The Price of a ‘Like’

This blogpost is Part 2 of ‘Wrapping up 2012’, a series of blog posts about what’s been happening in the world of social media, and what we’ve learnt from it this year. 

‘I’m not a number, I’m a free man.’ sings Bruce Dickinson of Iron Maiden, ‘inspired’ by ‘The Prisoner’, a TV show  that was broadcast some 20 years before I was born. The show is about a secret agent who’s captured by people he once served and his vehement assertion that he’s not an integer (like 007) but a human being (unlike 007). In the post Facebook world, this assertion is getting harder to make.

When you join Facebook, it gives you a number, a unique number that tells Facebook that you are, in fact, you (called ‘FB id’). It also does this for pages, whether they represent musicians, artists, cartoon or brand. When you ‘like’ a page, it understands you have related yourself to another number. When you like a joke, comment on a video, share a picture or post ‘lol’, it generates a number for each and relates one to another. Facebook is numbers.

It is these numbers and the interrelations between them (also called the ‘Social Graph’) that marketers love. Those little numbers, tell us who you are, what you like, where you went yesterday and who you may be getting into a relationship with. You, in effect, ARE a number. For brands, these numbers get translated into the number of ‘likes’ they have. Those in turn, get conflated into ‘Oh, only 100 likes, this brand must suck’ or ‘Wow 100.000 likes! This brand rocks’.

But what to do those numbers (likes) based on other numbers (you) mean?

As a Social Media Agency, at BlueAnt Digital Intelligence, we often get phone calls in which prospective clients offer breathtakingly small amounts to buy large number of likes for their pages. It’s a trend that bewilders me. What do these clients do with the likes? Will the numbers make them ‘famous’? Will it get them an Oscar? Will their parents love them more? For me, it means a lot of money spent on reaching out to people who don’t exist, wont buy your product/service, who won’t promote you via word of mouth. Its just a number that feeds your vanity.

There are enough people who would like to pay for these numbers. As a publicly listed company, Facebook must now start earning some serious money. In October 2012, Facebook put the two together, launched the ‘promote’ feature. This lets you get those numbers, but there is twist, you now have to pay to reach to the people who’ve already liked your page and agreed to read updates from it. This is something you could do for free before ‘promote’ was launched. Along with paid advertising, the promote feature is a serious tool to get as many likes as you want. And yes, it works like a charm. However, it can get a bit annoying for people who want to reach out to an established like-base that can no longer hear them.

But once you’ve paid Facebook and got your numbers what next?

Without ‘engagement’, that is, people posting links, commenting on your posts, sharing them, linking their friends to them, a facebook page becomes desolate. A status free, interaction less, wasteland that half the world likes. The challenge then, is to keep those likes entertained, to get them to keep coming back, to talk to you and your brand, to get them excited about your product/service and may be even pay for it. You have to keep the numbers churning. That is and remains an exciting challenge.

And even with the ‘promote’ function, 2012, hasn’t changed that!



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