Does “I Like” you mean I like you?By Digital Strategy — March 10, 2011 - 10:57 pm
About month ago, I was reading an article about Facebook’s “Sponsored Stories” and a reader’s comment made me think about the real meaning of Facebook’s “Likes”: “If Facebook is dare enough to put a “suck” button near “like”, I bet there will be way much more sucks than likes” (Comment #3). What does Facebook’s “Like” mean, really? How is it possible that Facebook’s “Likes” are increasingly becoming key performance indicators for assessing the success of a social media effort?
In many cases, maximizing the number of Facebook’s “Likes” would appear to be the end goal itself, rather than a mechanism to reach a specific business objective. This is the case of Oreo, for example, who launched a crusade to “set the first ever Guinness World Record for the most “Likes”. Clever or meaningless? “I like you” used to hold a reflective, substantial and weighty meaning: I agree with you—I feel we are compatible, like-minded, akin: similar (Definitions.net: “like—corresponding or agreeing in general or in some noticeable respect”). Is this effort really helping Oreo become “the world’s most “Liked” cookie?
Does Facebook’s “Like” lessen the enchantment that lies behind the supportive quality of liking something? Some recently conducted research proposes that people “Like” a brand on Facebook mostly to get deals, promotions and freebies. Which suggests that people who “Like” you may note necessarily like you, but want to get access to you. This same report advises consumers having either “unliked” or removed a company’s posts from their Facebook News Feed over eighty percent of the time. Does this mean that they don’t like the brand anymore or that they simply got what they were looking for? If Oreo gets these many “unlikes”, will they also proudly make it to the Guinness Record for the most “unliked” brand? Will the Oreo cookie become the most “unliked” cookie in the world?
What’s more, Facebook’s “Likes” seem to be the preferred method employed by discontent consumers to get a seat on your Wall and post on your page. And here is the paradox: people who seek to post their “hate you” message on your Wall need to “Like you” first. “Like”, again, may imply “I want something from you: Your attention”.
I do not tend to imply that there aren’t examples of brands that people like and “Like”. There are a few: the ones that people proudly carry as badges in their quest for building their personal brand identities. Brands that people want others to identify them with. Same brands for which the question: “will you wear that logo on your t-shirt?” will always be “Yes!” Also, I am not trying to discourage the use of “Likes” as a marketing vehicle to build a fan base. What I am suggesting is that the number of “Likes” alone (and see how the term is always used in quotations) should not be the end goal.
As new digital platforms emerge and gain popularity, new words come to light. In the process of adding new words, dictionary editors carefully monitor our vocabulary and its usage. Blog, for example, was added in 2005. Ringtone and Wi-Fi in 2006. In 2009, hashtag and unfriend made it to the dictionary. Otherwise, how would you refer to the act of removing someone as a “friend” on a social networking platform? Will Facebook’s “Like” definition (“Like—I want something from you”) eventually find its way into our lexicon? Time will tell, but until then, we should keep reminding ourselves what it really means.