originalFor those just starting to use Facebook, or for those who love them some vanity metrics,  a like can seem to mean so much. FINALLY! Someone is listening to me! They like me! They really like me! Or…maybe not so much.

Consider for a moment how you personally utilize the function of liking on Facebook. Is it for acknowledgment of the person posting, a type of virtual ‘I hear you’ or ‘I agree’? Or is it more of an ‘I saw this’? Further, how often do you choose to comment over liking or in addition to liking?

For brands, what do likes translate into? Are they truly engagement or passive acknowledgement? MDG advertising references a study saying that a Facebook like is equal to $174.14. Business Insider states that the value of a like can be as high as $214.81. Then there’s this from Dan Zarrella, also, calculating likes as revenue. Most of these studies also say that the value of likes is going up over time. But these are related to a tangible sales funnel, e-commerce, etc. I’ve had a hard time for a while with the idea that social media in higher ed can be tracked back to a dollar amount. I understand that we can try to calculate the value of a visit or an application but truly, this is speculation. It does not take into account financial aid, scholarships, retention factors or the value of the brand itself. Overall, turning social media actions into dollar amounts for a brand like a university are flawed at best.

Is this what we are really looking for though when we ask ourselves what these likes really mean for us? Perhaps, as institutions, our question should not be what is the value of a like, but rather, how do we define value in our social spaces?

We seem to be trying to find ways to monetize something that cannot – and possibly should not – be monetized but rather nurtured. True, focused engagement with the required corresponding sentiment analysis and outcome tracking cannot be obtained from pure numbers – especially not those provided to us from Facebook insights. It is for these reasons in particular that the system that UIN has put into place for their over 170 social media accounts to report on various vanity metrics is flawed, in particular if they are looking for things that may cause them risk or legal harm. The machine of analytic tracking cannot determine if you have reached your goal, incorporate sentiment analysis, account for sarcasm, connect outcomes to earned media, increased brand mentions, etc. That is the human’s job.

Likes are valuable because they show us what our audience enjoys. They help us do our jobs better as administrators and posters of content. But they are not the be all and end all of our social media strategy and its outcomes. Recently, I started to look at the number of likes on a post versus the number of clickthroughs on that post link. I found that many times, the clickthroughs were at least double that of the likes. Hm. Do likes then really tell us what content our audience desires or does it tell us that a portion of our audience are likers – people that like things to signify that they agree with the post or that they’ve seen it? There clearly is no way to tell this but I find it fascinating. So, for us, our social media strategy relies more on the outcome of clickthroughs – knowing that people choose to read more about the content posted, instead of liking it. Our goal is to get more people to read it, find value and then share it.

But if they like it, boy that sure does feel good.

 Let’s Work Together

3 Comments

  1. Jessica, I love your line, “Likes are valuable because they show us what our audience enjoys.” It’s a much better version of how I recently explained this philosophy to someone with “While ‘likes’ can be deceptive/reciprocal, there is no better metric to understand which photos/captions made people smile, and how much.” Great point on click-throughs, too. A “like” could almost mean they didn’t REALLY like it enough to click.

    1. Thanks and exactly! I worry that we rely too heavily on Facebook’s insights to tell us what is important when really, they are loose at best.

  2. Oh wow… this is absolutely terrific!!! My neck is sore from vigorous nodding.

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