Friday, May 21, 2010

Micro-Liking - Facebook's Ownership of Like...

It's been a while since I've posted. Watching the social media landscape unfold can be quite distracting. It’s been dizzying to read about the innovations and failures from our thought leaders in the space. I’m alarmed by a few developments that have taken place over the past months online in general but some of them actually fascinate me.

The landscape’s plot lines are shockingly similar to those of a good soap opera. Around the time of my last post, people were just starting to forget about Facebook’s beacon debacle. As I dust off the keyboard again, it’s remarkable to see how the same technology was re-shuffled, sweetened and made-up to look like well… like “like”.

Facebook’s ownership of “like”, is a massive shift in the world of communications as a whole. Facebook has taken liking something to a different level. In many cases it has diluted its meaning to a commodity.

Our likes and dislikes make up our character. Friends, family and others identify us by our musical taste, our culinary preferences, our reading lists and our sense of humour. Our likes and dislikes make us unique and speak of our ethical and moral fibre. Before Facebook, we have not experienced this mass call to express our likes so frequently and across so many levels. We have become micro-likers and Facebook is the single most driving factor of this shift in like-itude
(I am fully aware of my made up vocabulary – I “like” it).

Liking something on Facebook does the following:

  • Generates publicity for the liker – any activity on Facebook draws attention through the wall posts
  • Satisfies egos - the exhibitionist in all of us that want to say “align me with this joke, piece of art, brilliant thought, brand or philosophy"
  • Commits the Liker to a string of conversation that may or may not interest
  • Gives props to the author, poster, contributor or friend
So liking something out loud has become a value proposition of sorts. But here’s my question... If I like Obama’s inaugural speech, do I like it as much as Nutella’s Facebook page? Does bringing a smile to my face warrant the “like” action EVERY time? Due to its one-dimensional meaning on Facebook, are we changing the fundamental meaning of like?

From an online media perspective, there's obvious value in targeting against "like portfolios" but will this go back to a view thru/click thru argument at some point, where we scratch our heads at the holes in effectiveness of targeting this way? Just because someone doesn't click “like” x or y does that mean they are not valuable targets?

We throw so much faith into the user’s “actions”. It would probably be a good idea to understand what motivates them before we base assumptions, large budgets and product innovations on them.

It reminds me yet again, of one of my favourite lines in The Incredibles…