Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Economy of likes - Why being followed isn't enough

I don't know how many times I come across somebody who may have a large amount of followers, whether it is a Facebook page or Twitter or MySpace (Just kidding, MySpace is irrelevant) with the "Gotta Collect them all" follower collection philosophy. This person inevitably believes that this somehow gives them Clout (not Klout). It is true that if you have a large "fan base" that you can have wider distribution of your message but the social media experience isn't just about distribution, it's about amplification and what I like to call "The Economy of Likes".

If you are a newspaper, then you can assume that if you have a larger distribution that you have more readers and therefore, more clout. This works because you have to pay for a newspaper. It is a safe bet that everyone who is buying your paper is probably taking a look at it before they use it to pack glasses or wrap fish. Who would buy something and then not use it? That's madness!

Social Media however is largely free. I can casually follow anything and never pay attention to it. Meanwhile they will still report me among their loyal fans even though I wouldn't know their message from a mackerel. This is a faulty premise though, because the only followers that mean anything are those who actually value you and *like* and amplify your message.

It started with Facebook with their like button. Think that article is great? Like it! Think that photo of your girlfriend is flattering? Like it! Use a product and want to tell all your friends how great that product is but you don't know how? Like it, of course. The economy of likes doesn't just pertain to Facebook though even though Facebook has a literal *like* button. Twitter also has likes, many different types of likes, actually.

When someone follows you, it is ostensibly because they like your message. This is a low value like though, just because they follow you gives you no guarantee that they will continue to subscribe to and enjoy your message. Thankfully it doesn't end there. Twitter's most direct method of likes is the option to Favorite a tweet. This shows how much you like a particular tweet and lets you refer to it later which can be useful, especially if you are as active on twitter as me and want to remember a great message later.

Then you have the indirect likes. If you respond to something someone said, it could because you either agree, or disagree. As far as the world at large is concerned, this increases your general likes because it amplifies your message, even if that Reply is a disagreement. Then you have the single best way to amplify your message and show much everyone likes what you have to say and that is the re-tweet. While in theory, having more followers can help you to achieve more likes, after all there is nothing wrong with starting with a wide network. However, how many likes you have, is way more important than how many subscribers you have for your FREE newspaper. 

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