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Going Beyond the ‘Like’: Facebook Action Links and Google’s Faux Pas



When social sharing was fresh and new “likeing” something made sense. I like this picture, so I want to share it. I like this cereal so I want to praise it. I like this story about a devastating earthquake in Japan. Hmm. . . maybe one size doesn’t fit all.

A few months ago, I saw an article about an online news outlet that was experimenting with an option other than “like”. (Please post the link in the comments if you know of it, I couldn’t find it.) The idea was to offer a sharing option for content that was interesting but not “likeable,” such as news reports on disasters, deaths and other misfortunes. Imagine a “read this” button or a “thought-provoking” or “intriguing.”

Facebook is making strides in this direction with their new Action Links. App developers can code these options into social sharing in order to extend the experience. The example they show is Foursquare. When someone checks in and shares the checkin on Facebook, a “save this place” option appears. Now their friends can click the link to save it to their Foursquare account.

Fab.com has added a “fave this product” action link. Netflix could add a “save to your queue” link. Spotify could put in a “add to your playlist” link. It’s simple but brilliant.

By giving people a chance to act on a post right away, you’re increasing the chance that they’ll follow through and become a user of the end product or service. The important thing to remember is that Action Links are an unobtrusive option.

The opposite of this is an experiment Google+ recently conducting involving YouTube likes. Cult TV star Wil Wheaton is a big fan of social interactions but he got a rude surprise when he went to “like” a video. The standard button had been replaced with a G+ Like button, and it required him to login or create a Google + account in order to proceed. He was annoyed and he made it very clear in a scathing blog post that was picked up by news services and other notable bloggers.

For a producer like me, I’m going to lose a crapton of potential upvotes for Tabletop, because the core of my audience is tech-savvy and may not want to “upgrade” to yet another f** social network they don’t want or need.

Last month, our own Frank Reed also posted a rant about how Google is forcing Plus down our throats.

While you have to give the networks credit for trying new things, it’s clear that we haven’t found a balance between promotional and self-promotional. We need to go beyond the  “like” but it’s got to be with options that help elevate social sharing, not get in the way of it.