The Like economy: how social gratitude affects content efforts

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Studies have shown that our brain reacts positively to our content being “liked” or shared on social media. Social gratitude, and notoriety among a peer group, are really the only reasons individuals post content to social media. If no one likes your post, it even can bring you down, or make you feel like no one cares. This is especially prevalent among the youth, with 52% of the teenage Facebook users of the iGeneration (born in the 1990s) clicking “like” daily or even several times a day. Generation Y were a close second with 45% daily “like” clicks, followed closely by 32% of Gen Xers and 24% of Baby Boomers.

Brands see social gratitude as impact. If your post received 1000 likes, then that surely had to have made some difference to your bottom line! Plus, people love your content! Or at least that how it appears on its face. Many brands and companies create content specifically made to engage on social, and pour a lot of time and resources into developing those communities. When done correctly, this can be an incredible asset to the company’s brand development.

How does this directly affect content efforts?

Many individuals and corporations gauge a piece of content’s success specifically by how many “likes” or retweets it gets, which seems like a pretty decent measure of success, right? Social gratitude affects the way we publish, what we create, and how we position the content each day.

What does this actually mean at the end of the day? Studies have shown that “likes” or “retweets” are actually quite passive; if the content generally seems to fall into a communities area of interest or education, the content will generate “likes” without even even being read or viewed. People are 160% more likely to retweet simply if you ask them to retweet it and they have some marginal trust of your brand.

So, if a tweet gets 19023843485 retweets, but none of that engagement ever lands on your website, what is the actual value? Sure, we can talk about brand resonance, but if no one knows what your company or personal brand stands for, believes in, and creates content about — that impact is moot.

What can we do about it?

Sometimes numbers lie. “Vanity engagement,” or the number of “likes” and “retweets” a piece of media gets, are not the be-all and end-all of online engagement. Shift your thinking to quantifying impact on social media through real results.

Optimize your content for click-through, not for vanity engagement. You want real value and real traffic on the web properties that matter; not the distribution channels you’re advertising through. Of course there is a balance, but at the end of the day, 10 qualified clicks are worth 10 times what 10 retweets are. Employ awesome CTAs and A/B test your content to see what refers to your major web properties the best. A small, engaged and active community is much more valuable than a huge, quiet, and dead one.

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