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Facebook’s “Like” Button: Friend Or Foe

It started off as a way for Facebookers to compliment their friends: the “Like” button was a perfect solution to acknowledge someone’s status update. No witty comments required. Then, last October it began appearing in banner ads. Since it was launched in April 2010, 10,000 websites a day have added the button.


Here’s how it works: when you press “like” on a company’s website or a friend’s Facebook link, another link magically appears on your Facebook page to tell your friends you “liked” it. Unfortunately, it can also be misused. (I’ve seen friends “like” newspaper obituaries and bad news posted by mutual friends.)

This week, the Like button celebrated its 1st birthday. In the spirit of the Easter weekend, Pay Dirt asks if this feature is a bright button on the horizon, allowing us to interact with friends and keep up-to-speed with our favorite brands? Or does it make consumers more vulnerable to aggressive and sly marketing?

“It’s so easy to focus on negative things.”

Kit Yarrow, a professor of psychology and marketing and Golden Gate University in San Francisco, started thinking about the Like button when she heard people longing for the existence of a “Dislike” button. “The only potential downside is that people may not get ‘likes’ and feel rejected,” she says.

“It’s so easy to focus on negative things so I’m really happy to see the Like button getting some press,” she says. “We’re increasingly disconnected from each other and part of that has to deal with social media, but we’re also hungry for feedback, and this helps to give us a sense of engagement.”

“It’s a widget ingrained into popular culture.”

Derrick Daye, managing partner at LA-based consultancy The Blake Project, says, “It’s a simple way for consumers to express support for brands other than at the cash register.” But does it blur the line between business and friend? “Consumers already believe that they own the brand. Those lines have long since blurred.”

“It’s a widget that has become quickly ingrained into our culture,” Daye adds. “We’re a democracy and we want an easy way to vote. The question is: does the number of ‘likes’ you have equate to how valuable you are to your particular market? No. Companies can have 100,000 ‘likes’ and still go out of business.”

“Sites I like shouldn’t be anyone else’s business.”

Facebook’s own Happy Birthday to the Like button had 68,013 “likes” and 8,987 comments, and counting. It asked, “Tell us what the Like button has meant to you.” Not all responses were positive. “Is there a dislike button?” Beverly Lam complained. “Because Facebook’s contact and help center pages are not helpful at all.” (Facebook was unavailable for comment.)

Some were worried about privacy. Sanjeev Sabharwal replied, “Loss of privacy, for sure! Everything I like appears on every friend’s Newsfeed, as well as my wall. Even though I’ve chosen the ‘hide all likes’ [option] I don’t think this is enough…Which sites I like shouldn’t be anyone else’s business.”

Other social networkers like Dallas-based blogger Brian Hall would like a Dislike button, but he’d also like a Love button too. But he cautions, “You should be careful about what you ‘like’ and be mindful of the potential privacy implications of that. Over time, advertisers will start to build a profile of you based on the kinds of sites you like.”

Do you like the “Like” button?


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About Pay Dirt

  • Pay Dirt examines the millions of consumer decisions Americans make every day: What to buy, how much to pay, whether to rave or complain. Lead written by Quentin Fottrell, the blog examines these interactions, providing readers with news, insight and tips on shopping, spending, customer service, and companies that do right – and wrong – by their customers. Send items, questions and comments to or tweet @SMPayDirt.