Several times a month we get the question, “how do I get more likes on my Facebook page?” Our go-to answer for a while was, “boost high-quality posts, create engaging content, and interact with your Facebook community and you’ll naturally get more likes,” followed by a somewhat lengthy, “please try not to pay attention to how many likes you have… ” explanation. Regardless of our explanation, clients continue to place importance on likes, measuring the metric month over month as a sign of success. It wasn’t until one client said, “but wait, if only a small percentage see what I post, WHY does Facebook still have the Like button on a page AT ALL?!”, that we began to wonder the same thing. Folks, here is the explanation behind the like button and why it doesn’t really matter all that much anymore.
The Beginning of Brand Pages (and Likes)
Once upon a time, there was a company called Facebook who decided to, in addition to letting people virtually network through individual profiles, allow businesses to create pages to promote their goods and services.
In the very beginning of business page world (circa 2008), getting users to “like” your page was super important. Aside from showing the world how popular a business was in the way of likes, it also allowed them to broadcast anything they put on their business page to all those likers (fans).
The Decline of Organic Reach
But, time passed and the ‘ol Facebook began offering DIY ads to these pages, and around the same time, page owners learned that many (most?) of their fans weren’t seeing the things they were posting! Here they were putting all this time and effort into making sure they posted every day, and it was falling on deaf ears!
Savvy business page owners did some research and found out that this was happening on purpose! By this point, Facebook was estimating that 18% of business page fans (at most!) were going to see the posts organically (translation: without paying for them to be seen)!
Business page owners did what any smart marketer would do and they kept on posting, but they added another strategy to their Facebook marketing plan: create ads and spend a little ad money so posts WOULD be seen. Problem solved: this new-fangled “paid reach” strategy meant that select business page content would be delivered to anyone Facebook served the ads to. If the ad recipients enjoyed the content, they’d like the page! Hooray!
Fast forward a few more years and the “organic reach” began to dwindle further. By this time, on average, only 2-5% of the precious fans business pages had worked so hard to earn were seeing posts organically. As if that wasn’t bad enough, there was news traveling through the grapevine that in the future, 0% of business page fans would see posts organically .
Page owners kind of understood… Facebook is a business. It’s in the game of making money, so of course, they want as many businesses as possible to pay to be seen. But WHY, they asked, WHY are we still asking people to like our pages?! Why does it matter if people like our pages anymore???!
Marketers call page likes “ a vanity metric.” It feels good to see a large number of fans, but it really doesn’t mean much beyond that. So, why does Facebook keep this seemingly antiquated measurement even though they don’t intend to use it to our advantage? The answer is scientific in nature and is actually quite brilliant.
The History and Science Behind the “Like” Button
Back when the business page craze began, Facebook began recording every “like” a user clicked and began building a database. If Sally liked the Main Street Farmers Market page, the Bob’s Organic Meats page, and the local Whole Foods page, what would Facebook now know about Sally? That she is interested in locally grown foods? That she is into natural and organic living? That she likes to shop local? That she prefers living a healthy lifestyle? Yes, yes, yes, and yes. With each page and post Sally liked, a new piece of consumer behavior was unveiled.
Through “likes”, Facebook began building a history of everything every user was interested in. Their every “like” was being added to their profile and measured, eventually being compared against other users to find patterns and correlations; links between interests that could reveal detailed insights into who these users are and what they’re interested in.
Over the years, Facebook collected ALL this “like” data, partnered with third party data providers, developed a tracking pixel, and tracked everything its users clicked, downloaded, filled out, and bought… all in an effort to create the most robust marketing reach out there. And it worked. The like button became an important and valuable data source and the social media giant now has an immense wealth of data about its users, allowing marketers to target specific audiences that are likely to be interested in specific products and services.
But, we digress…
The Fall of The “Like”
Over time the “like” began losing its value.
The first decrease we saw in the value of page “like” status happened during the great Newsfeed Algorithm change of 2013. This change altered the way content was shown to users based on an increasingly complex array of factors, of which those all-important “likes” were only one part of, and they lost quite a bit of value.
The “like” lost value again with the creation of the “unfollow” button. Now a user could “like” a page, but they didn’t have to follow it. So, theoretically, if a page had terrible content but the followers consisted of friends and family trying to be supportive of the business, those followers could “unfollow” the page and would never see the content again. BUT the page “likes” would be the same, giving a false sense of achievement to those who still used that metric to measure success.
What Do “Likes” Mean in a Modern Facebook World?
Knowing all this, what do Facebook page “likes” actually mean anymore on the modern day Facebook? Are they still a relevant measure of popularity? A good KPI? Anything?
Yes and no. For brands, post “likes” are still valuable – they define how far the reach of their content will go. They also help to indicate audience response, which Facebook can then measure and take into account when assessing a business page’s performance.
But page “likes”, as you may have hypothesized, are a lot less valuable than they once were- especially considering that having lots them doesn’t necessarily mean your message is getting through.
What DOES Matter on Facebook?
If page “likes” don’t matter, what DOES matter on Facebook now?!
It’s the engagement of content that really defines a business page’s reach and response. Generating engagement with the content posted is the best way to reach the most amount of people, build interest and engagement, and generate brand awareness, leading to more authentic page “likes” (not that it matters though, right….)
While the “like” was once a crucial currency of Facebook- evidence of your popularity, and importance- now days, getting people to “like” a page might inflate vanity stats, but it won’t necessarily mean that more people are going to see more of the page’s content, something that businesses should be aiming for. Because ultimately, interaction = engagement = a measurable sign of interest in a brand.
Want to jump-start your Facebook presence? We’d love to help you with your content stategy. In fact, we’ll do it for you. Contact us to find out how.
Who is J. Eckmann?
J. Eckmann (or, Jakki) is a content strategist, who specializes in communicating brands through the power of diversified content marketing. Knowing that there is a giant gap between traditional marketing and current digital marketing trends (think SEO), I believe it is imperative to ensure companies bridge that gap! By providing a comprehensive content strategy, it is my goal to show my clients first-hand how content can help them achieve their business goals.