Facebook is the originator of the “like” button. The little thumbs-up symbol that has spread through the web was originally invented as a way to respond to posts that other individuals put up on Facebook. If John Smith posted, “I love green eggs and ham,” you could press the like button to tell him that you either like that he posted that or that you also like eggs and ham. It’s simply a positive feedback mechanism.
Like has expanded well beyond the limits of individual users and the limits of Facebook itself. You can now like Pages on Facebook, which are often businesses or large websites, things that are not individuals at all. If I like a Page about a friend’s Etsy shop, the act of liking gets posted on my Facebook feed, so all of my friends can see that I liked the shop. This works as a form of word-of-mouth advertising for the business involved.
I also have the opportunity to see what my friends are liking, and to go peruse that, and the likes can then quickly become viral within the Facebook world. You can also like specific content that a business posts. If someone posted a pair of jeans or a necklace that I really liked, I can give it the thumbs up — it then posts on my feed and my friends have the opportunity to like it as well.
But I can also see ads for businesses on Facebook, many of which give me the opportunity not only to go to the external website of the company, but to like their presence on Facebook.
One of the neatest things that Facebook has done with the like feature, however, is to give it functionality outside of Facebook. On CNN, Levi’s, and any number of other sites, the thumbs up button is sitting beside articles, products, and just on the page itself.
It’s important to be careful, however. Many businesses flood their fans with tons of updates about their business, which often has the effect of driving them away, or having them hide you in their feed. While the viral marketing aspect is fantastic, you have to be careful not to oversell. People always have the ability to unlike any previously liked content, removing their connection to it entirely.
People are generally more likely to buy a brand that they have liked on Facebook, and 67% of business-to-consumer (B2C) companies have gotten new customers through Facebook. Liking is a very exploitable feature for businesses large and small. However, liking is not the same as an online review — it is very easy and doesn’t require very much involvement on the part of the user. There are other ways to get customers more involved with the product or businesses, and liking should just be one part of a larger online strategy for getting customer support and peer-to-peer marketing.