Vanity Public Relations: Is The Social Media ‘Like’ Obsession Worth it?


socialprchat-psychology of facebook like post

Social Media Likes. In sickness and in health, ‘til death do us part, for business and pleasure: it’s safe to say that we have a semi-psychotic obsession with getting likes on social media. Facebook Page and Post likes, Instagram likes, LinkedIn likes, Pinterest likes — you name it, we want the likes.

The Meaning and Value of a Social Media Like

According to Facebook, a like is a way to give positive feedback or to connect with people you care about. If you like a Facebook Page, it’s similar to subscribing to an email list, only you receive “stories” via your social news feed. Liking a brand or personal post is considered a positive vote of approval. Likes can also give a brand or person an immediate feeling of gratification, whether it be for a news event, blog post, a new baby, or an opinion.

The Facebook Like Obsession

What is social media doing to the minds of both brands and individuals jockeying for the like?

I caught up with Pubcon’s Community Manager Melissa Fach, a social media expert with a M.A. in Mental Health and a B.A. in Psychology, to find out what she thought about this social media “like” obsession.

Real People, Unreal Likes

Even grandma is asking for a like: You know things are bad when your grandmother is texting and asking to like her granddaughter’s posts so she can get more likes on Instagram! What’s wrong with this picture? What happened to baking cookies and sending cards? Today’s reality: The obsession with the like and the number of friends or followers on a network is a belief that makes someone popular and, well, liked. And the sad part is that it’s not about the quality; it’s about the quantity — that is, how many likes can you get and how fast you can get them.

Fach says this: “My concern is that individuals are so obsessed with the Internet as a whole that they are losing the human connection. I see many people believing that their “friends” online are their real friends, but one could never maintain 600 close and positive relationships/friendships in real life. Some people have always found it easier to be bold and state their opinions through a computer screen, but in real life they can’t.”

Here’s the wake-up call: When you disconnect from social media, the warm fuzzies of the like disappears.

“The problem, once the social media connection is offline the feeling of support and friendship is gone if those online relationships haven’t become real life relationships. The person feels empty and has to go back and try to get those likes again. The time would be better spent with one-on-one interaction,” notes Fach.

Hmm. One-on-one interaction and real relationships: that sounds like it also makes sense for businesses trying to maintain and create relationships with prospects and customers. Remember the networking events before social media? They’re IN person and happen at REAL places with REAL people who had REAL relationships.

The False Positive of the Instagram and Facebook Like

The question comes up as to whether your real friends are your collection of “friends” on social media networks such as Instagram and Facebook.

Again, Fach: “If any person creates a belief that they have friends based on social media and likes then they are not living in the real world. This is happening WAY too much. Once the crowd turns on you, which we see happen often, the person loses what they perceive as everything. There is a lot of depression from only interacting with a computer/the net and not people in real life. This is more common than most people know.”

Living for the like is not exactly the healthiest lifestyle, especially for teens. Fach writes, “You have a depressed individual and everything they perceive as friends is lost and this results, at the worst, in suicide attempts. How many times in the last few years have you heard of suicides with teens that were cyber-bullied?”

So what can we do to de-emphasize the personal value of social media likes?

Detoxing from the Like

Here are 3 suggestions for a social media like detox:

    1. Remove the like as a way to justify feeling good about yourself.
    2. Encourage teens to not be obsessed with social media at a young age and focus on real-life interactions.
    3. Learn how to socialize offline to be able to have any appropriate social etiquette online.

I recently took away my daughter’s Instagram account for the summer. Not as a punishment, but as a way to eliminate the distractions of social media and open up real-life opportunities she might miss by being constantly focused on what people are saying on social media.

Social PR Secret: Summer is here, get offline and take a walk. Clearing your head creates more space for creativity.

Brands and Social Media Likes

When it comes to attracting likes for business, brands need to take a close look at what a like is bringing them in terms of ROI (return on investment). From a Social PR standpoint, likes can be more of a vanity play that keeps the C-suite happy, but are they really delivering something in line with the business’s goals and objectives?

Things like media coverage, leads, sales, email sign-ups, quality website visits, or new subscribers are some of the business objectives that might be more important than the number of likes on a post. Actions such as comments, shares, and website clicks are considered more valuable from business standpoint, considering:

    1. Comments give you immediate feedback such as customer service, opinions, etc.
    2. Shares deliver organic reach and exposure, the type of third-party credibility and word of mouth exposure that can’t always be bought.
    3. Website clicks: I don’t know about you, but getting a quality website or blog visit off a social media network and on to your branded domain (website or blog) is more important than the quick kiss of a like.

“I think brands are just following everyone else in the belief that likes are so important. In some cases, when a brand is discussing something that really matters, they are a great indication of what the audience wants. Using the likes as indicators is great for brands, but obsessing over getting them just because you want the numbers doesn’t really accomplish much,” writes Fach.

Dangerous Social Media Like Curves Ahead

For businesses, it’s easy to get caught up in likes. The senior management may monitor and do a spot-check based solely on the number of likes they see. But this doesn’t mean they’re all that matters.

Again, Fach: “I see how brands can be obsessed with likes because it is the social media person’s job to prove that they are getting a positive response from their efforts. I personally think click-throughs and conversion are more important than the number of likes, BUT anyone working in social media has to do and provide what the boss wants :). Sometimes, that isn’t always what is best for the company.”

Like Rehab: 5 Ways To Leave the Facebook Like Addiction Behind

Growing Facebook pages likes and obsessing over post likes seems to be more of an emotional gain than a true business play or worthy indication of a relationship. Let’s get the focus off the meaningless like and onto building real relationships in business and pleasure.

      1. Storytelling: Increase your use of photos and videos that tell a brand story and will start the process of a meaningful relationship.
      2. Goal Alignment: Revisit the brand’s business goals and objectives and see how you can align your social media goals to these objectives.
      3. Collaboration: The best ideas come from the most ideas. Be sure to collaborate between the PR, social media, SEO, online marketing, and PPC teams so that everyone can share data and goals.
      4. Measuring: It’s hard to measure the value of a likes, but it’s not hard to measure quality website traffic or conversions. Refocus attention on measuring what matters for your business.
      5. Publicity: Remember that journalists and bloggers use social media to keep up with the news and events inside a business. Be sure to share company news and events via your social media channels to increase the chances of publicity in top-tier media.

Meet Author Lisa Buyer, Melissa Fach and Jabez LeBret in Las Vegas at Pubcon for the Social Media Marketing Track in the Masters Training.

Image Source: Yauheni Kulbei


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