by Jimmy Marks
Remember those notes you used to send to people in grade school with three check boxes and the text "Do you like me? Check one: Yes, No, Maybe"? You, a shy little kid, send your classroom sweetheart a little note to see if they liked you. Then maybe later you held hands on the playground. It was social media, version 0.2.
Fast forward twenty-some years (or more, in some cases) to now. In case you missed the past six years, social media - and specifically, Facebook - has made those little paper notes a big online enterprise.
The sweet little "do you like me?" note has been replaced by a very simple button that simply says "like" (or "recommend", in certain cases) with a thumbs-up. The three checkboxes for "yes/no/maybe" aren't really an option - if you like something, you like it, and click the "like" button shares the fact that you do with your friends and your network. If you don't like it, you don't click it. Silence, in that case, speaks volumes.
The "like button" for Facebook began as "Become a Fan", a button that drew links between a Facebook user and a product page on the site. For example, if Coca-Cola had a Facebook fan page (it does), I could click "Become a Fan" and on my profile page, it would say:
"Jimmy has become a fan of Coca-Cola."
Now, with the like button, a fan page is no longer necessary. I can put a like button on all our product pages and Facebook users can share that page via Facebook without having to find it on Facebook. So why does this matter to a business?
The like button launched last month and is now prominent on 50,000 websites across the Internet, according to CNN...and growing, no doubt. Many have raised questions about how the like button and the data that comes from clicking it is going to change the web. Privacy issues abound, specifically when it comes to "cross talk" between Facebook and other sites you use. This PC World article spells out an example - you use the like button to tell folks about a band you like, then music services like Pandora will start changing the music they play for you based on those likes. For most folks who have Facebook profiles, it's a grievance hearing about every person's every like. For people and businesses who are looking to reach specific groups and sell to them in a specific way, this little button is something you should definitely like.
First, there's the concept of free advertising. We've been talking for years to the business world about how the Internet is changing the game and this is the best example of that. Word-of-mouth is still your best bet for driving growth and encouraging cross-sales (see our DMI Blog post on NetPromoter Scores). How can you turn down 5,000 people liking you and sharing your content on the most popular site on the Internet?
Second, there's the mountain of available data that people are pouring out day after day. When you see who likes your business or product, you also see everything ELSE they like. In a "like-pool" of 500 people, 300 like iPods and iPads. Why not make that the giveaway for your eStatement enrollment campaign? Let's say 80% of them are over the age of thirty. Why bother hitting them with "off to college" campaigns and student lending materials? Sell to their interests. Stop blasting, start targeting.
Finally, there's the tradeoff of effort to payoff. Setting up a like button on your site (or sites) takes very little effort and can end up paying off if you develop a strong Facebook following out of it. We've already been over how to get going with "share" buttons, and the minimal effort necessary to get started. If you're a b-to-c, you officially have no excuse NOT to get going with social media sharing/liking links and buttons. It takes very little time and can have a big impact on your web initiatives. Go do it.
Those little notes from grade school have changed, but the feeling's still there. It's always good to know someone likes you, and it's always good to have proof of it. Maybe it's time you find out how willing people are to spread the word about your business - and time to make adjustments based on the results.
Your comments are always welcome.