Risks of Fan-Gating
Have you ever heard of fan-gating (also known as like-gating)? It’s a practice that has been used by many sites and app developers over the past years to generate more social activity. This practice is deemed to be inappropriate due to the fact that a person likes or shares a page for an incentive.
Some say that this is totally legitimate since the person who is encouraged to like the page does it in free will. On the other hand, sometimes an incentive is a sufficient motivator for someone to like a page whether or not they actually like it. In this case, the action of ‘liking’ something does not reflect the persons’ honest opinion of a product, website or fan page. Just like bribing a police officer does no mean he likes your actions, although he accepts them for an ‘incentive’.
I don’t know what’s more sad, that every man has his price, or that it’s always so low.
Facebook has officially banned this practice on 8th of August 2014. Stating that you should not use incentives or rewards to encourage people to use a social plugin or like a certain page. This way, a business will be able to reach people that matter through Facebook advertising platform or similar solutions.
While seeing Facebook oppose the idea of fan-gating should be good enough reason to refrain from the practice. We’ve decided to do a bit of a research to find additional reasons not to use like-gating on your websites or apps, such as ‘like fatigue’ (more about it below). In order to conduct the research we’ve collected data from a bunch of sites offering free templates and themes. Thanks to the web owners who happily shared the relevant information on their analytics, we were able to get some accurate results.
There were four websites in total, each offering free templates. Three of them used like-gating to unlock content. Which means in order to download a free theme the visitor had to like or share the website first. However, while two of those sites offered royalty free and public themes, one of them was offering premium themes free of charge (obvious copyright infringement). So here is a list of them all:
- Site A: No fan-gating used AND offers free/public content
- Site B: Uses fan-gating but offers free/public content
- Site C: Uses fan-gating but offers free/public content
- Site D: Uses fan-gating AND offers premium content for free (pirated)
The chart above shows the number of downloads for a specific file on a website during 5 months period. Sites B and C offered royalty free and public content which is usually of lesser quality, and required visitors to like the page before content became available. Site A on the other hand did not ask its visitors to like their page in order to download a file. However, the content on site A was of the same quality as the other two. Site D on the other hand offered premium templates and themes free of charge, and it required users to like their website before they could download what they came for.
The chart shows that the websites B and C which used fan-gating and offered low quality/public templates as an incentive, were receiving less downloads than the other sites. While site A was generally more popular because it did not require anything from its visitors to download the templates, even though they were still of lower quality.
At first we thought that the website was generally more popular, thus it received more traffic and downloadsthan the other two sites that offered similar content. In the middle of February we asked the owner to update one of the files and add a fan-gate, requiring visitors to like the page before they could download a template.
As it is visible on the chart the number of downloads on site A rapidly decreased during March and April, as a result of fan-gating being added on the page. One the owner removed the social plugin from his website, the downloads went back up in May.
In addition to this experiment we also participated with a site that offered pirated premium templates free of charge, that would usually cost $30-50 each. Despite the fact that the site used fan-gating, it was still popular in comparison with sites B and C, which also used fan-gating.
In conclusion with this research we found that fan-gating can generally hurt your site by driving visitors away, especially if the incentive offered is not high enough. Therefore, offering low quality incentives may lead to a like fatigue. Meaning that your visitors will get tired of liking your pages without receiving an appropriate reward.
However, we did not observe any like fatigue among users of site D that offered premium content through fan-gating. In most cases visitors were desperate to receive a template worth $30-50 for a simple like or share on Facebook. Therefore, if your incentives are not good enough, we wouldn’t recommend you to implement fan-gating. But even if it is, you may simply drive people away. So keep it open and voluntary, people will still give you a like if you’re worth it.