Facebook is replacing its “fan” buttons with “like” buttons on ads that direct users to big brands’ “fan pages” in a bid to further monetise the social networking site.

That’s according to new internal information acquired by All Things Digital.
Brand ‘fan pages’ are nothing new, of course but the problem for Facebook is they can be set up and operated for free.

All that free exposure to 400 million users via what is in effect a microsite for nada? Naturally Facebook is not happy so is now encouraging brands to buy ads on the site promoting the pages.

The move from ‘Fan’ to ‘Like’ has been prompted by a couple of developments.

First up is the fact that users have demonstrated the success of the ‘like’ button in other contexts – such as status up dates and photos. Facebook claims this is used twice as frequently as the ‘become a fan of’ button.

Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, is the bigger picture. Facebook, according to All Things Digital, will be driving to add the ‘like’ button throughout the Web as a way of funneling more and more interaction onto its platform.

“‘Like’ offers a simple, consistent way for people to connect with the things they are interested in. These lighter-weight actions mean people will make more connections across the site, including with your branded Facebook Pages,” Facebook said a FAQ Sheet, All Things Digital claims to have get its hands on.

“I believe this will result in gaining more connections to pages since our research has shown that some users would be more comfortable with the term “Like”. The goal is to get the most user connections so that you can have ongoing conversations in the news feeds of as many users as possible.”

It adds, “The core functionality of Pages will not change. For instance, your Pages will still have distribution into your fans’ News Feed and you can still call the people who “Like” your Page, “Fans”-your Fans are still your Fans.”

Will users notice the difference in the change of buttons? Possibly. Will they care about the name change? Probably not.

Will the name change increase user engagement with brands? Facebook seems to think so. I’m not so sure.

After all, at the end of the day, it’s about whether you like a brand or not; not really about the difference between ‘like’ or being a ‘fan’.