Last week, Facebook made some changes. Depending on the slant, they either “seized control of the internet” or basically sewed buttons on everything in sight. A lot of the changes were under the hood, but I’d like to focus on the shift from the ‘Become a Fan’ to the ‘Like’ feature, along with the accompanying proliferation of Like buttons across the internet.
Do you like-like me, or do you just like me?
On users’ profiles, Pages are public: they’re broadcasted endorsements of brands, causes, ideas, and organizations. They are, like all the other pieces of profiles, one of the building blocks of a Facebook identity. On the old Facebook, ‘becoming a Fan’ of something meant consciously endorsing that thing as part of your digital identity.
That’s a high bar for engagement: it meant that Fans were clear advocates for the brand and interested in ongoing interaction (with the exception of Fan-building contests).
Meanwhile, we all got used to ‘liking’ our friends’ status updates, conversations, and links. ‘Liking’ something was the Facebook equivalent of smiling at it, nodding vigorously, or giving it a hug.
The Result? People ‘liked’ things more often than they became ‘Fans.’ So Facebook, cleverly, decided to parlay the habit of ‘liking’ into Pages. Now there’s no semantic difference between liking your friend’s graduate school acceptance update and liking the Coca-Cola Company. The only difference is the resulting engagement: one of those will be published publically as an endorsement and enable continuing communication, and the other remains a casual expression of congratulations. It’s like a flashback to 6th grade, when it was easy to spend entire bus rides explaining that you liked that guy, but it didn’t mean you like-liked him. Totally different, guys.
So what’s the difference, anyways?
For brands, this means that the barrier to Facebook engagement is much lower. Pages are likely to wind up with more Fans, but they will be less committed to the engagement. ‘Liking’ will be more common, but it will mean much less. This is good for companies for whom liking is enough—Coca-Cola, Sketchers, the Seattle Mariners—but less good for companies who count on deep engagement to build relationships and share content—the New York Times, consulting companies, financial organizations.
The “like” feature could become the next big marketing thing, or it could lose all meaning. For the marketers who rely on measurements like number of Fans, it’s going to require a reassessment of what that number means. For consumers, it could mean a backlash when they realize that ‘liking’ things grants access to news feeds.
Would you rather ‘like’ something or become a fan? Do you read ‘Pages’ as endorsements? How much engagement are you committing to when you like something? How much engagement do you hope others are committing to when they ‘like’ your Pages?
Speaking of which: do you like us?
Or do you like-like us?