Facebook confirmed that users will soon be able to join member brand pages by clicking "like," arguing that users are universally more comfortable with the expression than the current "become a fan" option.
This change will roll out in April on Facebook Pages, those Facebook accounts brands, celebrities, athletes and others use to promote themselves on the social network.
The swap, geared to boost user engagement between brand and their audiences, is purely cosmetic. A Facebook spokesperson told eWEEK the core functionality of Pages will remain unchanged.
Pages will still have distribution into News Feed; the administrators of those Pages will still be able to call the people connected to their Page "fans." The spokesperson added:
"We've found that 'Like' is more global, easy to understand, and users are already comfortable and familiar with it-making the process of connecting with a Page more consistent with how they already interact with things on Facebook."
The move was discovered by ClickZ, which said Facebook is alerting its advertisers about the change via e-mail. The advance notice, something Facebook has become adept at, is to help them shape their ad campaigns for Facebook, which with 400 million-plus users has become a fertile garden for alerting people to new products and services.
ClickZ said the confidential e-mail advised advertisers: "Over time, as users adapt to the language change, we recommend that you invite people to connect to your Page by saying 'Find us on Facebook' or 'Like us on Facebook'. You may also choose to put more emphasis on your custom URL than you used to."
The memo also indicated Facebook users have been clicking the current "Like" feature almost twice as often as the "Become a Fan" button.
Altimeter Group founding analyst Charlene Li told eWEEK this should drive more people to engage, but will cause some confusion in the short term as the "like" of a brand, team, celebrity, etc., carries more weight than the "like" of an update status inside the News Feed.
Altimeter Group analyst Jeremiah Owyang agreed, noting that Facebook will offer brands a wider net to capture prospects that may not be hard-core "fans" of a brand. While Facebook may gain wider reach for engagement with a larger audience, there may be a downside.
"Initially, the true diehard fans may not want to interact with the masses. Secondly, if brands use targeted messaging and ads provided by Facebook, they could be inundating fair weather 'likers' to marketing messages that may be unwanted-hurting the brand experience," Owyang said.
Owyang further suggested Facebook should offer two tiers, of both a "like" and "fan" so brands can segment out themselves for marketing, reach and engagement.
Facebook has been on a roll with changes leading up to its F8 developer conference, scheduled for April 21.