At the turn of the decade in 2009 and 2010, Facebook likes were the new hot item on the online marketing agenda. The social media giant would enjoy an incredible boom and suddenly a consensus developed that every business from every niche had to have a Facebook page and garner as many likes as humanly possible.
What we had created was a digital arms race – who could climb to the top of the mountain the fastest?
Taking some time to reflect on this trend and the evolutions that have taken place in this space since, the picture today is not as clear in 2018. Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, LinkedIn and others have flooded the social media environment and enterprises are finding new and innovative ways of achieving their revenue targets.
While most of the domineering brands on social media will see a correlation between the most likes and the most amount of customer cut-through, the dynamic for smaller and emerging companies is far more complex. Rather than focus on the Facebook popularity contest, they are utilising Facebook’s advertisements, Google Adwords and executing clever keyword strategies to score actual dollars and cents.
So on the one hand we have an incredible portal that is open to billions around the planet where content can be easily shared and promoted. On the other we have ways and means of fast-tracking success by focusing on the call to action and end result. Two different schools and thought and philosophies competing against each other.
Bottom line – what works? Is the Facebook like now a myth? How are business owners and social media marketers supposed to make sense of this landscape?
Let us weigh up the positives and negatives of this equation to decipher if the Facebook like is a worthy investment for your brand.
Why Facebook likes matter
Despite the dissenting voices, there are reasons why businesses continue to throw resources at Facebook to achieve more likes by the day.
Online support portal
The best business operators are those that can listen, understand, interpret and empathise with their consumers. This is where the department of customer service comes into play as many professionals see this area as a make or break for brands who espouse that they listen to their base, but don’t follow through with actions.
Short of designing a complete customer service operation that comes with a call centre, email network and support team for technical issues, social media helps to fill a void. Regulars can find the Facebook page as a means of asking a question or leaving feedback – offering a free and secondary platform for companies to connect with their consumers.
The top performers will have their response rate rated, giving visitors and regulars a first hand insight into how important Facebook is on their list of priorities.
Free marketplace for content
Marketing professionals are always judged on their return on investment (ROI). In other words, can they generate more income compared to the resources they are given through clever strategies and identifying gaps in the market?
For a Facebook page, the $0 start up and ongoing maintenance fee is an enticing one. Who can predict if this will remain the case in the future, but the ability to upload your brand name and have it on a platform that is home to 15 million monthly active users in Australia alone illustrates the capacity for visibility, exposure and growth.
It is almost impossible to find another resource that can offer that scope of potential, overtaking traditional means of business directories via the Yellow Pages, radio spots, television commercials and print advertising.
The challenge derives from the establishment phase where companies have to start without any likes or connections on Facebook. As this expands organically, the only expense to outlay content and connect with consumers is human capital.
Allows for in-depth analysis
We have outlined how the free entry and use of the Facebook page is one attractive proposition. Well this extends further with the help of Facebook Business Audience Insights, giving domain owners the ability to track an entire range of information that is useful for marketers.
Accessing key data is imperative to understanding where brands are achieving their outcomes, but also missing out on opportunities. The Audience Insights allows enterprises to monitor the following:
- Demographics of age and gender
- Shared events
- Page like count
- Location of users
- Lifestyles, likes and hobbies of the audience
- Purchasing and click-through behaviour
These facts and figures are correlated into categories so businesses can begin to build a portfolio of their customer profiles. Usually this degree of analysis requires the hiring of specialists or third party contributors to understand the how’s and why’s of a campaign.
By implementing a Facebook page and pushing for likes, you have the capacity to oversee just how your consumer base interacts.
Builds on “brand loyalty” concept
When you break down the very concept of marketing, analysts want to examine the tangibles – how much are we earning compared to what we invest? Where are we seeing content that is generating discussion points and enticing new visitors? How is this brand performing when seen through the prism of a spreadsheet?
This is where the concept of “brand loyalty” stands isolated, a textbook phrase that has more to do with the intangible elements of an enterprise.
Facebook likes in this respect are an indication of that very thing – brand loyalty. Are real world customers who buy a product or service willing and able to utilise their Facebook account to track new content and updates from that very same brand? It is clear to deduce that a small to medium business who can boast a large Facebook following is meeting the benchmark of brand loyalty, hosting a community of people who are more likely to make purchases and be active with the company than their competitors.
Boosts SEO score
In a roundabout way, Facebook likes help to accelerate search engine optimisation (SEO) performance. We say a roundabout way because the pure numbers of likes do not work in parallel with a search engine ranking, factoring in as one of many reasons why a URL will be high or low on the agenda.
What drives this domain is the ability to score traffic from sources of relevance and authority – placing a Facebook page in the upper echelon of outlets that can provide actual value. The more likes that a page has, the greater the capacity to drive a successful content strategy and filter traffic through to the website, all affecting the SEO status in the interim.
Why Facebook likes are overrated
Having made the case in the affirmative, let us outline why a growing section of marketers are becoming increasingly skeptical of the Facebook like and its currency in the current climate.
Paid advertisements score more cut-through
If we are talking Facebook and its connection to marketing, then in 2018 we are discussing Facebook advertisements. Page likes have taken a back seat because the latest reports tell professionals that the $1 per day minimum spend on an ad boost equates to an average of $0.25 per 1,000 impressions. This is officially the cheapest means of achieving 1,000 impressions for anything across the globe right now.
Therefore you do not need a PhD in economics to understand the power of Facebook’s advertisements. The cut-through with the consumer base is all-encompassing and added to this is the benefit of filtering for age and location demographics.
Expectation of free content
Brands that go to the trouble of operating a Facebook page for hundreds or thousands of followers need to constantly update. The site will poke and prod the user to keep the routine up, offering free articles, videos, photos or anything that feeds into the machine.
What does this actually achieve though? Regulars who are accustomed to tapping into free content are not enticed to follow through on genuine purchases and what’s worse, there is an expectation that content will be provided for free regularly.
Brands that can mix their free and paid-for content are best placed to formulate a strategy that works, but this is a difficult balancing act to master.
Likes = image for vanity owners
By the time you have set up the page, uploaded the brand logo, set up the contact information, included the Facebook icons across your webpage and other online outlets, sent the word out to customers to like the page and then begin the content process, how far could you get with other marketing endeavours?
The advertisements are proven to be a better quality source of revenue despite having to invest actual dollars in the process. Then there are methods external to Facebook that generates success, all focusing on delivering organic growth.
Those who shy away from Facebook in this race for likes make the argument that the exercise is for the vain. It is a boost to the ego and elevates the status, yet it is not the fastest or the most efficient pathway to expansion.
As we can glean from this list of pro’s and con’s, the domain of Facebook likes is a mixed bag. Overall, it is advised that you invest a portion of your marketing efforts into this project, because the costs are low and the consumer base can be catered as a pool of shoppers and visitors ready to absorb your content.
Depending on your individual circumstances, demands and timeframe for growth, it would be wise to spend more energy into Facebook advertisements than feeding a page for the purposes of increasing the like count.
It will be useful to open up communication pathways and take pressure away from developing a customer service network, yet the end goal for any brand should not be about the like metric.
Kieran is the Social Media Manager and SEO Expert at SEO Shark. He is an expert in Social Media, link building, PPC and of course SEO. In his time off work Kieran enjoys reading and playing rugby, as well as following all kinds of sports! You can read some more of his articles here.