I once came across a very interesting post from a photographer that I follow on Facebook. This was at the beginning of the COVID-19 lockdown in South Africa. In true South African fashion, during this time, everyone came together and invited their entire friend list on Facebook to like pages of small businesses in the hopes of bolstering support for the trying times that lay ahead.
He made a very interesting comment about focusing on increasing likes for your small business page that has stuck with me ever since and raised the question of “are likes really worth it?”
Want to know why likes are so dangerous for small businesses? Let’s begin!
Why do we chase likes?
Let me tell you a bit more about this post from the photographer. In it, he commented on the influx of invitations he had received to like pages of every kind of small business under the sun. He then went on to explain how few of these businesses he was actually interested in - basically, he didn‘t fall within the target audience of most of them.
So, why does this practise of inviting absolutely everyone to like your page still persist on social platforms? Simple. Because we have been conditioned to see likes as something we need to strive for on social media. Likes equal validation and validation means we’re doing well, doesn’t it? While this might be true when it comes to your personal page, we need to be very careful of assigning too much value to likes when it comes to our businesses and our brands.
To understand this better, we need to look at what likes mean for your business on social media.
What do likes mean for your business?
When it comes to social media, likes are generally used to measure your audience engagement. Engagement can be seen as any interaction that users have with your brand. For example, commenting on your post, sharing your post, clicking on a link in your post, liking your post, liking your page, clicking on a link on your page, etc.
There are generally three reasons why we measure engagement:
To see if what you are doing is working. Spending hours designing an image or writing a blog post is probably not worth the effort that you put in if your audience doesn't respond to your message.
To measure your return on investment. Let's say you spend R100 on an advertisement to generate more leads for your business. If 20 users submit their details it means that it costs you R5 per lead that you receive as a result of your advertisement. Now you can use that information to plan your budget, adjust your selling price, etc.
To see what works best and use that to inform your activities moving forward. I always like to say that data should drive your decisions when it comes to digital marketing. By looking at the engagement generated by your advertisement (like the lead generation one explained above), post, video, etc. you can determine what kind of content works best for your message and further create and post content according to what works best for you.
It's important to understand, however, that measuring engagement is mainly aimed at your content, not so much your page likes. And here's where we need to make a clear distinction between users liking your content and users liking your page.
What's the difference between the likes?
It all comes down to the intention of the user. When users like your content, they effectively approve of your post and your message. They associate with it and have internalised the message you were trying to convey. When users like your page, it means that they are interested in seeing more of your content and your brand - or rather, that's what it's supposed to mean.
When you invite your entire friend list or (even worse) buy likes for your page with the intention of increasing brand awareness and making your page look good, you are artificially inflating your numbers. While this might look impressive, you are effectively putting a lot of energy and money into adding numbers to your page that don't really mean anything. Your friend from high-school who moved overseas a while back and hasn't spoken to you in years but stays connected on Facebook is not going to be interested in scheduling a hair appointment with you. So, why are you trying to get her to like your page?
I do understand that there is an argument to be made for referrals. After all, your friend could refer your services to a relative still living in your area. But, social media uses data and algorithms to show users content that is relevant to them. When you have a large number of page likes, but a very low engagement rate, social sites deem your content less relevant than similar content that has a higher engagement rate. As a result, social sites will limit the exposure that your content gets. In effect, fewer users will see your posts.
Furthermore, paid advertising allows you to reach a wider audience than simply those users who like your page. So, you don't need likes from people who could possibly refer someone to you, you can just set up an advertisement that targets those individuals directly.
So, should we really be focusing on likes?
The answer is yes, and no. Basically, page likes don't mean as much as post likes, and post likes don't mean as much as other forms of engagement. Instead of just looking for likes (whether it be for your page or your content), let me challenge you to think of other forms of engagement available to you on social sites. Engagement such as clicking on links that take users to your product page, encouraging users to submit their details for more information, or to register for an event on your page - even better, to purchase directly from your social shop!
As much as likes validate what we do, they don't really mean much for the small business bottom line unless they are part of a larger content strategy. But, as small business owners, we really don't have the time or energy to implement that kind of content strategy. So, instead of just aiming to increase your likes, why not focus on options that can increase engagement and that are better linked to your bottom line? These options could include:
Setting up lead generation forms.
Linking your posts to your products on your website.
Asking questions in your posts to encourage conversation.
Setting up a social shop to allow users to purchase directly from your page.
Encouraging users to sign up to your newsletter by setting up a signup form.
Basically, any call to action that encourages users to do more than just like your page or post.
When it comes to page likes and follows, you ideally want them to come from users who are part of your target market, who would interact with your content, and ultimately invest in your products or services. Instead of sharing your page to your friend list, why not try the following:
Add your social links to your email signature. In this way, you are encouraging users who have already been introduced to your business to like your page.
Encourage page likes in your email campaigns. Similar to the explanation in the point above, you can add your links to your newsletters or even do an email campaign specifically aimed at encouraging your database to like or follow your pages.
Page Advertisements. If you do have space in your budget to make use of paid advertising on social sites, opt for an advertisement that is set to only be shown to your target audience and that encourages users to like your page. When your audience segmentation and targeting is set up correctly on your social sites, you can have great success with very little budget (I'm talking as little as R100 a month)
Likes are good. They allow users to connect with your brand and with your content and they offer validation. But, likes on your page do not mean much for your business if they do not come from users who form part of your target market. What's more, likes on your posts do not mean as much to your business as other forms of engagement does. Instead of just trying to increase your page and post likes, try and encourage users to do more than simply press the like button.