Like, so what?

Submitted by on the 1st of November 2018

If you follow social media news, you would have seen that it is rumoured that Twitter will be removing the Like button. The overall sentiment has been predominantly negative with most people voicing their disagreement about the decision. For most, ‘liking’ is a form of bookmarking posts as a ‘save for later’ function. Early 2018, Twitter introduced a ‘Bookmarks’ feature for this very reason yet people are still unhappy about the potential change. Regardless of the rationale behind why Twitter could be considering it, or even if it will actually happen, it does raise some questions about the future of social media marketing.


If you remember, when Twitter first launched in 2006, there were three ways users could interact with a tweet, viz. Favorite, Retweet and Reply. The Favorite option was replaced with a Like button in 2015 but essentially meant the same thing – i.e. an indicator of agreement, appreciation or love.


The first tweet ever by Twitter founder, Jack Dorsey


In 2016, Facebook took it one step further by introducing Reactions. This addition gave users an extra five ways to engage with a post with just the click of a button. This was a significant change for Facebook as they were now able to track people’s emotive response to content.


Facebook Reactions as introduced globally on 24 February 2016.


The option to Like a comment or post has become a standard across most online platforms with email platforms, such as Outlook, even giving people the option to Like emails. Although it has become a universal function, what it means can differ between platforms and how or when it is used will differ depending on which channel it is. For example, the value of a Like on Facebook will differ to that on YouTube. But no matter what the platform, it allows for feedback from users, which can be useful in expressing what content you like as well as informing publishers what is resonating with their audience.


The ability to Like social posts is something we take for granted but if it were to be removed, how will it impact how we measure content performance?


What does this mean for marketers?

Marketers can often get caught up in vanity metrics such as engagement when that is, often, the wrong metric to be measuring as it does not necessarily represent impact, advocacy or resonance. It’s easy to Like a post without thinking too much about it – passive engagement. As an example, 100k people could Like a video but if only 6% of those people watch to the end with a sharp drop-off within the first 4 seconds, it actually means the post didn’t perform well.


An example of Facebook video content performance indicating a sharp drop-off early in the video, with less than 10% of viewers watching it to completion.


A Like is a passive form of engagement. A Retweet is arguably as passive as we should get to have an action that means anything because it indicates the content was worth the viewer sharing it with their community, which is a form of advocacy. A Like is a false measure of affinity or interest – too passive to measure at all. Should Likes be removed it will force marketers to create content that actually gets retweeted or commented on or viewed.


At Cerebra, we have five main measurements of content performance – these are Reach, Engagement, Amplification, Sentiment and Conversion. These will vary depending on whether the content is inbound or outbound, which will inform the key performance indicators (KPIs). Without these, our Insights department would not be able to accurately report on content performance, which informs strategy, which informs creative. By knowing what your objective is right from the start, you can make sure that interaction with your content is meaningful and gets you a favourable return on investment (ROI).


So as much as users are complaining about the possibility of losing the Like button, it’s an important wake-up call for marketers to consider other forms of engagement and ensure that we are very clear of our objectives and are optimising content and media buying in a way that makes business sense. Twitter removing the Like button may be a speed bump, but it could very well have a positive impact on performance tracking through social analytics.