• Cheska Bennett

Did the corporate world create the need for 'Likes'?

3.30am on Monday 23rd December. I'm in a double bed to myself wide awake wondering why I've only get 5 likes and one comment, which is from my best friend, on my latest Instagram post of which I posted 3 hours earlier. Should also mention I'm in Hoi An, Vietnam, which also advises I am a 7 hour time difference from everybody I know. It was a very funny before and after post of me in the sea being taken out by a wave.

2 mins later I took the active step of googling 'meditation for overthinking'.

So whilst I've been on my own intensive journey if managing my own brain as if it were a pet that lives with me, why am I, or do we, chase likes? And honestly what does the very limited and mild show of interest a like provides a benchmark to our own sense of wellbeing.

It's actually not that I want a lot of likes. As an average of 18 per post it's never really entered my head what it would mean to have many likes. It's the benchmark that if you only have 4 then it's pretty pathetic. Writing about it may actually have exceeded that pathetic status.

During a break in a work meeting 3 days before this 3am riot of thoughts, a manager in my team said to another manager regarding his festive jumper photo with his 8 week old baby, "I'll give you a like, you've only got 2". The response was "2, that's not true, it's in the 60's". The eye rolling emoji is quite possibly the greatest invention of social media. So what is worse here, the fact that the number of likes was even relevant given the joy of the new born, or the fact he was so clued up on the number? Or was it the initial line which kicked it off, knowingly said because it would cause concern and I figure a small laugh. As the like counter in question has continually requested ownership of the social media strategy in our time but never found the time to fulfil the obligations of this request, this is a fourth layer to this already irritating conversation.

It does lead me to a question though. Did the professional use of social media lead to the psychologically detrimental state of the workforce around us?

For any of us who set up a business's first Facebook page (or account before they became pages) you would have also been privy to either the 'measurement of success criteria' requests or see an objective to 'grow likes, in my case either through a big bulk purchase from a country outside of any we operate in, or liking everyone else's page. Buy love or people please so get it. Fast forward 10 years and now it's just a case of buy love, because people pleasing takes too long.

But we counted, and our success lay in the number of fans per page and number of likes per post going up and up on a weekly basis. With increase came praise and reward, with no change came indifference.

So whilst a social media channel has never changed its objective, none of us who started out using Facebook personally at the beginning of it's reign with the intention of getting as many likes as possible. More a case of talking to our friends now that MSN was going fast out if fashion.

But in the work environment it was always a case of number crunching from the start. The more likes you get, the more your post will be shown and the more people will see it and the more likes you get.

The crossover between the social interaction of personal use and the objective to increase popularity through a mindless action which mildly interrupts mass scrolling is tangible in the workplace. Poignant as such during an exchange I had with a general manager recently. "Our Instagram posts and number of followers are awful, I get more on my personal account". Putting aside the unhelpful comment, we can use this to break down what actually would define success through organic social activity:

  • Personal blogs, in theory, have a more natural tone of voice. Action - work on the tone of voice for your brand/business, to make this feel natural.

  • What do we do on a personal account? Spend quite a bit of time on it. Are we willing to spend that much time on a business social account? It's maths and whether or not it is a good use of our time.

  • We don't have objectives for personal accounts other than to share our thoughts. Are we willing to operate similar objectives?

There is argument using your personal strategy works as a commercial marketing strategy. Businesses including Arbonne and Not Just Travel use a business model where you start with your friends. Use you and commercial success will follow, the social equivalent of street selling the footfall on your doorstep. However, one element prevails, it's still quality repeat consumer and not quantity limited engagement.

If the workplace is anything to lead by it's hard pushed to find any senior marketer who lays much importance anymore on the number of likes. It is not on a marketing dashboard and isn't being analysed. In fact, over ten years later we are still asking for an ROI on organic social media and if there even is one? Most common answer I hear? It is part of the attribution model. Well yes, at 1.64 billion users predicted for 2020, it doesn't come has a surprise.

So whilst the workplace has already given up any weight on number of likes, maybe we aren't too far away personally? If we started the 'like' contest, we could help stop it? Let's remove the likes and go back to creating worthy content where a brand, personal or crafted, uses storytelling and voice to land success.

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