How to win Likes and alienate people: The perils of a social-media strategy

An enterprise social-media strategy needs to be more than just a Like-collecting vanity exercise - not least because the value of a 'Like' remains unclear.

Last week, I wrote about the psychology that underpins our usage of Facebook , Twitter and other social media networks — and how our behaviour at work is being influenced by social media.

A number of commentators on the story mentioned the behaviour of brands on social networks too — and it occurred to me that it's pretty easy to apply some pop-psychology there, too.

What is the value of a Facebook Like?
What is the value of a Facebook Like?

Big brands are behaving even more like people than ever before, especially when it comes to social media — having their own profile pages and wanting to be friends. As a result, we're suffering a mass outbreak of corporate vanity and narcissism.

Big businesses are as obsessed with collecting friends and adding Likes as the most insecure teenagers. And like socially awkward teens, once they've got someone's attention, they don't always know what to do next: how companies respond to a Like can vary wildly, from mad over-sharing that fills your timeline with adverts, through to a complete snub.

As a result, it can often seem that businesses are simply focused on getting as many Likes as possible — the 'look how popular I am!' approach — and see that as a successful social media strategy.

What further complicates the situation is that the value of a Like is unclear. There are now 2.7bn likes and comments made a day across Facebook, which means that getting a thumbs-up may not be the ringing endorsement it once was. This makes it harder for brands to know how real that affection is, and how to respond (indeed, Rory Cellan-Jones has done some interesting stories for the BBC on the value to a business of gaining Likes for its Facebook page).

And just last week, Facebook announced plans to delete phoney Likes  — ones that are determined to have been gained by malware, compromised accounts, deceived users, or Likes purchased in bulk. Facebook said its plan to remove this distortion is likely to affect around one percent of Likes on any particular page

Getting closer to customers through social media makes a lot of sense for all sorts of brands, and doing it well can bring big dividends. Big brands need to think more deeply about how and why they should connect with their customers online if we are really going to like them.