Our love affair with the Like button
Philip Ellison 05 October, 2012 at 07:10
There was once a time when clicking “Like” on Facebook had no more significance than to simply show that you were amused by a friend’s status. Those days are long behind us now, though. These days, it appears, the Like button is no longer an expression of agreement or approval – it is a tool, and one that big businesses have very much taken to heart.
As any social media guru will tell you (and there are a lot of them out there), engagement is key to attracting visitors to your company’s page, and more importantly, converting that traffic into sales. But while a bright and friendly approach seems perfectly reasonable, many organisations seem to have gone somewhat overboard, focusing on gaining Likes through any means necessary, with less of a strategy when it comes to the subsequent call to action that will direct consumers to their website and generate cash.
That’s only one issue, though – the likelihood is that if you have managed to attain a high volume of Likes, then a proportion of those people will be genuinely interested in your products or services, and did not just click the Like button because you posted a picture of a cute bunny over Easter. A more immediate issue is that of credibility – have businesses lowered themselves in order to appeal to the masses?
In the BBC Business Daily Podcast last month, commentator Lucy Kellaway reeled off a list of reputable brands that are appearing more and more desperate to snag Likes and Shares by asking banal questions and uploading cheesy photos. These kinds of social media campaigns have been relentlessly parodied by “The Condescending Corporate Brand Page”, a spoof Facebook account which sources some of the more inane content used by companies to encourage engagement, and offers it up as the pointless comment fodder that it is. Unsurprisingly, pictures of cute animals abound.
Facebook Likes have been something of a controversial subject for a while now – if you type “Facebook Likes” into Google, three of the top five search results are links which offer you the chance to buy Likes. And while it’s hardly shocking news that businesses are willing to do daft (and less than scrupulous) things if it broadens their audience and leads to greater revenue, it doesn’t mean the consumer is obliged to go along with it.
After all, isn’t there a subtler way to cultivate brand awareness than to slap people around the face with it? US retailer Target recently acquired 69,000 new Likes, not by posting a promotional offer, but by begging for Likes on its 50th birthday. People surfing the net don’t want to be embarrassed or patronised. Resorting to stock images of kittens, or worse, what amounts to emotional blackmail (as with Target) is crass and unimaginative.
Perhaps if there were an incentive involved, some of that credibility could be garnered back. As Lucy Kellaway stated: “Quite why anyone would go on the Subway page, Liked by 16 million, and then give a thumbs up to a Photoshopped image of a ham sandwich, is beyond me.” But if clicking Like got me a discount on said sandwich, I’d at least think about it.