it was an interesting point there, Lana, that it might close down conversations if it presented with options that minimize conversations, that whole social aspect of using Facebook as a chatting exchange or exploration of ideas might get closed down. Facebook will get its data.

Lana: Indeed, that's what concerns me, because I see it very much as another metric. And that also has impacts on people in the way that they feel about the response they're getting to what they're posting online. Because I think that it's very unusual the way that with the Like function, and if they bring in a Dislike function, you have a very easy way of quantifying the sort of response that you're getting to things. And I think that changes the way particularly younger people react online, because everything these days is much more measurable, whereas popularity and people's response used to be something a bit less tangible, a bit more unknown. Now people have much more tangible metrics and ways of measuring those things. And that can impact the way people perceive themselves, their sense of self, their sense of how they're perceived within a group. So, for me, it's the psychological aspects and how that will play out that will be interesting.

Lee: So, for example, I put a post on there, and it gets absolutely slammed, and it's just dislike central. You think that could have an effect on the individual...?

Lana: I think it certainly could from a psychological perspective, certainly for younger or more vulnerable people, because I think that people do derive a real sense of self from the image that they project on Facebook and how people interact with that. And I think it's particularly the case for younger people that are a bit more unsure of themselves that they do get a really positive boost when they get a lot of likes to something. Are they then gonna feel more insecure, or maybe even they want to censor what they're saying if they're getting a negative response. I think, for the more...for, perhaps, older, or more confident people, they might really enjoy...

Lee: You are looking at me, there, Lana. That's outrageous.

Lana: Yeah, I have to say I might have been. I think, for some people that are more confident in their opinion, this Dislike function is going to be interesting, because they might really enjoy that debate. That might be something that gives them a buzz. But I just think that we have to think about how more vulnerable people might respond to having their posts disliked in that way.

Lee: I totally get it. And again, if I think back to myself and my circle of friends, and some of us are quite vociferous, yes, we wouldn't have any problem with that, because when we're going in and hitting that dislike, yadda, yadda, yadda, rubbish, rubbish, rubbish. But if I now think to my children on Facebook, absolutely, and their circle of friends, I can see exactly where you're coming from. And that could cause issues, I absolutely get that. What about from a business perspective? Can I troll someone? Can I troll a business? Could I hurt their business online if I've got a group of people? How about that? Could that be a problem for Facebook?

Lana: It's interesting, isn't it? Because in the same way that I mentioned on a personal level, it could shut down conversations. In some ways, for brands, shutting down those conversations could actually work in their favour, because you may argue it would be less damaging for a brand to receive X number of dislikes than for them to receive a stream of really negative, very explicit remarks about their business. That could actually be far more damaging because the people, their other customers that are being exposed to that know exactly what they've done wrong, know exactly the extent to which people feel about that. So, weirdly, shutting down that conversation a bit, and having a quicker, just dislike button for brands may work in their favour.

David: It's sounding as if you feel that they could be shooting themselves in the foot, with their original intention may be of doing what is very difficult, which is sentiment analysis, because so far, Facebook has got a lot of text available, and a lot of commentary. And it's difficult to tease apart whether people feel positive or negative about that just doing linguistic analysis. This button might be their idea of trying to help train machine learning behind the scenes to say, "This collection of text is really all about disliking something, and this collection of text is really all about quite liking something." And if you shut down those conversations, their whole training, if this is their idea, if this button is to somehow help them understand text, and speech, and communication, it might actually have the opposite effect. They'll be given less evidence to work with.

Lee: I think you have to look at what's in it for Facebook. And I'll go back to my original point, it's almost as though there's two levels to this. There's the blunt instrument level for people on Facebook to either like or, in hypothetical terms, dislike, if the button does ever come to fruition. But for Facebook, it really is, as you say, how are they going to use this? Because Facebook is there - let's face it - to make it money, and they need more and more tools to make money, to understand "where we are", "what we're doing", "how we're doing it", "what type of mood we're in", and this will open another door up to actually understand if the three of us are now on Facebook can... they can sense some anger or happiness. And, of course, your efforts may change and be more subjective to mood and how you're feeling, and, of course, in your own network.

Lana: It would be very interesting to see how these algorithm is developed to respond to how people dislike things, whether that means if you are continually disliking a certain sort of adverts, a certain sort of brand, or even a certain sort of topic within your conversation with your friends, does that mean that you'll stop seeing that so much in your news feed, or will you still be shown these things because, are they wanting to open the debate, or conversely close it down and just show you what you like? It's interesting to see how they view the role of things that you disagree with in being relevant to you.

Lee: And then, how are Facebook going to please the jokers? And I'm gnona put myself in that category. I have got an excerpt from one of my friends, "Ah, a dislike button coming on here; music to my ears. Everything will be getting disliked, not because I dislike things, because it will wind people up, laugh out loud. So if you're getting married, giving birth, won the lottery, etc., etc., you'll be getting a dislike." So, there you go. Your algorithm is going to be flawed because me and my mates are going to kill it.

Lana: Yeah, and how does an algorithm account for this subtleties of meaning. And when people are being sarcastic, is that something an algorithm can understand? That is interesting, those subtleties.

David: You have to remember that, in Facebook, obviously, you're logged in, so it might be able to discount you as being someone who goes round disliking everything.

Lana: Yeah.

Lee: But that would be me discounted, again. That's me done, David. You're quite right.

David: Well, I think we've covered quite a few topics there. It'd be interesting to see how this pans out. And we'll maybe do a follow-up when it actually gets launched to see how we're actually using it in practice. But I'd like to thank both Lana and Lee for your time and contributing. And if you want to subscribe to Fresh Egg Podcast, please look for us on iTunes, and you can be kept up to date with all the latest news and announcements from the world of digital marketing. Thanks for listening.

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