What if we told you that the number of likes on social media you get doesn?t matter?
With Instagram recently and somewhat controversially removing the ability to like a post on the social media network, online marketers have been re-examining the importance of the like button in social media strategy.
The more people who like your page, the better you?re doing, right? Well, it?s much more nuanced than that.
Let?s Talk About Organic Reach
?Organic reach? is the number of people who see your content without you having to pay for the privilege as opposed to you paying for its distribution through ads.
Facebook and other social media platforms that follow a similar format have to decide which new posts from a user?s liked pages get organically mixed in with standard posts from friends and family in a user?s feed.
Facebook uses an algorithm to decide on the best posts to show, and one of the most important metrics it uses to decide between posts is how much engagement the content is getting from similar users.
A like on a page is a relatively weak engagement signal, as people often like a page at a whim. It?s been shown that people commenting on your content and sharing it with their friends and followers are much stronger signals of user engagement, so these forms of interaction are weighted much more highly and are more likely to increase your organic reach.
Maybe They?re Just Not That into You
Research has time and again shown that liking a brand on social media has little to do with whether a person will ever become a customer or indeed interact with a brand in any meaningful way.
For one, people are aware that what they like on social media is typically available for all of their friends, family, and colleagues to see. This skews people to like certain things that could show them in a good light, (such as a post on a charity drive, for example), and not to like something they find actually usually, (such as, for example, a post on the efficacy of fungal cream).
Secondly, many likes or follows on social media come from bot accounts. These automatically like and follow other social media accounts in the hope that they?ll reciprocate. You may have a follower count in the millions, but it?s useless if they?re millions of ghost accounts and your carefully curated content is being sent out into the ether.
Interestingly, it?s been shown that the more sophisticated your audience is, the less likely they are to engage with it in the form of comments or likes. For example, you might read our blog and find it useful, but you won?t ?like? every post, comment on every article, and forward them to your grandma. That?s ok ? we?re not hurt! A busy audience doesn?t always have the time or inclination to engage with every piece of content, so the people who are quietly reading your content without hitting that like button could, in fact, become your best customers.
Focusing on the People That Matter
Numbers alone do not tell the whole story.
Thousands of big brands have millions of likes but have little to no engagement with their audience. Similarly, there are smaller brands that have great content that generates thousands of comments and shares on each post. Facebook automatically notices these powerful posts and boosts the small brands every time, giving them fantastic organic reach so they don?t need to spend as much on advertising. This effect can snowball.
The lesson isn?t to try to be like any of these specific brands, but to understand your particular target audience and how they best like to engage with you. Depending on what you?re peddling and who you?re peddling it to, your social media strategy will be entirely different. (Note: that?s where we come in ?).
It?s tempting to look at your number of likes on social media as an important metric of your online reach, but it?s just a vanity number that doesn?t translate well into real-world business. Fixating on likes can even lead to stress ? one of the reasons Instagram has cited in its decision to remove them.
Stop worrying about how many likes you have, and think of ways to engage with the right audience who will interact with your brand and ultimately help your profits to grow.