Is anybody not hitting the 'like' button? Seemingly, everywhere you look on the internet you have the opportunity to say you like what you're seeing – even if what you're seeing is a ticket price way above face value for the Knicks (85 people) or that your best friend has just opened a can of beer (5 people).
It's easy to get carried away with the numbers. So easy, in fact, that we should indulge ourselves for a second: A recent study in the US and UK (by us, Ipsos OTX MediaCT) shows that two thirds of Facebook users had 'liked' something in the previous seven days. Not just one thing either – an average of five 'likes' a week.
Based on 151 million unique Facebook users (comScore data for USA, October 2010), that equates to 3 billion things being liked. Each month. And in the USA alone. That's a really big number, so you can see why you might think everyone is doing it, all the time.
But let's start over: On average, a Facebook user 'likes' five things a week.
Is that really a lot? What is a lot, when it comes to liking? Only five things a week make you happy enough to 'like' them? Perhaps this 'liking' isn't so ubiquitous after all. On this read, maybe there's actually quite a lot of discerning judgment going on. Perhaps we should look at what people are liking and why.
Status reports on beer consumption aside, around 1 in 4 have 'liked' content related to a TV show or movie in the past week. So realistically Facebook users are probably only 'liking' one or two TV shows or movies a week. It's not such a torrent of randomized 'liking' as it may seem at first glance. The people who 'like' your movie are potentially making it their 'movie of the week' – and telling their friends about it too.
Brands are lower down the list but, even so, more than 1 in 10 have 'liked' an ad in the last 7 days. The same number has 'liked' content (not ad-related) from a brand. Again, this may add up to several hundred million brand 'likes' a month but that isn't a huge amount per Facebook user (all 151m of them in the US).
Like many Facebook-related phenomenon, 'liking' is both really big and surprisingly small. En-mass the numbers look almost too big to contemplate and suggest a torrent of babble without much meaning. On the individual level however, the numbers are fairly small and suggest a more calculated set of judgments and recommendations on behalf of the Facebook user.
As a brand or content producer, understanding who is 'liking' your output helps you pinpoint your most important customers – the people who are selling your product on your behalf. 1 in 2 of these people 'like' something because, believe it or not, they really like that something and want their friends to like it too. Understanding the dynamics of 'liking' and focusing on those who tell you they 'like' what you are doing will become an increasingly important part of the marketing mix, particularly if the much vaunted explosion in 'social search' takes off any time soon.
The Ipsos OTX study was carried out online in the USA and UK in November 2010 using Ipsos's global online omnibus. In each country we spoke to a representative sample of 1000 adults aged 16-65 years. Full tabulated results available on request.
Kevin Thompson is SVP of Corporate Development for Ipsos OTX MediaCT in New York. A digital and social media expert, he has spoken at industry events such as MIPcom and the ARF and can be reached at email@example.com.
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