What do Facebook “likes” really mean?

What do Facebook “likes” really mean and how it might be time to come up with a new way to express what we “like”

By Alvaro Tassano, Sales Analyst at InterConnecta

Who hasn’t being asked a few dozen times by a friend or relative to “Like” a certain fan page or trending topic? It’s something we’ve all faced at some point, and what’s our reaction? Do we comply immediately without reviewing the request, or perhaps we take a closer look at what it is and make a rational decision on whether to cooperate or not. Maybe we just say we’ll “like” a page but really we don’t even click on the link to check it out. Let’s say we were nice enough to, at least, go to the page and see for ourselves. What’s our first reaction when we see the number of likes it has? Let’s hold that though for a minute.

Let’s talk first about some uses “likes” have in providing information for organizations. If we dig around one of the pages we’ve “liked” and go through it’s About section, we might encounter a section that reads: “Likes”. Here Facebook can show you some simple, yet informative analytics about the page. Where is this page most popular (city), who likes this page the most (age group) when was it last relevant (most popular week) You also get a graph projecting on a timeline the latest “like” activity. This is, of course, very basic, the  most powerful tool “likes”  provide is generating page association intelligence, which can accurately push new topics, products, organizations to you based upon previous selections you’ve made.

This is all nice, but all this information we’re probably never going to use. It doesn’t address the true essence of the “like” :  what do they mean to us?! Researching for this questions I found the only answers available are all the uses decribed on the above paragraph without going into the core of what likes actually stand for. I tried to do my best to elaborate an answer and this is what I came up with:

Remember the question we left off in the first paragraph? What’s our first reaction when we see the number of likes a web page has? Let’s go back to it now and let’s say the page we stumbled upon has a lot of likes.  How does that make us feel? It certainly gives us more confidence in that what we’re looking at comes from a reliable source. We might say something like: “Whoa, with these many likes, this must be good page for (cars, movies, photography, etc)”. A large number of likes gives any online content more “validity” and “authority”. These words are under quotations because, the only difference between those pages with a lot of likes and those that don’t, is the perception that we’ve created regarding those pages with a larger number of likes. In other words, why should you care about how many likes your fan page has? Because other people think is important, simple as that.

So if we reflect back to how many times you’ve loosely “liked” something just because someone asked you and how many of those likes might’ve being achieved the same way suddenly those “likes” start to lose validity. This is where I wanted to arrive with this blog post. Even though in the past, and maybe for the immediate future, “likes” are a reliable source to gauge validity and give authority to certain pages, I believe it’s time we develop a new method of recommending, accepting or “liking” a page.

Everyone’s caught on the importance of having a high number of likes, who knows how many methods or techniques there might be to implode that number in an artificial way. I’m no online developer and I certainly don’t have solution in place to use instead of the “like”, however I do think we have to analyze a little closer the pages we “like” .We should stop focusing so much on the likes, realize that size doesn’t necessary matter and that the number we see next to the blue thumbs up, is exactly that, just a number. 

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