You Like Me! Don’t You?

Photo credit: @savimmb
Photo credit: @savimmb

I recently spoke to a class about social media, as part of the Boxed Web workshop. I was talking – as I often do – about the power of Facebook for businesses. And just as I was explaining that Facebook gives you a community of people that you know are interested in your business because they have ‘opted-in’ by becoming a fan… someone raised her hand.

“But you don’t really know that they like your business, right? Because most people will just become fans of anything they get invitations for. I just ‘like’ the things my friends ask me to, whether I really like them or not.”

It’s an interesting question. Do we really know that our fans like us? I have often fallen victim to tit-for-tat ‘liking.’ Someone ‘likes’ my business page, and then sends me a request to like theirs. I do, but mostly because I feel obligated. And certainly, in my business networking group, there is an expectation that we will all ‘like’ each other’s fan pages.

Am I being naive if I believe that people who become fans of my clients’ business pages are actually interested in what my clients have to say? What is the value of having a Facebook fan; and is there any value to being one?

Remember when Facebook had groups instead of Fan pages? (Hint: it was pre-2008.) You joined a group to make your interests/hobbies known, and socialize with those who shared them. You didn’t join groups to help the group out, you joined to make a statement about yourself. When Fan pages replaced groups, did we lose the idea that who we ‘fan’ reflects who we are?

We all have that Facebook friend who ‘likes’ 300 pages. You go to their profile, and it lists about a dozen of their ‘likes’ and then says “and 288 more.” Sometimes, when I make a new friend, I will peruse their activities and interests section to learn more about them, but I am not going to click on the ‘more’ button and scan 300 pages. And if, as my student suggested, most of those are just obligatory ‘likes’ anyway…. am I really learning anything about my friend, even if I do read them all?

Some people insist that they ‘like’ on command because they’re helping out the person running the fan page. Helping them raise their fan numbers, so others will get interested in the page. I’ll buy that argument. But how much are we helping, if we’re building a community of people who care nothing for a business beyond appearing in a list of their Facebook fans? If, as a business owner, you have 1,000 fans, but none of them will buy anything from you, refer anyone to you, or even open links you post – are they adding value to your network? Wouldn’t it be better to have 100 fans who actually know what you do, think you’re fantastic at it, would use and refer you any day of the week, and read & interact with the information you’re putting out?

What do you think? Are we too liberal with our ‘likes’? Have we diluted the pool of fans to the point that a ‘like’ doesn’t mean anything anymore? And – perhaps most importantly – as professionals trying to use Facebook to grow our businesses, are we wasting our time trying to market to a community who may have ‘opted-in’ but perhaps doesn’t care?

Want to learn more about using business fan pages? Find us on Facebook!

Follow Katie Wagner:
Katie is the President of KWSM. Before opening the agency, she spent more than 15 years as a journalist, working for CBS, ABC, Fox, CNN and National Public Radio. Katie works with clients across the country and is a popular public speaker..