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Industry Insight: Is There Value in Driving Facebook Likes?

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(From Forbes, September 27, 2012)
Just five years ago, the term “like” was simply a word to describe someone’s preferences. In today’s digital universe, the word’s meaning hasn’t changed, but its context has been transformed. Liking is now one of the primary ways people exert their tastes and preferences online, and it has created an entirely new conversation between consumers and brands.

When brands simply consider it from their own perspective, i.e. “what does a like mean to us?”, often times, the conclusion is: more likes=more customers=more loyalty. Increasing Facebook likes is now a standard marketing tactic incorporated in most, if not all, integrated marketing campaigns. Companies of all sizes spanning nearly every industry have devoted countless hours, dollars and resources to this one marketing tactic. Despite these extensive efforts, the worth of a Facebook like remains a mystery for many brands. When we acknowledge that more likes do not always translate to brand loyalty, we can begin to evaluate and analyze the Facebook like in a way that offers real answers and solutions.

After listening to our clients’ ongoing questions and assumptions surrounding this issue, we asked consumers directly. What are your preferences and habits when it comes to Facebook-liking, meaning, why do you like brands? How and when do you engage with brands on Facebook? What causes you to click the dreaded unlike button?

Our Lab42 study of 1000 social media users tackles these questions head on, and the findings are incredibly compelling for brands looking to further engage and connect with their target audience. We feel these insights alone will spur brands to re-evaluate and question the effectiveness of marketing tactics directed at their Facebook consumers, as the findings directly challenge the notion that more likes=more customer loyalty. For example, 46 percent have liked a brand that they have no intention of buying from, and of those, 52 percent liked a brand just to get a free item. Forty-six percent said they like brands even if they can’t afford the brand’s products.

While there’s no definitive answer of how every single brand should interact with their Facebook consumers to maximize the use of time, money and resources, we feel strongly that we’ve only begun to scratch the surface in truly understanding why consumers like specific brands and if their display of ‘loyalty’ on Facebook translates to a higher lifetime value.

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