Q&A on ‘Dislike’ button for Facebook

“Not every moment is a good moment.” – Mark Zuckerberg

Nora Barnes
Charlton College of Business Marketing Professor Dr. Nora Barnes discusses the impact this could have for Facebook users and how companies and brands should approach this news.

This week Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg revealed during a Q&A session that the company is working on adding a ‘dislike’ button. This news came as a surprise to many given Zuckerberg’s previous statements which expressed concern that adding such a feature to the social network could invite negativity. UMass Dartmouth Charlton College of Business Marketing Professor Dr. Nora Barnes discusses the impact this could have for Facebook users and how companies and brands should approach this news.

What impact do you think this will have for Facebook users?

NB: I think there will be lots of things that could happen.  There may be some "de-friending" going on as people react to your comments with a "dislike.” There might be inappropriate use of the "dislike" button with some just spreading online negativity.  There could also be a learning curve as people begin using the "dislike" button to express empathy, sympathy or support.  For example, if you post you failed an exam, your friends could respond with the "dislike" button.  This could also open the door for other buttons.  Why not an empathy button?  There is an entire spectrum of emotions between "like" and "dislike."  Maybe we will see some of those over time.

What do you think has been behind the hesitation of Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook to add this feature?

NB: Adding features to a fairly mature platform is something done cautiously.  I'm sure Facebook is responding to many years of users asking for a wider range of responses than simply a "like."  But they have to consider things such as how this feature will ultimately be used.  Will it be abused?  Will it drive people off the platform?  Could it harm the brand?  I have to assume that Facebook had long discussions about these possibilities and decided it was better to give users features they wanted in the end.

Concerns continue to grow about cyber bullying and the negativity that can envelop the internet and social media. Given this, how would you suggest brands, companies, and other organizations approach this new "dislike" feature when it is eventually available?

NB: That's a discussion that needs to begin now in every boardroom.  Most businesses do not have an online crisis management program.  If there is an online firestorm involving your business, the only way out is quick implementation of a strategy designed to minimize damage.  There will inevitably be "dislikes" coming to some businesses with a presence on Facebook.  They might be helpful in providing honest feedback, important in monitoring consumer sentiment or detrimental to the brand image.  Businesses need to be ready to react to this new voice.

About Nora Barnes

Dr. Nora Ganim Barnes earned a Ph.D. in Consumer Behavior from the University of Connecticut and is a Chancellor Professor of Marketing and Director of the Center for Marketing Research at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth.

As Director of UMass Dartmouth’s Center for Marketing Research, she has provided services in brand and product development, research, promotion, and commercial television production to hundreds of clients. The Center serves as the primary link between the University and businesses in the region. Prominent members of the business community sit on the Center's Advisory Board and interact with students through the projects conducted under Dr. Barnes' supervision.

Dr. Barnes has published more than 125 articles in academic and professional journals and proceedings, and has contributed chapters to books. In addition she has supervised the writing of approximately 200 business monographs. She is a frequent presenter, session chair and track chair at academic conferences and sits on the review boards of the Health Marketing Quarterly, the Journal of Professional Services Marketing, and the Journal of Marketing Management.


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