The Race for Facebook Likes

21st Oct, 2010

Last week I posted on how Bing search results will now feature Facebook Likes. Between that and the launch of Google Instant search engine marketing is becoming a wider field, that will require more diverse activities in order to stay on top of search results.

The Bing Facebook tie up may have the biggest impact. Not only will results display what could be called ‘traditional’ search engine results, but also results based on the likes of your network of friends. So you search for a restaurant, a bar, a film, an album, a news story, or pretty much anything and you get the traditional results plus those of friends.

The big question is, will you be more inclined to pick the traditional results, or the results from your friends likes?

Traditional Results Versus Likes

It could depend on what you are after. Maybe an independent source or a trusted organisation may have have what you need. But then again all these websites will more than likely have ‘like’ buttons installed too. We all have friends who’s opinions on new stories, films, albums, restaurants and services in general that we’d trust. So if I already have a bunch of friends vetting the information for me, would I be more compelled to visit the ‘likes’ results section first? I think so.

For brands now engaged in the Facebook platform there is a clear incentive to drive fan growth. The more fans you have, the greater the opportunity to appear in results under Facebook Likes on Bing. I do know Google don’t yet have this feature, and with Microsoft (Bings developers and owners) owning a small slice of Facebook, I’m not sure if they ever will have this feature. After all, Microsoft are looking at this as a way to differentiate its product from Google’s.

I’m actually not a huge ‘fan’ of just driving up ‘likes’ without any thought to the brand and its audience. Quantity has never been a substitute for quality in my opinion. While fan numbers seem to drive so much of the statistical analysis available for Facebook Pages on sites like this and this, there are better measures based on users and their interactions with the page that are only available to page admins, that determine quality. However, isn’t the best page the one that is actually fulfilling or exceeding the objectives set out for it? This change from Bing certainly pushes the spotlight back onto the drive for fans.

The Fan Endorsement

Of course there is a key player in all of this is people. It is up to people to endorse the product in the first place and actually click on like. I do think that unless their is a huge incentive for a person to click like then more often than not, they will only ‘like’ a brand if they want to receive information on that brand. I wrote about this a few months back. With a focus on driving up fans in order to help SEO will see brands going out of their way in order to increase fans. But will they be of any value once the promotion or campaign is over? Thats the crux, and i think the answer is yes. If I do a search for a bar in Dublin and 10 of my friends like Bar X and only 2 like Bar Y then I’ll more than likely check out Bar X. So even that non active ‘liker’ of Bar X has a value to the business if they help to drive more customers there.

These results also push people towards content that has been liked, both on and off Facebook. Which means that websites and Facebook pages could feature on page one of results. It will also increase the importance of Facebook as a source of traffic for websites.

This is all great news for the Facebook platform as more emphasis is placed upon that one simple ‘like’ button and how it can drive online and offline traffic to a business. The one final point in this, is that it’s all dependent on Bing becoming a much larger player in Search. Once it does, or Google introduces a similar feature, the race for likes is on.