Do you ‘like’ Facebook? Really?

Everyone wants to be liked. In the past that simply meant being affable, friendly, enjoying other people’s company and sharing experiences. Today, it’s simply about directing one’s finger or mouse pointer to a thumb icon on a website and clicking or tapping to “like” whatever item, personal, other digital entity happens to have swept on to one’s online radar however fleetingly.

Being liked and getting likes are worlds apart but in the corporate world it is slowly being recognized that likes are important for marketing, brand awareness, engaging with customers, getting word-of-mouth, and all that social stuff that business is being told it should now be into…

However, a survey of Facebook users by Matthew Bunker, Raj Rajendran, Steven Corbin and Ciara Pearce of the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls, USA, reveals something that they say is perhaps obvious to the likers and the liked on that social network. Social media and social network sites including Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and even the recently resurrected MySpace, have proliferated and grown exponentially over the last few years. “There has been a tremendous interest in understanding aspects of the social network phenomenon by all manner of organizations, business in particular,” the team reports. “This is due to the fact that social media has changed the advertising and promotional landscape, as it is now better controlled by consumers.”

“As we suspected, identity is more strongly associated with ‘liking’ behavior in the customer situation than in the non-customer situation,” they say. “This could relate to the self-identity theory that people form their identities, in part, from the products they buy.” They suggest that this is a kind of personal image management as many people hope to reflect their position in the world based on the products they use, the food and drink they eat and the virtual company they keep.

“Involvement is much higher for people when they are already customers of the company or organization,” the team adds. “This suggests that even though companies are very keen to get people to ‘like’ them, they are unlikely to develop stronger relationships with ‘likers’ unless they transition them into customers.” From this finding they draw the conclusion that involvement/engagement can be the most important influence on positive word-of-mouth behavior. If customers ‘like’ the company because they use the products, then they’re more likely to like it online and beyond the virtual world and perhaps encourage others to adopt those products too.

“The implicit assumption that firms make when they encourage consumers to like their Facebook pages is that this step may lead to greater involvement and positive word-of-mouth. ‘Liking’ a company is a consumer’s method of recognizing and rewarding a brand, which can lead to higher e-loyalty to that particular brand,” the team says.

Research Blogging IconBunker M. (2013). Understanding ‘likers’ on Facebook: differences between customer and non-customer situations, Int. J. Business Information Systems, 12 (2) 163-175. DOI:

Author: David Bradley

Freelance science journalist, author of Deceived Wisdom. Photographer and musician.