There was time when ‘like’ meant something. When I said that I like Nike, I meant that I have experienced the brand, felt all the associations and now have a favourable opinion of it. My opinion was backed by solid thought and genuine feeling. But along came Facebook and changed the entire meaning of the word ‘like’. Marketers can no longer be sure whether their customers truly like the product or whether the word has entered urban slang where words no longer reflect their true meaning. But it has certainly not dissuaded them from clambering after ‘likes’. And when it comes to companies, collecting ‘likes’ has almost become a hobby.
The concept of ‘like’ needs to be understood first. It was designed as a means to display one’s favourable opinion about pages, comments, photographs, movies and the like. So one could search and ‘like’ something, one could ‘like’ something in the course of browsing or one could ‘like’ something that was recommended by a friend. This last concept was especially a powerful one from a marketing perspective since it was a recommendation from a trusted source, an online version of word-of-mouth marketing. But unfortunately, it did not quite work out the way it still does in the offline world. There, it takes a great deal of effort to go about recommending something. And because of that, it carries value.
In the online world, recommending has become easier. And so has ‘liking’ whatever has been recommended. But the ‘likes’ have little or no value. Think about it. Someone recommends that I ‘like’ his page. I don’t care, but it’s just a click of the mouse. So I go ahead and do it anyway. But what does it entail? Nothing really. Just another page I ‘like’. Yes, I shall now start getting updates from his page in my feed. But so what? I don’t have to read them. ‘Like’s have becomes just that. A click of the mouse. But there is no real motivation for me to act on my ‘likes’ for the most part. I may have my pet ‘likes’ (very few), that I do follow, but most of the others are simply hollow entries that at most add a little coolness factor to my profile.
The battle for ‘likes’ is in many ways nothing more than a popularity contest. The company or personality that has the most ‘likes’ wins. But what exactly is the prize? There seems to be no way of monetizing these ‘likes’. If you say that companies with large numbers of ‘likes’ will attract advertisements, think again. All in all, ‘likes’ are nothing but a feel good tool but one that doesn’t offer any practical value.
Image Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/smemon/5684115572/