What’s in a Facebook ‘Like’? Not a Lot If You Have to Ask for It

Jillian Ney
Dr Jillian Ney Social Media Insight and Intelligence Consultant, Disruptive Insight

Posted on January 27th 2012

What’s in a Facebook ‘Like’? Not a Lot If You Have to Ask for It

I’ve had a rant on Twitter (@jillney) and now I’m turning to blogging about it.  I promise it will be a meaningful rant and I’m also thinking if I’ve had such a big reaction about people asking for Facebook ‘Likes’ then I’m sure you have too.


Have you ever asked for a Facebook ‘Like’?  I’m not talking about educating current clientsandcustomers that you are now on Facebook, I’m taking about full on asking people in groups to ‘Like’ your Facebook page.  Please no.  It’s even worse if you work in marketing and especially social.

I’m even more worked up about being asked for a ‘Like’ than usual because the posts author said: ‘part of my Facebook strategy is building the 'likes' on my Facebook page’ and ‘if you like my page I will like yours… we can help each other’.

In my last blog I spoke about the ‘why’ in social media.  So my question here is why?  Why is building Facebook ‘Likes’ by what will probably be non-interested semi-contacts be so important and a founding principle of your strategy?  The answer is it shouldn’t be.  There are much more beneficial ways to increase Facebook ‘Likes’.

Routes to Future Behaviour

There are two ways this could work.  By asking me to ‘Like’ your Facebook page I become aware that your company exists, nice ploy in large groups.  I see the benefit there.  Maybe some people ‘Like’ you because they now know you exist and really seem to like what you are doing.  Hurrah.

The other side of the coin.  I see that you will ‘Like’ my page in return and I ‘Like’ yours because well one extra number might look good.  Wrong.  I’ve only liked your page because you will ‘Like’ mine.  I’m not really that interested in what you have to say, I was being self-fulfilling when I ‘Liked’ you.  The chances are also pretty high that I stop your continual bombardment of my Facebook feed with your half assed attempts at engagement – you asked for my ‘Like’ after all. 

Just because people ‘Like’ us does not mean that our posts come up in their feed (we can hide them).  That person just becomes a number.  It seems like some may use these numbers as metrics to support the ROI of social to their company.  However if I’m not reading your posts or engaging with you then should I be included in that ROI assessment?  I’m never going to buy.

One Potential Up-Side

There is one up side to this if I don’t hide your posts.  As in traditional marketing, exposure increases familiarity which in turn increases recognition with your brand or company.  You have increased your chances of becoming part of the ‘evoked’ set when it comes time to make a purchase from a brand within your industry because of the repeat exposure to your posts.  So maybe in some cases asking for ‘Likes’ can turn conversations into sales – through exposure as in traditional marketing.

Back on Point

Asking for Facebook ‘Likes’ is not good and it is naïve to think that the number of ‘Likes’ is an essential element to a strategy.  You don’t know how many of those people are reading your posts, how many people you are reaching and changing behaviours of?  Engagement levels are slightly better but you still don’t know how many people are ‘lurkers’, who are listening, may be buying but are just not openly engaging on social media.  Or the ones who engage but don’t purchase.  It’s a conundrum.

I’m a bit prissy when it comes to my Facebook feed.  I use Facebook personally, not professionally.  For me to ‘Like’ a brand on Facebook I really need to have some kind of attachment to them.  Even then I sometimes hide the posts because of over engagement about topics that are irrelevant to me.

Personal Relevance

Personal relevance has always been a big element in marketing.  We generally only process the information that is relevant to us.  If you have asked for a Facebook ‘Like’ how sure are you that your content is going to be relevant to that person and that you can convert some aspect of ROI?

It’s a gamble.  At some stage you are going to have to measure success.  Will the numbers correlate to sales?  Is the social media strategy working?  If you have asked for ‘Likes’ from people who are not really interested in your company or brand how can you explain their lack of engagement, sales or support?

Work for the ‘Like’

I’d suggest working for the ‘Like’.  In this case the call for ‘Likes’ came in an online group.  Why not start to post in the group, talk to people, show your expertise in your area.  I am more likely to take notice of what you are doing this way.  I’m never going to ‘Like’ you if you ask me.  Show me why I should ‘Like’ you, show me how are you going to add value to me?  That is what customers of all types want to see.

I also won’t be ranting on Twitter or blogging about you asking for my ‘Like’.

So, four reasons why you shouldn’t ask for a Facebook ‘Like’:

  1. Asking and seeing an increase in ‘Likes’ does not mean your social media strategy is successful
  2. People liking you does not mean that they are reading your posts or interested in your company or brand
  3. If you ask for ‘Likes’ can you guarantee that your posts are relevant and add the intended value?
  4. If you are measuring social metrics asking for originally non-intended ‘Likes’ to increase numbers will skew your results
Jillian Ney

Dr Jillian Ney

Social Media Insight and Intelligence Consultant, Disruptive Insight

Dr Jillian is the first Dr of Social Media.  She is CEO of Disruptive Insight, a social intelligence consultancy who specialise in transforming digital noise into valuable insight for business.  Dr Jillian is also a visiting academic at the University of Strathclyde where she lectures on digital marketing and social media.

Dr Jillian's PhD research explored social consumer behaviour during an active purchase decision and how credibility of social content is determined.  As a result she has expert knowledge in the role social media plays during purchase decisions and in play, she can also accurately predict what content will hold increased influence in persuasion.

After her PhD, Dr Jillian developed cutting edge frameworks to segment and analyse social data for business.  Her input into the Yomego 'How to Value Social Advocacy' whitepaper has won her advocates in the digital marketing industry.  

Tired of the 'social media campaign' culture Dr Jillian, decided to create a consultancy that reflected her personal values and social media ethos.  After a chance encounter where a Glasgow taxi driver ridiculed Dr Jillian about her choice of career, she decided to maker her mission in life to increase the credibility and accountability of social media and emerging technologies in business. 

Jillian’s key goal is to use data led and behavioural insight to help businesses create shared value and exceptional experiences with their customers.

See Full Profile >


Food for thought - thanks, Jillian! Especially liked your four-point recap at the end. I'd be curious to know your stance on posts that ask for "likes" - aka "Click "like" if you enjoy xyz." Personally, I'm more in favor of posting engaging content that will make people click like because they genuinely enjoy and appreciate it. But it's hard to resist the results and high engagement rate when you make the ask...

Good Article. I agree with many points especially 1-3. However, irrelevant likes will not entirely skew social media metrics. With the recent facebook changes it is clear that what is way more important than likes, is the "talking about this number." This number can really fluctuate week to week, but it will give you a good idea of engagement. Also, looking in your insights you can see how many people on average you reach with every post. So for example, if you have 1,000 likes and you are only reaching 50 people on average per post then those extra like are complete trash. If you have 1,000 likes and you are reaching 500 people on average per post then those extra likes, no matter how you got them, will be beneficial merely because they increase your brand's visibility. Obviously both of the above cases are somewhat of the extreme.

Thanks for the comments!

@ Ipmikov - I'm with you on writing engaging content.  I understand the need for a call to action and maybe if they liked the content in that post they will like other posts and the content would be valuable. Extra push to click the 'like'?! I don't know if people would be influenced by this though or what their engagement would be like with other posts - some observation would be able to give a better indicator.

@jarreau - Good point! I didn't really consider the 'talking about' metric.  It would be interesting to see how many people use that as an indicator of popularity... I was just a bit awestruck about the strategy being to secure more 'likes' but you do make a great point. Thanks