When We Like Everything, We Like Nothing: The Inundation of the Facebook ‘Like’ Button

by Matt Klassen on April 19, 2011

Is it possible to ‘Like’ something too much? According to CNET writer Rafe Needleman the answer is unabashedly ‘yes!’ The popular Facebook button that allows users to instantly share their latest interests and recommendations with their friends has become so ubiquitous that, according to Needleman, it has essentially become worthless.

While using one click to let your friends know about great restaurants and the like is a quick and effective way of spreading the word about quality places, interesting products, and cool music, it has also become a staple of online marketing, meaning that businesses are looking for ways to exploit the ‘Like’ phenomena to their own ends.

The latest marketing scheme that many businesses are employing is offering free content to users who click the ‘Like’ button, making it both easier and more attractive to click that little “thumbs up” button, as now there’s a little prize after you do. What many users don’t realize, however, is that businesses are using that ‘Like’ button as free advertising, turning you into their marketing mouthpiece whether you want to or not… a move that will soon rob the Facebook feature of any of its advertising power.

When the ‘Like’ feature was first introduced by Facebook it was a useful little button that revolutionized the word-of-mouth marketing plan. By utilizing it, interested customers could quickly share their findings with their friends while allowing businesses to get their name out there.

But many businesses have started to feel the pinch of not having as many ‘Likes’ as the next guy, and thus the latest trend in Facebook marketing was born, suckering users into clicking ‘Like’ by offering them free stuff if they do.

While I’m always amazed at the lengths people will go to in order to get free stuff, I’m really not surprised, so when the New Yorker offered a free essay from Jonathan Franzen to those who would ‘Like’ the magazine on Facebook, I could only applaud the company’s ingenuity. But in doing so, the New Yorker may have inadvertently sparked a marketing trend that will end up killing the ‘Like’ button altogether.

The problem with company’s luring users into clicking the ‘Like’ button with promises of free content is that it leads to what I would call uncritical use of the Facebook ‘Like’ button. While I would guess that people didn’t ever think terribly much about what they ‘Liked’ in the past, with companies baiting them with free content it now means that many won’t pay any attention to what they just ‘Liked’, a problem that has obvious downsides for Facebook and for companies utilizing this ploy.

You see, once users start uncritically clicking ‘Like’ on things they don’t actually like, they’re friends will stop trusting their ‘Like’ choices, stop following the links, and stop caring about the ‘Like’ feature altogether, the best result of which is rendering the ‘Like’ feature obsolete, while the worst case scenario would be the annoying and untrustworthy button actually driving customers away from ‘Liked’ businesses.

In the end, with everything ‘Liked,’ with users constantly inundated with ‘Like’ messages, and with businesses of all colours and stripes trying to lure users in, consumers will soon stop listening. To butcher an old adage, “When we ‘Like’ everything, we ‘Like’ nothing.”

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Written by: Matt Klassen. www.digitcom.ca. Follow TheTelecomBlog.com by: RSS, Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube.

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