There’s a trend rumbling around the online world of asking people to signal their affinity for something before they’ve actually engaged with it, whatever “it” is in each particular case. The Facebook page for many movies will keep some content hidden behind a Like Gate, asking someone to say that they “like” a movie they haven’t seen in order to watch a trailer or even just to read a single article. Sometimes it’s a new tool that’s in beta but which wants you to offer up the names and email addresses of friends in order to get additional functionality.
In each of these – and other – cases what the company behind the move is really asking for isn’t anything as pedestrian as a recommendation to their social network friends. No, what they’re actually asking is for each person to put the reputation (whatever it might be) they’ve built up with their network on the line. Trust is the most fragile thing in the world and it’s awfully dicey to ask that people risk theirs so frivolously.
Right now internet users are being inundated with calls to action to share, like, reblog, favorite and more. It can get overwhelming but all of this has been voluntary so people have been able to pick and choose what they’ve wanted to curate and share under their various profiles.
But the minute things become mandatory or there’s some sort of additional requirement put on usage the relationship is broken. It actually devalues the idea behind liking something since there’s no way people have a way to make a judgment one way or the other if they have to Like something before being able to view it.
If someone in the real world came up to you and asked your opinion of a movie, a restaurant, a book or anything else that you hadn’t seen, been to or otherwise experienced you would have to admit to that. To do otherwise would be, quite frankly, a lie. But that’s exactly what is being asked of people when content of any sort is put behind a Like Gate. Again, in the real world giving someone a recommendation for something you had no experience in would there would be consequences for that relationship.
Because of the social capital at stake the price being asked for by requiring a Like in order to view something for the first time is actually higher than what’s being asked by publications that are putting up paywalls around their sites.
Affiliation is the new creation. People are increasingly opting to simply Like, retweet, tag, check-in and more instead of producing long-form content as a way to build up their online profile and identity. That’s why brands and publications are hoping to tap into this new propensity to share instead of create. But by making it a requirement there’s more at stake for these people and potentially for the brands themselves, who are going to see either a backlash among the audience or a devaluation of their social followers as people who joined that group for a single purpose take none of the subsequent calls to action, making the entire online program worth less.