Facebook dislike buttonMarketers have long wondered what the world would be like if Facebook had a “dislike” button. Well, it seems like we will have to wonder no more, with Mark Zuckerberg recently indicating that the feature is in the works.

OK, maybe it’s a slight stretch to suggest that social media marketers have spent the last ten years living in fear of a “dislike” button, but make no mistake, it’s potentially very big news indeed.

Why has it taken Facebook so long to consider a “dislike” button?

Zuckerberg wants Facebook to remain a platform driven by positive interactions – a “dislike” button is at odds with that philosophy. Speaking with my marketer’s cap on, it’s a rather reassuring ethos adopted by Facebook’s creator, as it essentially protects brands from receiving unjust “dislikes” which could lead to problems with reputation management.

Let’s face it, social media marketers have a hard enough time as it is in terms of guarding their brand’s reputation, given that every complaint, legitimate or not, has the potential to grab a worldwide audience with a post that ends up going viral.

Perhaps it’s for this reason that Zuckerberg has asserted that this mooted new feature will be a means to express empathy rather than derision.

However, from a user’s point of view, the “like” button does not always suffice – when people take to the site to share their bad news, for example. Obviously, in that case, people have the option to comment rather than hit the “like” button, but does this suit everyone?

The pressure put on Facebook to create a “dislike” button suggests not – but is that pressure just coming from those who want to show their disdain at certain posts? That’s what worries Facebook, it seems.

Anyway, back to the implications for brands – should they be concerned?

Not just yet. Zuckerberg was pretty light on details which led commentators to think that the feature is still very much “under consideration” rather than “in development”.

In any case, it’s within Facebook’s interests to keep brands happy – as well as individual users – which might mean that the “dislike” option is only available for personal posts and not brand Pages. Or maybe the new button will read “empathy” or a similar expression.

In fact, this quote from Zuckerberg suggests as much: “You don’t want to go through the process of sharing some moment that’s important to you … and then have someone down-vote it. That isn’t what we’re here to build in the world.”

He also added that “it’s surprisingly complicated to make an interaction that will be simple”, which seems to me that he is preparing us for a wait. We can live with that.

So, is this new feature likely benefit brands at all?

Possibly not, but on the flipside – and maybe I’m being too optimistic here – the introduction of a “dislike” button should allow marketers to better identify where their content campaign is going wrong. Is there the potential to ask those who hit “dislike” to see where they believe the post came up short? If the reason is a valid one, it can be rectified for next time.

In that sense, it’ll work a bit like customer service through social media: you’ll be exposing your brand to public criticism, but you’ll be given the chance to engage the seemingly dissatisfied and (hopefully) turn their opinions around.

I know it’s all “in theory” at the moment, but what effect do you think a “dislike” button would have for marketers?