Introducing 'Like-hating' to the PR lexicon

The preoccupation with gaining Facebook "Likes" is waning at last.

The preoccupation with gaining Facebook “Likes” is waning at last. Likes have always been a clumsy indicator of business success, much less a brand's performance in social media. They appeal to social and competitive ego and status.

Yes, likes are a general indicator of advocacy for a brand. PR professionals often evaluate likes in terms of reach through impressions. However, likes are not an effective metric in themselves. Heck, they are not even the best metric to measure Facebook success.

Today, I am introducing “like-hating,” the doppelganger of like-gating, into the fluid, somewhat farcical lexicon of social media.

Recently, Facebook revised its EdgeRank formula, which determines how content propagates into the newsfeed. Overall, EdgeRank is based on three factors: affinity, weight, and relevancy. A Facebook post with a dozen comments will, in all likelihood, be displayed more prominently than a post that only has likes.

Essentially, Facebook rewards engagement, with likes quantitatively and qualitatively decreasing in importance. According to data released by EdgeRank in October 2011, its EdgeRank Checker reviewed 5,500-plus Facebook pages and analyzed more than 80,000 posts. The findings showed that the average clicks per comment were five times more than average clicks per like.

Remember, Facebook is not a strategy, just plumbing. However, Facebook is a tremendous driver of sharing referral traffic, accounting for 38%, according to a study by ShareThis. As a platform, Facebook has more ability to impact the national agenda than perhaps any other company, although Twitter and Google may also lay claim. This traffic is now increasingly correlating to sales. Fab.com's founder and CEO reported that 25% of its $1.1 million in Cyber Monday sales came from users acquired through Facebook.

The best indicator of the health of a Facebook page is actually engagement per post – how many people share, read, and watch posts on average – although there is a diminishing return for really large brand pages. We also study referral traffic, and the conversion to sales of these prospects from Facebook as well as theme coherence, to understand the resonance of our message in the marketplace.

As communicators, the goal is to satisfy objectives across the marketing loop — from awareness to consideration to acquisition to loyalty through the advocacy tail — depending on the client need. It is time that social media marketing expands beyond its perceived position at the top of the funnel (it is really a loop) awareness and reputation, and bottom of the funnel advocacy. We must focus on new verbs:

Learn: How to extract key learnings from Facebook on what, when, and how prospects and customers engage with the brand in order to apply these learnings across other marketing disciplines.

Retain: How Facebook serves as a customer-relationship tool, one of the best, to maintain communication in between points of purchase across the customer journey.

Sell: How PR drives sales - yes, sales - by applying earned, owned, and paid media integration through Facebook.

Like was always an odd choice for a term by Facebook. It lacks passion. I got my wife an “I Like You” bracelet for her birthday. Not good.

Curtis Hougland is founder of Attention.

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