Facebook Inc. (NASDAQ:FB) is changing its policy for apps and pages, barring developers and publishers from providing content in exchange for likes. The recently announced policy change applies to app developers that integrate any part of their app or website within the Facebook platform.
The Facebook developer policy page says the rule change is expected to take effect on Nov. 5. At its core, the platform policy change is designed to prevent apps from “farming” Facebook likes by providing features such as in-game currency or blocking access to an app based on whether a Facebook page is liked.
The policy change reads:
“You must not incentivize people to use social plugins or to like a Page. This includes offering rewards, or gating apps or app content based on whether or not a person has liked a Page. It remains acceptable to incentivize people to login to your app, check-in at a place or enter a promotion on your app's Page.”
A Facebook representative clarified the policy also extends to websites as well, especially those that goad users into liking a Facebook page to display content.
“This applies to anyone (apps or websites) incentivizing people to use social plugins or to like a Page,” Facebook Communications’ Eliza Kern told International Business Times. Facebook says the policy change will be beneficial to both users and advertisers by “ensuring quality connections.”
While the move is likely to affect the volume of likes a Facebook page receives, the policy change may also affect some apps that have depended on Facebook to acquire users. But how will it affect mobile app exposure?
Chris Shuptrine, senior director of new markets for Boston mobile app marketing firm Fiksu, said he believes the impact of Facebook’s like policy change won’t have much of an impact on most apps, except those that have relied heavily on Facebook to acquire users.
“It may have a small impact on some apps that used this technique heavily, and primarily use Facebook for user acquisition: Facebook's app ads do now show the number of likes, so that social proof could help conversion rates, and this change will likely limit that growth,” Shuptrine said. “But again, that's likely not even a big impact on paid UA (user acquisition) -- so the impact on organic growth would be even less.”
Despite minimal impact on acquiring new users, Facebook’s platform policy change does close off a potential “free” method to hook users on in-app purchases, or IAPs.
“Developers will also lose a 'free' way to get users started with the idea of IAPs (paying for the first extra with a like instead of cash lowers that barrier to entry),” Shuptrine added.
While this move appears to largely target Facebook pages and apps that are heavy handed with artificially boosting their Facebook likes or app popularity, there’s some concern it also is being done to sell direct promotions on the Facebook platform. London Media and Advertising Daily’s LondonBlog criticized the move as such since organic page growth has slowed, leaving Facebook app and page owners with fewer avenues to promote their offerings.
The move by Facebook complements efforts made by Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL), which started rejecting apps in June for offering incentives for social shares or rating an app, TechCrunch reported. But after some developer backlash, Apple reportedly eased off on the policy, only rejecting apps that provide incentives for reviewing or rating an app while allowing video ads and social media incentives.