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Social Media Marketing’s New Currency: Likes (the Upside)

OK, so this is follow up to my column exploring the pros and cons of Facebook’s big change from “Fan” to “Like.” Now, while I was down on that change in my last column because change can be hard to accept, this week’s column explores some upsides and cool new things we will now be able to take advantage of as marketers. I want to also thank all my employees who helped me assemble these benefits and put them in perspective. It got me past the funk I was in over the change and helped me to see the light!

Also, and before I begin, let me tell you that we may not have to stop using the term “Fan” as the universal term describing the Facebook friends of a company or brand. At least for now, even Facebook is using the term “Fan” in its Social Graph. (See image below.) So maybe we can still at least use the term “Fan.” Because right now it is really cumbersome to add Likes to the already long list of terms that describe a social connection. I have this list currently as Friends, Fans, Likes, Followers, and Subscribers. I advocate for one universal term, “Social Connections.”

Potential Upside of “Like” Replacing “Fan”

So, here are some of the great things about the new applications of the Like button and the Social Graph:

  • Ad targeting: As a media buyer, this is the super exciting aspect of the ubiquitous and universal application of the Like button and the Social Graph. Now that 400 million+ Facebook users are going to run around the Web “liking” everything from brands and individual products to articles and videos, the potential and accuracy of behavioral and demographic targeting just went through the roof. An entire new targeting methodology has been born: behavioral plus user-expressed demographics (age, region, sex, politics, etc.). All privacy backlashes aside, I’m really excited about seeing the results of this.
  • New ad network: The big question is, will this targeting ability be restricted to Facebook or will it transform Facebook into an ad network? Just imagine Facebook ads and ASUs (self-serve PPC ads) being behaviorally targeted on other sites just like ValueClick, AdSense (the Google Content Network), Burst Media, and Advertising.com. If I were those guys, I’d be shaking in my boots. Facebook will be able to flick the switch on huge amounts of revenue without cluttering up its own site with ads and have the ability to apply targeting to its profile information via the Facebook persistent cookie. At the same time, it will be able to cookie people who do not even belong to Facebook!
  • More direct consumer connections: The new lower barrier and commitment level of “Like” may enable brands to build more consumer connections. The Like button can be strategically positioned in websites next to products and content allowing consumers to either “Like” your product or your brand. So, “liking” a product can actually result in a new “Fan.” (A little confusing and misleading true, but we’ll see how it shakes out.)
  • Real-world likes: If (or maybe I should say when) Facebook takes “Like” mobile, you will be able to like a physical location such as a store or restaurant and then post a comment with it. So, look out Foursquare – I don’t know many people who don’t already have Facebook on their iPhone or BlackBerry. And how about this for an Activity Feed – “Who Is Here”? Imagine being at a club or concert. You can see who has checked in and then you can text them to meet up. So now add all this real-world activity to Facebook’s ad targeting! Facebook will know what real-world shops, restaurants, and events you attend and target ads accordingly! Am I scared? No, I love it and understand that if you don’t like it, you don’t have to use it. What privacy advocates fail to grasp is that credit card companies know all this stuff about people anyway and cross reference it with credit profiles, demographic profile, and region – why aren’t they freaking out about that?
  • Like groups and communities: Facebook (and brands and consumers) will be able to create even more forums, groups, and communities around popular “liked” brands, products, events, retail establishments, causes, topics – anything! So the 5,000 people who “liked” a certain website, product, band, or topic can connect that much more easily and share their thoughts and ideas. Can I start one on behalf of my brand and then create a custom Activity Feed widget to connect to it? Think about it. Like-based communities on any topic living in Facebook, your site, and other sites via an Activity Feed widget (see last bullet). The possibilities of this are only beginning to be realized.
  • Likes are the new links: Here is a great question – will “Like” be the new link that PageRank search engine optimization (SEO) masters covet? If Facebook lets Google crawl “Likes,” will it help pages to pop in search results and real time/live search? So “Likes,” in addition to driving more awareness and traffic, could be a new octane boost for SEO! Or will Facebook retain that information and start its own Digg-style trading topics section (most popular Likes on the Web) and search engine pages on “liked” content and relevance?
  • New applications: With the launch of Likes and the Social Graph came a whole new line of applications and plug-ins. Now, many are what we are used to – share buttons and Fan (now Like) widgets that let us connect with brands and post things to our wall. But the big new things are Recommendation and Activity Feeds. These are applications that let you show users what items in your site or catalog have been Liked or Recommended by your friends. You can learn more about them here and see the image below from CNN.com.

Immediate Next Steps

  • We must educate clients and marketers on the value of the Like button and what is changing and what is staying the same.
  • We must run through the social and media integration structure we have created and adjust to the new terminology and technology.
  • We must run through our marketing infrastructures and look for new opportunities to leverage “Likes” such as Activity Feeds and new plug-ins.
  • We must watch for new media buying ad targeting opportunities.
  • We must get used to a changing environment of rules, technologies, and opportunities and acclimate to the ever-increasing rate of that change.

    Please feed me comments and add your ideas to this list!

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