The Facebook Like vs Share debate

Many people have argued that Facebook ‘likes’ are more powerful than ‘shares’ and you should really just look at Facebook likes to see what content is resonating with people. From our research things are not quite so simple and there are benefits in looking at total Facebook interactions.

‘Likes’ are quick and easy

According to Facebook “the Like button is the quickest way for people to share content.”

Facebook-LikeFacebook go on to say “A single click on the Like button will ‘like’ pieces of content on the web and share them on Facebook. You can also display a Share button next to the Like button to let people add a personal message and customize who they share with.

Facebook also says to users that “a  ‘Like’ is a way to give positive feedback or to connect with things you care about on Facebook. You can like content that your friends post to give them feedback or like a Page that you want to connect with on Facebook.”

Some people argue that the like’ is the “lazy” option and means very little. It is quick and easy to ‘like’ something, unlike commenting or sharing where users need to spend some time writing about the post they are sharing. This is definitely true, shares are harder to earn. However, for many busy users this is the advantage of the ‘like’ button and it means they can share more content than they would otherwise.

‘Shares’ show that someone values your content

Marketers generally place a higher value on Facebook sharing than on ‘likes’. The argument for the greater value of shares is based on the fact that sharing involves greater commitment and is more likely to mean content is shown in News Feeds.

fbshareThe first argument about commitment is certainly true, as while a ‘like’ is simple and easy, to share can require more effort, although there is now a ‘one click’ option in Facebook to simply share with Friends without commenting.

The second argument for shares is the potential for shared content to be seen by far more people. A share will for example show more clearly on your own profile page than a ‘like’ which comes under recent activity. However, it is unlikely many people will go to your personal profile page. What most people will see is their News Feed. It is claimed that the Edgerank algorithm, which determines what shows up in the News Feed, gives far more weight to ‘shares’ than ‘likes’ leading to more visibility for content shared than ‘liked’. However, whilst this may be the case, the appearance of articles in News Feed is a complex matter.

Facebook says:

“The goal of News Feed is to show you the stories that matter most to you. To do this, we use ranking to order stories based on how interesting we believe they are to you: specifically, whom you tend to interact with, and what kinds of content you tend to like and comment on.”

Thus the Edgerank algorithm looks at many factors. Facebook is also constantly updating the algorithm and the control a user can exercise over what appears in a News Feed.

Facebook’s aim is to ensure what appears in a News Feed, other than sponsored paid content, is relevant to the user. This clearly takes into account many factors as we can see from above, including an individual’s privacy settings. Shares and likes are just one part of a more complex picture about what appears and where in News Feeds. As organic reach declines there is a view that to make sure your content is seen you really have to pay to play.

Summary

There is little question that to share content on Facebook or to comment requires more time and commitment than to simply ‘like’ content. However, ‘likes’ are an important social currency. As Facebook say a ‘like’ is the quickest way to share content and this results in much greater volumes of ‘likes’ than shares which we can see from the Pew research. There is also value in the ‘like’ data to the extent it can accurately predict not only people’s characteristics and interests but the political nature of stories that resonate with them.

bigstock-Like-and-Share-Thumbs-Up-44490382There will of course be times when it is useful to break down Facebook activity into shares, comments and likes. However, as a single indicator it appears that total Facebook interactions (the combined total of ‘likes’, shares and comments) provide a good indication of content resonance.