Do We Really Need Likes?

Rohit Bhargava & Aaron Strout
Rohit Bhargava and Aaron Strout at SxSW

Friend, fellow Washingtonian and author Rohit Bhargava released his second book Likeonomics this month. Continuing a tradition of celebrating friends’ books on this blog, I’m giving away five copies of Likeonomics to the best answers/comments to this question posed by Rohit:

“The biggest question that I had to tackle in the book was this: Does likeability really matter that much? Isn’t the quality of a product, service or idea really the most important thing?”

Rohit’s answer to his own question was, “All the research I did in the book is that actually likeability is a prerequisite to trust, and sometimes it can even trump having a superior product or service. This doesn’t mean that likeability can compensate for having something that is crap. But often the difference between two products or services simply isn’t that extreme, and likeability is the secret weapon because people are the true differentiator.”

Facebook Ladder of Engagement

I personally see Likes as the first step in the sales funnel or ladder of engagement. Alone they really mean nothing. To me, counting Likes doesn’t represent an acceptable metric beyond a base attention metric.

Sorry, Klouties. A bunch of Likes does not make a paycheck.

That being said, Likes do have their value even if they mean nothing in the current cycle of marketing outcomes and ROI. Approaching stakeholders and encouraging them to take deeper actions requires acceptance of their current level of engagement activism, and well-crafted approaches towards deeper commitment.

The new cultivation cycle reinvents the traditional “funnel” approach to getting stakeholders to act. Instead of sending out messages and expecting results, brands need to participate in larger online social ecosystems where conversation hotbeds are already taking place. Facebook happens to be the biggest conversation hotbed on earth today.

So there’s my $.02. Now it’s your turn. You want to win a copy of Likeonomics? Then tell me what you think! I’ll let you know who wins on Friday morning.


  • Likes were the first crude gauge on the Attention Meter.

  • Great post, Geoff! My view on this is really basic: it’s “know, like, and trust” for a reason!!

  • Getting likes helps build the brand. Everyone wants to work with popular kid or the winning team.

  • We need ‘Like’s to make assure us that what we’re doing is ‘right’ — in both our personal and professional lives. It’s social validation that helps drive our decisions, and social networks have added a bonus layer by incentivizing ‘Likes’ with higher search and placement rankings. While Klout may not write you a paycheck, it may give greater credence to your Tweets and posts in influencing other’s decisions.

    •  I look at it as a barometer that I am generally talking about the right things.  I don’t see it as much more than that.  But I think others do get more from their Like ratio as you say.

  •  I think it helps to build awareness but if you have nothing going on and no one is paying attention to what you have to say,  You are in trouble.  To have a FB page where there is no conversation is really frustrating and you get that on Google + because you are just putting it out there and NO ONE is responding.  

  • One of the 6 rules of compliance that Robert Cialdini wrote about in his book Influence is that we like those who like us.

    One of the biggest mistakes I believe most social media marketers make is that they don’t tend to think the way that those trained in the social science of compliance do.

    We assume that much of human behaviorism is conscious and deliberate. We fail to realize that there are many primitive and modern day conditioned bias that influences our decision making and point of view all the time. Rather we say I like you in person. Or like on facebook what we are indeed doing is acknowledging another person and validating their worth.

    I have found, just as saying in the real world I like you, that liking certain people over a period of time in the right frequency, had the same effect on people. When I up the ante, after an exchange of likes, I found that I was able to connect more meaningful with those who I exchanged likes with then those that I did not.

    Also we should not fail to realize  Like has become an easy, natural and acceptable way of saying I see you and thank you when you don’t feel like replying with a lengthy response.

    The best way to gauge the power of the like is to notice that everyone rather they feel like it or not tend to not like a friends post. I am suggesting that this polite root contains more meaning on the subconscious level of thought activity then we really give it credit for.

    •  I agree we like those who like us, and we want to work with them.  And I also agree on the Like as a way of acknowledgement. I am much more of a Liker than a commenter on Facebook, and I rarely comment on widespread posts and the like.  What can you do?

    •  Kevin: Congratulations!   You win a copy, please email or DM me your address!  Thank you!

      • ughhhhhhh I am so hating that I am just now coming back and reviewing this old post. I was just reading through some of the good stuff I miss. I would have love the book. But you want to know something. I love the fact that I am able to connect and learn from you even more. I don’t really feel as if I lost out. The book would have been a plus. But having you work so hard and diligently to benefit everyone that is amazing. #forver a supporter.

  • It’s the old cart vs. horse. Number of likes is not that meaningful in and of itself. Likes are only the first step in reactive/responsible engagement. And you really don’t need to count  the likes to know whether or not your community is engaged because they behave as if they are engaged by participating and clicking through.

    Getting enough actual “Likes” on Facebook is, of course, a real issue, but that’s not mechanistic either, but rather, (and always!) a function of real people interacting with one another. We’ve seen time and time again what a waste it is to try and invent the conversation; better to go where the conversation is and participate.

