What does a Facebook 'dislike' button mean for brands?

If companies can harness a broader range of emotions on social media, then an alternative to liking is nothing to fear.

by Rachel Savage
Last Updated: 16 Sep 2015

It’s official: Facebook is working on a ‘dislike’ button. Users have been clamouring for the option ever since ‘likes’ thumbs-upped their way onto the world wide web in 2009 and it seems Mark Zuckerberg has finally capitulated.

‘We’ve finally heard you and we’re working on this and we will deliver something that meets the needs of the larger community,’ the founder and CEO said at a ‘town hall’ public Q&A session yesterday, adding they ‘are very close to shipping a test of it.’

But companies anticipating an avalanche of negativity needn’t fear. Zuckerberg wants to keep Facebook as positive as possible. (It certainly has less of a problem with trolls than platforms like Twitter at the moment, although many comment sections are still spittle-flecked.)

‘We didn't want to just build a dislike button because we don't want to turn Facebook into a forum where people are voting up or down on people's posts,’ he said, throwing some shade at Reddit.

‘People aren't looking for the ability to downvote people's posts, what they really want is to be able to express empathy. Not every moment is a good moment and if you're sharing something sad... then it may not feel comfortable to like that post.’

Facebook’s management know that as well as anyone. Zuckerberg recently announced his wife was pregnant on the site while also revealing their struggles with miscarriages, a post that gained over 1.7 million likes, almost 50,000 shares and more than 113,000 comments. Meanwhile, chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg’s heartbreaking post about her grief following the untimely death of her husband was liked more than 900,000 times, but shared almost 400,000.

So no doubt it will unveil something that conveys something more than simple ‘dislike’. Most companies’ posts will still be consigned to the dustbin of the internet by Facebook’s algorithms. But any brand that can harness the emotions the hug/empathy/acknowledgement button taps into will be onto a winner.

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