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Facebook may be harmful to our mental health. While it is a great way to see pictures of your nieces and nephews or to catch up with your old college mates, it is also a wonderful place to feel unloved, unpopular, and generally dissatisfied with life. All because of the “Like.” We want to collect these thumbs-up, and whoever has the most friends wins. We are better people if we have 1000 than if we just have 200. We feel sorry for those with fewer than 100 friends. We act like insecure teenagers. And this is becoming a corporate feeling as well. As businesses take advantage of this platform, they too can get caught up in the numbers rather than the quality of their campaigns.

Each day, there are 2.7 billion likes and comments posted on Facebook.  This tends to obscure what it is exactly that people really like rather than what they “Like.”  That is, what about this status caught their eyes? Is it a one-off or do they like the posts, pictures, and videos in general? It is difficult for brands to know why people “Like” them and if they actually like them.  but it is a very clear, easily read metric: 1 million people “Like” us! We have 1 million fans/friends! But what does that actually mean? What value does a “Like” have?

Rory Cellan-Jones of the BBC has a great article in which he discusses this. He set up a fictitious “VirtualBagel” shop on Facebook and got over 3000 “Likes” in just four days. Not bad for a nonexistent business! But it does raise the question: Where are these likes coming from?  More importantly, what do they mean? As you can guess from people liking a business that promises to deliver bagels via the Internet (just download!), not much of anything.

“Likes” and friends cannot be the extent of your success criteria. The value of social media is in its ability to allow you to connect. This is not measured in how many people like a photo or a status, but in how many people you actively and authentically engage with, how many questions you were able to answer, how many people saw your ad or page on Facebook and went to your website for more information or to make a purchase. A business with 1000 “good” friends is much better positioned than one with 1 million random “Likes.”

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