The Power of a Like

Facebook Like button

Several years ago, the word “like” referred to an emotion that expressed attraction towards a person, object, or activity. Today, with a feature introduced by Facebook, “like” is becoming an action, a verb, a publicly expressed fondness with the power to influence.

Although it seems like its been around forever, the Facebook Like button was first introduced in 2009. It enabled users to show their appreciation for their friends’ status updates, photos, shared links or notes with a click without thinking, typing, or user engagement. Almost a year later, the company expanded the feature to allow any publisher to include the Like button on their website, thus letting users share internet items that they enjoy, even when not on Facebook.

The year 2010 was when this button became visible on almost every webpage. When the Like button became popular on the web, many people were encouraged to use it. Nowadays, a post with no comments but with many ‘Likes’ is considered popular. Facebook’s Like button provides empowerment, a sign that people paid attention to a post.

The Like button means a variety of things to different people. For some, clicking the Like button literally indicates that a person agrees to or affirms a post. For others, using the Like button is a way of expressing unexpressed thoughts about the post’s content. There are also people who click the Like button as a sign of courtesy, using the button even if they haven’t read the post.

Compared to Facebook’s Share, the Like button is a more spontaneous feature that allows people to express their thoughts about a post without having to come up with a comment. The button allows site visitors and readers to bypass the methods of traditional commenting. The Like button helps build online relationships. Readers and site visitors can convey quiet appreciation for a post by clicking the Like button.

The Like button also provides a sense of belonging and existence. Being one of the 1000 individuals who ‘Liked’ a popular post is important for many people. There are people who justify their existence by the inclusion of their names on the list of people who Liked a post. This can give an individual the feeling that he or she belongs to a community.

For many, the Like button is a signal for people to build not just relationships but to grow connections, links and followings.

According to a research report carried out by Syncapse, users spend an additional $71.84 on products for which they are fans compared to those who are not fans. They are also 41 percent more likely than non-fans to recommend a liked product to their friends. Facebook’s like button is an integral part of social marketing, and should be thought of as a focal point of design and functionality, rather than something pasted onto a finished product.

But sharing is not the only reason the like button is so phenomenal. Although it does add steroids to the already quite viral concept of sharing, but the real long-term implication is the priceless data being collected. Facebook is gathering millions of valuable user-preference information from all over the web for free. The potential for granular interest targeting for advertising purposes means that Facebook will probably end up with an extremely detailed preference graph for its 800 million users, possibly competing with Google’s AdSense product.

Facebook is quickly becoming the sign-in mechanism and sharing engine for millions of websites. It is not hard to see why Google, the internet search giant, after several failed attempts at entering the social web market, launched Plus One. Plus One is Google's answer to the Facebook's Like button. Appearing as a small icon next to each search result, logged-in Google users can share their recommendations with contacts through their Gmail address book, Google Reader, and Google Buzz. Web publishers can also integrate the button into their websites. Plus One will soon begin to influence the ranking of sites within search result listings.

Yet, Google has a long way to catch up with Facebook. This April, Facebook celebrated the three years birthday of its “Like” button. Every day, an average of 10,000 new websites integrate with Facebook. Every month, more than 250 million people engage with Facebook on external websites. In the past year, more than 4 million websites have integrated with Facebook.

The Like button and Plus One can be seen in more and more websites, and currently known as the social sharing buttons along with Twitter, Digg, Reddit and others.

Cons

For some people, especially diligent writers and obsessive-compulsive website owners, see the button as senseless. Some of them prefer to have no commenting feature at all rather than have this button. For them, the button has no significant use and only clutters their websites.

It sends questions and contrasting ideas. The button can also create negative ideas to those who do not understand its concept.

For example, news on the internet about tsunami that happened in Japan have thousands of "Like". Should people “like” this photo? Would it be proper to click the Like button for the images of disaster? In this case, the Like button had different meanings for different readers. Either people are amazed by the photo, or they just want to express an emotion. Or perhaps, it is just the power of the Facebook's Like button.