What would a Facebook 'dislike' button mean for retail?

By Tom Ryan, RetailWire

The following appears courtesy of RetailWire.com, an online discussion forum for the retail industry.

Facebook recently indicated it was close to testing a "dislike" button, or at least one that expresses empathy, to sit alongside its thumbs-up "like" button. The possible arrival of a one-click button expressing negative emotions promises both benefits and risks for retailers.

"Not every moment is a good moment, and if you are sharing something that is sad, whether it's something in current events, like the refugees crisis that touches you, or if a family member passed away, then it may not feel comfortable to like that post," said Mark Zuckerberg, CEO, at a meeting with users at Facebook's headquarters. "So I do think it's important to give people more options than just like."

A button to express sympathy or some negative sentiment to posts has been a long request by members.

Zuckerberg stressed that the button would be more nuanced than a simple "down vote" button. Reddit's "down vote" button has been chastised by some for promoting negativity and encouraging cyberbullying, but others believe it creates a more open and honest environment.

Regardless, having buttons expressing negative and positive connotations on the world's largest social network could be a boon for consumer data collecting. A pro/con poll could provide quick insights into product demand, customer services issues and other metrics.

"The dislike button [would] give brands a better way to gauge social sentiment," marketing consultant David Deal, told Adweek. "The 'like' button is a joke. It's meaningless because Facebook members have no other alternative to vote on content with a simple click."

For advertisers on Facebook, engagement levels may increase with greater options than a "like" button. However, negative associations may surround ads.

"Overall, it's probably a good thing to enable people to express feelings and emotions that they can't express through a 'like' button," Debra Aho Williamson, principal analyst at eMarketer, told The New York Times. "But Facebook needs to be careful as to how they enable that capability with regard to advertising and all the potentially inflammatory discussions that could occur online."

Retailers likewise would risk seeing the number of "dislikes" piling up around their online content or brand.

"This seems like the perfect way for a customer to vent about a brand," Sucharita Mulpuru, VP and principal analyst, Forrester Research, told Internet Retailer. "Some of the biggest recipients of the 'dislike' will definitely be brands and retailers."

Discussion Questions: Would the arrival of a dislike button on Facebook be a net positive or negative for retailers and brands? Does the promise of gaining better insights offset the risks of negative sentiments?

Comments from the RetailWire BrainTrust:

I wonder how a "dislike" button could have a net positive effect on a retailer, unless of course, their chief competitor gets a bunch of dislikes. Social chatter has its inherent risks when you decide to dive into the myriad channels. Whether it's Facebook or any other outlet, retailers cannot and should not control the conversations. They can definitely guide the conversations, though. And social media analytics tools have advanced significantly even in the past year to go way beyond traditional sentiment analysis. It's most certainly worth a retailer's time to get the good, the bad and the ugly about their brands.
-Ralph Jacobson, Global Retail Industry Analytics Marketing Executive, IBM

Right now there is a "like" button, but it doesn't have to be clicked on. That said, be it a "like" or "dislike" or "not so much," it will be the comments below these buttons that make the difference.
-Shep Hyken, Chief Amazement Officer, Shepard Presentations, LLC

Similar to the "like" button, the "dislike" one will, in reality, mean very little. Retailers will obsess over the numbers and will throw lots of "CX" dollars down the drain, but this new button will offer very little diagnostic value about the current and future value of customers.

Retailers need to fully embrace the truly meaningful customer metrics (RFM, anyone?) before they worry about secondary ones such as social media likes and dislikes.
-Peter Fader, Professor of Marketing, The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania

Hitting the "dislike" button could mean almost anything for a brand—from a down vote on a given style to a complaint about frequency.

Retailers need to look for ways to allow customers to communicate with them directly, not by mass communication or third-party sites. I've found an interesting company that's pioneering this ... more later!
-Cathy Hotka, Principal, Cathy Hotka & Associates

I think this will be a step forward for brands as it will encourage a stronger relationship with the shopper. It will be interesting to see if Facebook actually creates a "dislike" button or if it is something a little more gentle. Regardless, brands need to accept that shoppers can use their pages for both positive and negative responses—as we have already seen with comments, it really comes down to how a brand responds to negativity. Are they responsive? Helpful? Can they take a joke? All of these responses can stem from a negative comment and have a hugely positive impact on the brand's image.
-Zel Bianco, President, Founder and CEO, Interactive Edge

Um, not to be rude about it, but not everything is about retailers.

When someone requests prayers for a sick friend or relative, the "like" button takes on the meaning of "heard." I think a "what a bummer" button is more than appropriate.

So, if I were a retailer, I'd worry less about likes and dislikes and worry more about bringing the right product into the right places at the right price. And let sales tell the tale.
-Paula Rosenblum, Managing Partner, RSR Research

Read the entire RetailWire discussion.