Every morning over coffee I find myself scrolling down the endless Facebook updates from my friends and acquaintances, eye-checking the rants, baby pics, shared funnies and twitter feeds with an avid enthusiasm. Today I saw that my good friend Sandra had started her own Literary Agency and set up a facebook company page. Her post was unassuming but I immediately clicked through to the page and hit the ‘like’ button. In this instance my motivation was all about helping a friend but it got me thinking about this whole culture of ‘liking’ stuff on Facebook and how it affects brands and individuals.
Since its inception back in 2010 people have been hitting the ‘like’ button on pages contributing to the expansion of a company, brand or organisation’s profile. The culture of ‘liking’ which first appeared in 2009 in its rather modest form on news feed has grown exponentially extending beyond the borders of Facebook.com and into virtually every website. For companies getting their facebook page ‘liked’ has become essential. It generates a kind of undeserved kudos for a company page and raises its profile within facebook instigating virtual ‘Wows’ from users spotting the big thumbs-up icon with a huge figure sat next to it.
So what does ‘liking’ really do for a brand? Well there is the influence on consumer confidence. If a user visits a company, brand or organisation’s page and sees the likes hitting the 1000 plus mark then they might be more inclined to interact or endorse. Naturally if that company, brand or organisation has a considerable following in the analogue world then the ‘like-ometer’ is probably going to be in the millions (Justin Bieber 43 Million, seriously) which triggers the ‘wow’ response resulting in a probable ‘like’ just to be part of the herd! There’s also been conjecture that company’s with higher numbers of ‘likes’ tend to fair better in the stock market. That said Facebook’s 13% drop in share price on its first day of trading certainly wasn’t instigated by a lack of likes (currently sitting at 67 Million).
A wealth of ‘likes’ certainly instills confidence in a brand but what about start-ups like my friend Sandra. How will she get enough people to ‘like’ her page to boost external confidence and influence interaction with her agency. Well that’s when one’s friends come into play. Its the individuals in one’s facebook menagerie that then have the power, but can they be relied upon to commit a ‘like’ and even more share with their friends and ask for 3rd party support . In my experience there’ll be less than 20% who’ll be bothered to give up a ‘like’ and probably only 5% who’ll actually endorse to others. Obviously rewards can be offered for the 600th liker but even then will people really get involved? ‘Like’ generation has now become a very serious business, with company’s such as The New Yorker withholding access to content such as in Jonathan Franzen’s story ‘About the Island’ until the ‘like’ button has been depressed. It has also become a vehicle for company’s to bypass Facebook’s promotional material guidelines on their pages with competitions and campaigns only accessible after a ‘like’.
There’s a real power in the individual’s choice to ‘like’ something and the value of that action could be construed as real currency in social media. Valuable space in friends news feeds will be taken up with ‘John likes this’ and ‘Miriam likes that’ and with company pages adding to the daily feed, sometimes excessively it could be seen a somewhat fragile relationship because when people get tired of Over-the-top updates there’s the possibility of an ‘Unlike’. Yes we have that power, to like or not to like that is the power! Brands may leverage ‘likes’ to influence social media users but ultimately its the users who control the brand’s social media performance with the click of a button.
So exercise your power of ‘like’ wisely, support your friends in their endeavors by ‘liking’ their pages and be discerning in which big brands you award your allegiance to. You’ve got the power!