A ‘Like’ Is Not ‘Engagement’ On Facebook

by Mack Collier

Over the past few months I’ve been spending a lot more time on Facebook, actually I’ve been spending more time there than on Twitter.  As a result, I’ve seen how a lot of different brands and organizations are attempting to build engagement with the people that are following their page.

Typically, brands are trying to get people to Like or Share their posts.  An example of what I’m talking about might be a brand sharing a picture of someone lying on the beach and then saying ‘Its Friday!  Like this if you are ready for the weekend!’

Folks, that is not engagement.  How much effort is involved for me to see that in my News Feed, click Like, and move on?  It takes one mouse click.  That’s all the ‘engagement’ that picture earned you for your brand.

And yes, I understand the impact Likes and Shares can have on your page’s EdgeRank.  But wouldn’t it make more sense to actually create engaging content?  Because engaging content not only engages people, it gets Likes and Shares!

The good news is, it’s a lot easier to create engaging content on Facebook than you might realize, it just requires that you think a bit about how to be more engaging.

For example, how often have you seen a brand or page post a picture of a cute puppy and then ask you to Like if you think this puppy is just impossibly cute.  Seriously, it happens all the time, right?

But check out how a slight tweak in this approach can work wonders:

Aw….impossibly cute puppy alert!!!  But notice what they did, they didn’t simply ask you to Like the picture, they asked you to share a story with others about your dog!  And when you do share your story, you’ll also read all the other stories that other dog owners are sharing in the comments.  You’ll probably laugh, have a few ‘my dog does the same thing!’ moments, and who knows, you might even make a new friend just from interacting via the comments!   And you’ll also have a deeper affinity for this page, because they found a way to actually engage you.

Now, let’s say you are tasked with building engagement on a page about a TV show that hasn’t been on the air in 27 years.  That’s right, you need to build engagement around a TV show that most Facebook users have probably never seen.

So how do you do it?  By appealing to their fans, of course!  Check out how TVLand engages fans of 70s Sitcom classic M*A*S*H:

Every day TVLand posts a picture from one of the episodes of M*A*S*H that it’s airing that night, and asks fans a trivia question about that episode.  I am a huge fan of the series, so I freaking love these.  In the above episode, Frank is wearing a pair of hunting socks, which are heated.  Which is a big deal, because everyone else is freezing and there’s no heat!

So what happens is everyone leaves a comment answering that Frank has hunting socks.  But then something happens, people start answering the question by repeating lines from the episode.  Such as:

1 – Radar tells Colonel Blake “They’re hunting socks, sir!” and Blake replies “At this hour?”

2 – Or when Klinger says they are socks that get warm, and then adds “I have a bra like that!”

And before you know it, we are all laughing and remembering what a hilarious episode this is!  Which means we will probably remember how funny this episode was, and decide to watch it that night on TVLand.  But that happened because TVLand is smart enough to engage its fans, and to create a way for them to interact with each other.  The M*A*S*H updates from TVLand are honestly a highlight of my day on Facebook, and I often Like the update, comment on it, plus Like comments from other fans.

So when you are trying to build engagement on Facebook, think of ways to actually build engagement.  Creating a way for people to share stories, as you see in these two examples, is an incredibly powerful way to build engagement.

David Griner November 15, 2012 at 10:41 am

I agree in theory, but there are obviously a few more issues at play here. Coming from the advertising world, a click is often a win, albeit a small one. It’s a high five in the hallway, even if it’s not a passionate make-out session in the broom closet.

Generating comments and shares is ideal, but Likes have value as a casual engagement with fans. On a strategic level, they increase your page’s visibility (short-term and long-term) by proving to Facebook’s algorithm that a large number of people like interacting with your content.

Again, I largely agree with you philosophically, but I think there’s nothing wrong with a content strategy that includes posts aimed at generating Likes, along with posts that generate comments or shares. Our team generally says “how do we want people to react to this post?” and we try to create a mix that recognizes some people are a lot more comfortable clicking a thumbs-up button than they are trying to write something clever or insightful.

Mack Collier November 15, 2012 at 10:55 am

David we agree in theory, and as I said I get the value of generating Likes and Shares from the standpoint of how it impacts EdgeRank and visibility.

But I’m sorry, I’m not engaged with a page if the sum total of my involvement with them is looking at a picture, thinking ‘Heh, that’s cute!’, clicking Like, and moving on. They had captured my attention for about 2.3 seconds.

Now I’m cool with occasionally mixing in a ‘Like if you think this is awesome’ type update, but if you truly want to build engagement with actual humans, I think you need more engaging content than that. Which is I think your main point, to have a mixture?

What do the rest of you think?

Steve Birkett November 15, 2012 at 11:52 am

It’s about a varied approach, for me. There are elements of your pages fan base that don’t interact on a comment level, full stop. Some people have so much running through their feed that, as David says, the “high five” of a Like is a win for your content. Moreover, you’ll almost always see likes outperform comments, so it’s important to cater to that section of your audience.

That said, of course we need to aim for deeper engagement and fans that actively look to express their opinions as a result of content that draws them in. I actually think that the like-focused posts can help to this end, though, as in the long term you’ll get the slow burn effect of repeat impressions.

Overall, I think it’s more about the lasting awareness that the sum total of your content raises, of which likes are an important entry point.

Mack Collier November 15, 2012 at 12:59 pm

Steve I agree, it should be about variation and experimentation. That’s how you learn. Great point.

Dan Bischoff November 15, 2012 at 6:11 pm

I think a Like is a for-sure level of engagement. And perhaps a comment is a deeper level of engagement. But, there is so much content that people are passing through in milliseconds. If they stop to like something, that’s significant.

For me, I don’t actually see more value in a page because I comment instead of like. There are different purposes for both. And different types of content leans to more likes or comments or shares. Just like I don’t think comments on a blog post show a successful blog. Time on page, likes, and shares of the blog post are just as good in many ways.

And what’s even better, is if that social or blog post actually helps people down the conversion path. If they do that (download a whitepaper, subscribe, fill out a form, etc.) with zero comments, I’d take that all day over comments.

But, it’s an interesting point. And makes me question what type of results are we looking for with comments, likes, etc., and what value does that actually bring?

Mack Collier November 16, 2012 at 8:24 am

Dan your last point was really what I was getting at in writing the post. If a page gets 100 Likes a day, but that’s it, is it ultimately successful? I mean 100 Likes a day may SEEM like it’s something, but if these people are engaging in no other/further action past that Like, what is it really worth?

As you allude to in your comment, when companies create content, they always need to be thinking ‘what action do we want people to take as a result of consuming this content?’

The end goal cannot be simply a Like on Facebook or a comment on a blog. There has to be some action that moves the person closer to an action that provides a tangible bottom-line benefit for the business.

And it doesn’t have to be on every single piece of content that a business creates, but it’s a consideration. Businesses don’t stay open just on Likes alone.

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