Do you ‘Like’ this?

Image Courtesy: Owen W Brown

How much can you read into social media interaction?

Scores of books have been written on interpreting words and body language. Yet, not much is known about the significance or meaning of the thousands of comments and endorsements that people post on social networking websites every single day. On the face of it, a ‘like’ appears to be such an uncomplicated concept. But then when you consider the numerous variations – approval, appreciation, endorsement, agreement, preference, enjoyment, the several degrees of a ‘like’ – love, adore, partly like partly dislike and of course the individual eccentric motivations behind a ‘like’ you realise that the story is actually not that simple at all!

Anatomy of a ‘Like’

Image courtesy: Luca Sartoni

Let’s consider the ubiquitous Facebook ‘like’ as representative of any one-click endorsement feature across the whole spectrum of social media websites. This ‘like’ should be number one on the priority list of an owner of a brand with any social media presence – simply because it’s the easiest thing to do and thus, implemented by the maximum number of users.

What is the one undisputable fact about a like? It always conveys something positive. But as involved and conscious marketers, we would prefer to delve deeper into that ‘something positive’ and use the knowledge to enhance our understanding of user behaviour. So here are the top five motivations for ‘liking’ something:

You agree with what the author says

The most common interpretation of a like, with respect to status updates, notes, articles – anything featuring the written word. This is usually the best thing to happen to a brand when the item being ‘liked’ is one you have yourself posted. However, when the agreement likes begin to mount on a negative comment, you have reason to worry about.

You like the subject that the author chose to comment on

A business news channel posted the new logo of Microsoft on its page and received over 50 likes. Strangely, most of the over 50 comments were negative responses to the logo. So why did so many people ‘like’ the post? It was because they appreciated the fact that the channel chose to share the item with them, and because they like knowing what’s happening with Microsoft, even it it’s something they don’t approve of. So don’t go jumping to the conclusion that a ‘like’ always means agreement.

You think ‘liking’ that particular item will reflect well on your profile

This isn’t good for you at all as a marketer but unfortunately, it’s pretty common among users and is a reflection of what we do in our real lives as well. You know those plain T-shirts with nothing much to boast of in terms of design or novelty, and yet find takers at exorbitant prices because they have a particular brand name emblazoned on the front? Well it’s good for clothing brands but not really good on the social media sphere. So I like a news item about crashing markets because I think it looks good on my profile and makes me look intelligent but in truth, I couldn’t care less. So always take your likes with a pinch of salt.

You don’t want to be a sleeping member

This kind of like isn’t really bad but it doesn’t mean much either. Members of a page or group don’t want to appear insignificant. So they make their presence felt now and then by liking a few random items. So if you’re an online retailer who posts previews of new items on your social media profiles and you get over a 100 likes but only a couple of real purchases, don’t be surprised. It’s simply easier to like something than part with cold, hard cash.

The 100 other likes convinced you that the item was something worth liking

Ah, herd mentality – the bane of human existence! But this can be really good when you want to build mass support or gather numbers. So bribing a few friends to like your page can pay off in the long run as it may encourage potential customers to like your page as well. Because nobody really likes to be the first to like something!

Turning Interpretation into Results

So now that you know what a ‘like’ can mean, how do you use that knowledge to reap better results on your social media marketing efforts? When it comes to comments, there is not much to read into. The facts are clearly stated – it’s either a complaint or a vote of approval – in any case, something you know well how to respond to. Here are a few pointers for leveraging ‘likes’ better:

Look at them in conjunction with comments

Your ‘likes’ will be easier to interpret when you don’t look at them in isolation. Did a user ‘like’ your product photograph but post a not-so-encouraging comment? His criticism may be valuable for you – because that’s an intelligent customer who likes what he sees, yet not blindly.

Use them to attract users to where the money is

So everyone keeps ‘liking’ the news updates but no one’s buying the newspaper. Attract them with words like ‘To know more grab a copy of…’ or better still, be even more specific ‘Find out how touch-sensitive this phone is by visiting the nearest store’. Give away only the teaser in your free updates and leave your fans wanting more.

Introduce more buttons

Take a leaf out of the book of blog templates. Most posts have any number of different options you can click on – ‘Funny’, ‘Interesting’, ‘Boring’. Give your users more than a simple ‘like’ option and If you can swallow the truth, give them negative options as well. It’s actually more fun for users when they can express their precise thoughts.

Give directions

A lot of funny photographs come with instructions like ‘Share this if you agree. Like if you laughed!’ That’s pure genius! You’ve immediately created a difference between the ‘share’ and the ‘like’ option. Do the same with your brand posts and acquire better insights into why your fans do what they do!

And if you ‘like’ this article, please don’t forget to leave your comments!