May 16, 2011

Like to Be Liked

From big box brands to the local store around the corner, every marketer seems to be convinced that offering consumers the ability to LIKE a brand or service is a way to measure loyalty and build community.

It has become one of the new holy grails of marketing.

The LIKE button is everywhere.

Like us on Facebook, Follow us on Twitter, Check In to us on Foursquare...

The ravenous desire for a brand LIKE is quickly becoming a driving force behind many ad campaigns today.

It is now prominently displayed on television spots and outdoor ads, clamoring for your LIKE.

This new phenomena leads me to wonder, does a LIKE really mean people actually LIKE what they are LIKING?

Normative social influence says otherwise, there are conclusive studies that say what we do in public is often the opposite of what we really believe in private.

When a user clicks that LIKE button they are seemingly making a public, social proclamation that they endorse whatever that cute little blue thumb is attached to.

We all want to gain acceptance from people within our networks so we may intentionally LIKE or retweet something that we may not really believe in, we do this in order to gain greater social cohesion within our networks and this cohesion seems to make us feel closer than we actually are.

In reality many of us rarely see or interact face to face with the people in our networks, however we have a deep longing to maintain the relationship so that we may feel more secure about the amount of friends or followers we have.

The more friends and followers the more important we seem, at least to ourselves.

As marketers and advertising professionals we must really reconsider and try to better understand how valuable a LIKE or a FOLLOW actually is.

Solomon Asch, a trailblazer in social psychology, would conduct studies using social confederates as influencers to get people to conform with something that was obviously false.

These confederates would knowingly opt for the wrong decision and in doing so would cause the other unsuspecting participants to do the same.

However when the same participants were asked to make the same decision in private, many of them would opt to do the opposite of what they did in public because the pressure for social acceptance wasn't a factor.

Social conformity forces people to copy the behaviors of what individuals perceive as normal for the social network they are in.

In doing so they create for themselves a sense of comfort in knowing that the chances of becoming a social outcast is slim and that by participating in the interests of the network the user actually feels as if they are strengthening the network they so desperately want to be a part of.

Herbert Kelman, a Harvard psychologist, codified three major forms of social influence:

Compliance: a public conformity, while possibly keeping one's own private beliefs.

Identification: conforming to someone who is liked and respected, such as a celebrity or an industry thought leader.

Internalization: the accepting the belief or behavior and conforming both publicly and privately.

There have not been any conclusive statistics regarding the number of LIKES and the effect it has on a brand's bottom line, it is way to early to gather this information.

However I would like to raise the concern for the importance of LIKES or FOLLOWS or RETWEETS as a measurable metric of success.

We need to all step back and dig a bit deeper into the motivations behind social sharing and LIKES and try to figure out how these interactions actually impact a brand.

This will help marketers decide how much money to put behind efforts to gaining more LIKES and allow brands to spend their money more wisely and on more effective ways to gain consumer engagement and loyalty.

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