The Real Power of “Like”

It was only in April that Facebook introduced the seemingly innocent “Like” button. But now the real power of “Like” is becoming clear. It didn’t take very long for online marketers to figure out that the real meaning of “Like” from the perspective of the consumer: “I’m a target for a particular brand or product.”

Tom Wentworth, VP of Business Development for technology company Ektron, which develops products that tailor visits for corporate websites, tells Ad Age, “Facebook is becoming the loyalty card of the Internet, just like your key chain.” Indeed, according to Ad Age, that’s not far off the mark, if marketers’ use of the “Like” button is any indication.

Ad Age cites TheFind.com, a shopping search engine, as an example. TheFind prominently displays the Facebook login box on its home page for a good reason. Siva Kumar, CEO and co-founder of TheFind, tells Ad Age that “Facebook Like lets the site tailor search results to user preferences without having to collect that information itself.” In fact, a Facebook user who logs in to TheFind can go to a “Shop Like Me” area on the site that brings up results based on stores or brands they picked via the “Like” button.

In effect, the “Like” button becomes a marker representing a consumer’s affinity for a particular brand (hence Tom Wentworth’s likening Facebook to a loyalty card). Of course, it’s one thing to “Like” a brand – there are, for instance, two million Facebook users who “Like” Nike. But how useful is that information when it comes to product targeting?

Ask Levi’s about that. Ad Age says Levi’s uses Facebook’s “Like” functionality on its website to identify which specific products and styles Facebook users like. Levi’s also makes it possible to “see all the jeans your friends have liked.”

Okay, now we’re getting somewhere. Imagine if online marketers really knew which individual products and services consumers preferred and could dynamically serve up relevant information tailored to those likes. Urban Outfitters is doing that already, ranking products for shoppers based on their Facebook likes.

Take this a step further and you can see the business opportunity for firms like Vitrue, which gives marketers the ability to direct messages to consumers based on their likes. Vitrue’s “social relationship management platform” uses Facebook “Like” information to turn marketing campaigns into “conversations,” as the company says. So, for example, if a particular consumer likes a specific product, the marketer can send a coupon related to that specific product to that particular consumer.

When you think about it, the process is akin to the traditional practice of getting a consumer to answer a survey about their likes and dislikes and then tailoring a marketing message to the responses. It’s also not unlike the recommendation engines that analyze a consumer’s purchases and recommend additional products based on buying patterns.

But the big difference is the level of consumer commitment. It takes little effort on the part of the consumer to press a “Like” button. If, by doing so, the consumer now signals to an online marketer that this represents the consumer’s buying preferences, it is a powerful piece of data to have.

What are the implications? In an insightful article discussing the “Like” button shortly after its introduction, ITWorldCanada.com’s Dan Tynan wrote:

“What I keep thinking is that corporations spend tens of millions of dollars trying to figure out what consumers like. Facebook is getting this information for free. What will it do with this data, down the road when everyone is used to reflexively hitting Like? If you believe they aren’t thinking about the buckets of money they can make from this in years to come, you are living in a dream world, my friend.”

With half a billion users, you can bet Facebook is leveraging data from its users and making it available to marketers. That’s the real power of “Like.”

About Barry Silverstein

Barry Silverstein is a freelance writer/marketing consultant. In addition to writing for ReveNews, he is a contributing writer to Brandchannel.com, the world’s leading online branding forum. He is the author of three marketing books, The Breakaway Brand (co-author, McGraw-Hill, 2005), Business-to-Business Internet Marketing (Maximum Press, 2003) and Internet Marketing for Technology Companies (Maximum Press, 2003). Barry ran his own Internet and direct marketing agency for twenty years. You can find Barry on Twitter @bdsilv.