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Research Shows that Social Media “Likes” May be More Powerful than we Thought

Image courtesy of catspyjamasnz/Flickr.

Image courtesy of catspyjamasnz/Flickr.

In a recent study, reported in Science magazine, researchers found that a social media “like” actually has the power to persuade someone’s friends. The study found that when a person “likes” an article that is shared on social media, odds are that that person’s friends will also “like” the article.

The study involved posting more than 100,000 articles to a social media site, which wasn’t publicly disclosed, that allows users to positively or negatively rate content. The site administrators randomly “liked” or “disliked” the articles. The administrators’ ratings where the first for each article. Researchers then analyzed the findings and discovered that when an article had been “liked” initially, it was much more likely to attract more “likes.” Interestingly, “dislikes” had a very small impact on how well the article was received on the site.

While this research was broad and didn’t focus on a specific industry or type of content, it still provides very interesting information. We already know that friends influence each other, but now we know that a friend’s “like” on social media holds quite a bit of power.

What’s in a “Like?”

Why are social media “likes” so important? How can they influence more people to favorably view the shared content? There are probably dozens of answers to these questions, but one theory might be that people who share common interests with each other are more likely to pay attention to what their friends are saying and doing than what a brand is saying or wants them to do.

For example, when someone sees a friend, who has similar interests, “like” a post on Facebook or another social media site, the person is more likely to pay attention to that action than if a brand were to send sponsored information to her. She may think about how this friend usually “likes” good articles or has a way of finding interesting information, so she will trust that friend and be more likely to read and “like” the content too.

How Can You Use this Knowledge?

When you understand just how powerful a social media “like” can be, you can use its power to boost your social media marketing campaigns. The key to getting more “likes” and getting people to help you spread your content across social networks may just be in getting a core group of interested people to “like” your content.

Instead of focusing on the masses, focus on the people who are most likely to be brand advocates. Find the market that is most likely to respond well to you content, and then cater to it. Create and share content that is attractive, beneficial and useful to them, and the “likes” will follow.

Some businesses try to do everything on social media. They try to market to everyone who uses the site. This approach rarely works because their messages get mixed, their profiles are full of seemingly random information and in the end, they don’t build a very large online community.

As you build and develop your social media marketing campaigns, try to find and target those people who will be the most interested in what you have to share, get them to “like” your content and then allow them to be brand advocates and influence their friends.

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