Tags: Posted in social web 4 Comments

Since Facebook pushed the ‘like’ button out into the wild, they’re on almost every site.  On the surface it’s a simple mechanic, which actual does a number of things: you express a simple positive preference for whatever it is (be it a photo, a website, a page within Facebook…almost anything) and this shows up on your profile, will appear in your news feed (so all your connections will see it) and, in circumstances like Facebook pages, you’ll then be following their updates.

Not only does this simple action actually do slightly different things dependent the context it’s used in but the implications of your action aren’t that clear.

For site or page owners, it’s a simple metric you can use to gauge and present a sense of popularity.  The number of fans/followers is clearly more valuable than how many visits a site has, right?  I’m increasingly sceptical about the value of it.  Yes, it’s a simple thing for people to do and it’s almost as easy to revoke it at any point but surely with it becoming so widespread…almost universal, there’s the inevitable ‘like button’ fatigue?

When I first saw these things, I’d click like if I actually liked whatever it was or wanted to follow their updates.  Part of the issue is filtering and usefulness.  Yes, you can make arbitrary lists within Facebook to filter your news feed but in my experience, few people do.  In one major view, where’s the value for the user?  I click ‘like’ on a photo on a website, which shows on my news feed and the value is for the photo owner/website.

Recently Facebook have changed this to be more of a ‘share’ button.  Good move.  The value proposition for anyone other than Facebook itself needs to be looked at closely.  I can’t easily get to objects or websites I’ve liked through externally placed like buttons so what use is it to me?  As a site owner, the stats are shown per page but (while I assume there must be a way) it’s not clear how I can get stats across my objects or whole site usage.  Maybe being able to pipe it into Google Analytics or similar would be a practical step?

My feeling is by ‘like’ attempting to become ubiquitous there are the dangers of lack of interest from people on our sites and that the value proposition isn’t balanced well.  What d’you think?

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23rd March, 2011