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What's the meaning of 'Like'? Research reveals insight into Facebook 'Like' button


By Katie McQuater, Magazine Editor

November 2, 2011 | 4 min read

Research by ExactTarget has revealed that brands should be careful not to overestimate the importance of Facebook’s ‘Like’ function.

The report looked into the meaning of the ‘Like’ function; how consumers use ‘Like’ on Facebook and on other sites; what consumers expect after they ‘Like’ a page on Facebook, and how marketers are getting it right – and wrong – on Facebook. The ‘Like’ button is a useful tool for engaging consumers, but the report suggests marketers should not necessarily interpret ‘Like’ as permission to market.Key findings of the research include:
  • 45 percent of Facebook users say they 'Like' a company at least monthly, while 35 percent say they never 'Like' a company.
  • 44 percent 'Like' something posted by a company on Facebook at least once a month.
  • 'Like' is not the same thing as permission – 15 percent say 'Liking' a company’s Facebook page should be interpreted as permission to post marketing messages that appear in a user’s news feed, while 39% say their 'Like' should never be interpreted as permission.
  • Younger consumers (age 18-26) tend to use 'Like' for self-expression and public endorsement of a brand.
  • Consumers 27 and older are more likely to expect something of value.
  • Among people that have 'Liked' at least one brand, 31% have avoided 'Liking' more brands because they do not want to push things into their friends’ newsfeeds.

How do Facebook users use the 'Like' button?

How does consumer age affect the use of 'Like'?

The meaning of the ‘Like’ button is dependent on the context in which it is used, with the study finding that ‘Like’ becomes more complicated when applied to brands. The research found that a consumer’s age is significant in determining what ‘Like’ means in this context. Younger consumers (15-24) tend to use ‘Like’ as a purpose of public endorsement of a brand. They consider it a worthwhile bonus when they receive coupons or deals from the company as a result of their ‘Like’, but accessing these deals is not their primary motivation for “Liking” companies.Consumers aged 25 and up, however, are more likely to expect something of value in exchange for their ‘Like’. These individuals are less interested in general company chit-chat, and are more likely to quickly ‘Unlike’ companies that do not follow up with discounts, relevant product information, or exclusive offers.What happens after ‘Like’? 58% of Facebook users surveyed who have ‘Liked’ at least one brand stated that they expect to gain access to exclusive content, events or sales after clicking the ‘Like’ button. The same percentage expressed the expectation that they would receive discounts or promotions through Facebook. People who ‘Like’ more than 11 or more brands are far more likely to expect some reward for their ‘Like’ – 70% of these respondents expect rewards, compared to 53% of those who ‘Like’ 10 or fewer brands.

Does ‘Liking’ a brand give permission to be marketed to?

The research found that 56% of respondents indicated that marketers should not access even public profile information after they “Like” a company on Facebook—but as with other results of the survey, the attitudes vary with age. Facebook users aged 25-34 are most comfortable with allowing marketers to access their public profile information, but are largely against the practice. Only 24% believe marketers should access their information, compared to 47% who think they shouldn’t. (The remaining 29% are undecided.) Users aged 45 and up are strenuously opposed to marketers using their information, with 70% saying marketers should not access their public profile information, and only 10% raising no objection.What can marketers do to stay on the right side of ‘Like’?
  1. Set the right expectations for users… and deliver on them.
  2. Stay in touch, but don’t over-communicate.
  3. Reward fans for their loyalty.


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