First off apologies for writing so much about the like button on Facebook
but I really do think it throws up one of the biggest fundamental shifts in the way we use the Internet in the last ten years. The adoption rates have been scary and with 3 billion likes a day it means that on average each one of us 500 million Facebook users are clicking the button 6 times per day either on Facebook itself or on third party sites where the button is popping up. So it's clear that it is one of the fastest and most successful feature roll outs in history of the Internet but why do we all click that like button? What has made us all embrace the "like" so quickly and will we keep liking long in to the future? Time to look at some of the phycology of the Facebook "like button".
Why Would You Like Something On Facebook?
I found myself hovering over a Facebook like button this evening about to make that simple click when a question popped in to my head..."why would I want to like on Facebook?". I was wondering who would benefit and why I should keep doing it. I asked a simple question on Twitter to see what others thought..."A question...When you like something on Facebook why do you do it? So as friends can see? To go back to later? Another reason?". Here are some of the answers I got...
The Simple Answer
So a lot of deep thinking there and some very good reasons as to why you would click on the like button. I'd say the real reason is a large mixture of all of the above and some personal reasons based on where the button you see is but the one person that summed it up best for me is the following tweet below. I laughed when I first saw the answer but the more I thought about it the more it made sense. People don't click on the like button for any complicated reason. People click on it because...
We Like To Give Kudos
Humans in general like to praise others. We pat people on the back. We clap performers and leave tips for good service. It's not unusual that given the opportunity to like people, blogs, websites, products and brands we feel compelled to click that simple little button. The barrier to entry is so low that as soon as we see something that we like a tiny bit we know we can click that tiny little button and show a little virtual kudos.
We Like Because It Is Social
I have discovered lots of music, movies and funny videos on Facebook because my friends have liked them. We know that reccomendations we trust most often come from friends and people we know. The really interesting part is where the like button is headed on third party sites. I'm more likely to hang around on a site if I see that 4 of my friends have liked it. This sort of functionality is only in it's infancy though and will only improve. The real potential for the like button in my opinion is not within Facebook but on the millions of websites that will eventually support it and integrate it deeper and deeper in to their sites.
We Like Because It is Easy
Clicking that button is the easiest thing you will ever do. We trust it. We instantly know what it does. In a world where we spend our day online getting bombarded by special offers and people promoting their businesses and services we know that there is no financial commitment to clicking that little button. It's a way to give thanks and praise without having to dip in to our pockets. It's easy.
Facebook Is The Only Winner In The Liking Game
Every single time any one of us clicks that like button Facebook becomes more valuable. Behind the scenes Facebook record every single action every single user takes on the platform and they are building up the most detailed "social graph" of what we like doing and what our interests are with the obvious intention of selling that information on to advertisers. We have all bought in to their like system so quickly but I feel that Facebook will need to give a little back in some shape or form to keep people liking. I'd personally like to see my own likes displayed more dynamically, some sort of homepage or "likes" page that served me content based on my likes. I know the news feed is already tailored to my interests but if I am to keep clicking the like buttons on news stories for example I'd really like to have a place to go where I could read news based on my previous likes. As the likes keep pouring in though Facebook are laughing all the way to the bank. I think it is very much like the Apple app store in that they thought it was a good idea when it launched, were probably sure it would take off but nobody in their right mind could possibly have predicted the phenomenal impact a simple like button would have on the web.