What “Like” Means

“As is always the case, the more cloudy and confused the conception conveyed by a word, with the more self assurance do people use that word, pretending that what is understood by it is so simple and clear that it is not worthwhile even to discuss what it actually means.”

Tolstoy wrote that in the very insightful book What is Art? and it applies to words such as “beautiful” and “creative” and, nowadays, “like”.

Everyone thinks they know what “like” means. But it turns out that what consumers primarily think it means and what companies think it means are different…

When consumers “like” a brand the number one thing they expect today is to be eligible for exclusive discounts and offers. This is followed closely by the ability to enter unique promotions or opportunities.

However, organizations have a different perspective. They believe that people primarily want to be heard and that they want to read news about brand and product developments.

These were the findings of a new study by the CMO Council. And they follow what IBM reported in “From Social Media to Social CRM” early last year where they graphed the social media perception gap between consumers and businesses:

(click to enlarge)

It’s not really surprising that many organizations are focusing more on chatter than they are exclusivity. Since 2007 social media consultants from all over the world have talked constantly about “the conversation” and how “engaging in the conversation” is the essence of social. But as social continues to evolve that terminology may now be a bit misguiding.

Per the CMO Council, when consumers want to converse with a company they choose six methods over social channels:

– Email: 76%

– Phone Call: 54%

– Tradeshow: 27%

– Online Form: 21%

– Offline Event: 20%

– Visit Retail Location: 19%

– Online Forums: 12%

– Brand Facebook Page: 11%

– Tweet: 8%


Some companies, such as Amazon, are wise to the fact that social channels are towards the bottom of the communication list. In an excellent November Wired article Jeff Bezos relayed Amazon’s approach to customer service and the social web:

“Our version of a perfect customer experience is one in which our customer doesn’t want to talk to us. Every time a customer contacts us, we see it as a defect. I’ve been saying for many, many years, people should talk to their friends, not their merchants. And so we use all of our customer service information to find the root cause of any customer contact. What went wrong? Why did that person have to call? Why aren’t they spending that time talking to their family instead of talking to us? How do we fix it?”

A terrific thing about “like” is that every organization, no matter how small, has the ability to treat their fans to special opportunities. Who’s great at that? The music industry–rock bands and their fan bases. They appreciate every single fan and it shows at every touchpoint, from their websites to whenever they win an award and thank the fans while standing on stage.

Right now consumers who “like” just assume that the organization “likes” them too. But organizations largely view it as “look at all of these people who like us.” If companies had to “like back” the relationship would probably feel different on their end.

People who like each other share things and offer things that they don’t give everyone else. Embracing that “like” is automatically reciprocated may encourage more organizations to post those unique promotions and create those exclusive offers directly to people they like. Which would help align the primary expectations of what “like” is meaning to consumers these days.

Up Next

The Common Threads Initiative

The outdoor retail space is competitive. Separating yourself from other outdoor brands and differentiating your products or service is not…

Drake Cooper
Drake Cooper
January 17, 20123 min read