    Brands, as an abstraction, can only truly interact via their engagement with people. This happens one on one in emergent media spaces like facebook and happens as individual brand evangelists get behind good content (when it comes to blogs and ideas) and products (to advocate and cheer for what they believe in).

    Trust is a fully interactive and interdependent and dynamic process, not a static end result.

    •  I know!  Well said on the relationship aspects, and the need to drive voices into the conversation, rather than manufacture likes on a page. Trust does supersede numbers, and in some way an overfocus on numbers reduces trust.  Again. Props.

    • Mariana: You win a copy, please email or DM me your address!  Thank you!

  • Not all likes are created equal, Geoff. Some happen at the first stage of a sales funnel, but just as many if not more, occur after the transaction is complete. People like what they already like more than they like what they might like.

  • Yes, of course!

  • Thanks for sharing this and sparking the debate as you are so good at doing, Geoff! From my point of view, measuring “likes” as defined by Facebook as clicks of a button is relatively meaningless as a metric for true engagement.  For me, the idea of likeability was much bigger than the like button itself.  It was about a way of doing business and a philosophy that some people and businesses have and others don’t.  I believe that likeability is a prerequisite to trust in the real world – and that is really the main point of view that I aim to share in the book.  It was initially a tough distinction to make, but a necessary one because of how much people like you and me would immediately think of the like button when talking about likeability.  I think it’s about much more than that. 

    •  That, my friend is because I have a secret desire to work for the New York Post!  I hope I didn’t stir the pot too much, I am trying to be more mindful of that.

      That being said, I love your comment.  It’s timeless really, all the way back to Dale Carnegie.  Too bad I can’t give you your own book!


    • How do you respond to companies large and small who offer prizes to Facebook users who become their 100th, 1000th, etc brand page fans? Meaningless or meritocratic?

  • i don’t like likes personally. i mean i like them but for different reasons. other reasons i don’t like em much. but like ya know if you don’t like my answer take a like!

  • Sometimes I look at a Like as a very easy way to state an opinion (very loosely) without having to post a comment.  If someone makes a case and you ‘Like’ their opinion with a Like, you’ve in essence agreed with them without taking the time to comment.  A Like can also show support to a person or of a topic that you find interesting.

    Many times a Like vs. Unlike scale will help me determine if a YouTube video is worth viewing when grouped with 10 other videos of the same content.  It’s quick, it’s easy.

    I think a Like is most valuable when it has it’s yang, the Dislike. 

    •  I definitely agree about that!  I wish Facebook would add the dislike button, too.

    •  Vicky:  You are the fifth and final winner of the book.  Please email or DM me your address!  Thank you!

    • I definitely agree with Vickyh. It’s much easier to click Like button to show that you agree or perhaps show your support to the person. In Youtube, you can make it as a basis if its worth watching or not. This saves a lot of your time. :)

  • Real world liking is very closely tied to loyalty and more often than not loyalty will trump price and even a certain amount of quality. I’ve sent away people offering me a cheaper gas service or chosen to buy from friends and collegues over larger brand names many times.
    I’m not convinced that Facebook Likes translate into the same thing, but i can see how it’s the start of the same process.

    •  It’s the very tippy top of the sales funnel, for sure.  Thanks for the comment!

  • Like had more meaning before it was a button to click on Facebook. It is almost too easy to click like, which makes me question its value in the grand scheme of brand building. Will it pay the bills, probably not, and it is so easy to click that I am not sure it is meaningful gauge to what people think about your brand. I will click like responding to what someone says, I rarely click like in response to a company/brand etc., I don’t see the point. That is my 2 cents.

  • “Likes” are being monetized by Facebook and their advertising partners. If you watch the “sponsored” column on Facebook you will occasionally see “So-and-so likes such-and-such” on an ad for such-and-such. (So-and-so is one of your Facebook friends.) Or it might just say “So-and-so likes this.” 

    The worst case I saw was “So-and-so used Zoosk.” Zoosk proclaims itself to be the #1 dating app on Facebook and the way to find your next “hot date.” (So-and-so was a female Facebook friend — a widow and a senior.)

    Anyway, I think using “Like” in this way is wrong – not only because it’s a massive invasion of privacy, but also because it probably misrepresents what the person meant by “Like” — turning it into a product endorsement. I hope somebody sues Facebook over it.

    If you want to stop Facebook from doing it to you, click “Account Settings,” then “Facebook Ads,” then answer NO to BOTH questions.

    •  Well done, Michael, and you got in at the last minute.   You win a copy, please email or DM me your address!  geoffliving @ me .com. Thank you!

    • Great observation! It’s so true, those facebook ads can be very misleading. Interesting twist to see how facebook uses our ‘Likes’ for making money.

  • ‘Likes’ definitely give the impression that the product/service is good. Folks see a high number of ‘Likes’ and immediately think everything is good to go. So I’d say it’s pretty important. Although, one shouldn’t gear their content or product specifically to get the ‘Likes’. That would just be plain silly.

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