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PR Case Study: The Facebook Like Button

Perhaps the most influential PR activity of all time.

Cover photo: @jerrysilfwer


Facebook intro­duced the Like but­ton in 2009.

The impact of the Like but­ton has been sig­ni­fic­ant cul­tur­ally, ana­lyt­ic­ally, struc­tur­ally, eco­nom­ic­ally etc. 1Facebook Like but­ton. (2023, February 3). In Wikipedia. https://​en​.wiki​pe​dia​.org/​w​i​k​i​/​F​a​c​e​b​o​o​k​_​l​i​k​e​_​b​u​t​ton

It’s one of the most influ­en­tial PR cam­paigns of all time.

Here we go:

Background: A New Feature for Interaction

Today, it seems obvi­ous that you can inter­act with almost any social object by simply lik­ing it. But this was­n’t always the case.

Activity: Tapping the Engagement Pyramid

By imple­ment­ing the Facebook Like but­ton, the social net­work could tap into much lar­ger parts of the Engagement Pyramid as it allowed users to inter­act eas­ily besides shar­ing and commenting.

Adding new means of basing decisions on social proof often leads to increased social engagement.

Likes from users also sent high-value social sig­nals via noti­fic­a­tions to con­tent pub­lish­ers, thus con­form­ing them to adapt their out­put as a form of dir­ect audi­ence feed­back, increas­ing engage­ment on both sides.

Result: Multi-Level Data Opt-In

The Like but­ton did­n’t just affect indi­vidu­al online beha­viours. It also provided Facebook with a wealth of new data to fur­ther optim­ise the algorithm and fine-tune the user exper­i­ence — and later also provide addi­tion­al data to fine-tune their pro­gram­mat­ic ad model.

Most sig­ni­fic­antly, but often over­looked his­tor­ic­ally, is that Facebook also provided the Like but­ton as a social plu­gin, allow­ing web­site own­ers to add Facebook Like func­tion­al­ity to their platforms.

Facebook quickly gained data-track­ing access to almost the entire inter­net — and web­site own­ers did all the work for them and provided their data for free in exchange for get­ting their con­tent more eas­ily shared on the social net­work site.

Insight: Change the Internal Polarity

When we think of fea­tures and func­tions as PR pro­fes­sion­als, we have a tend­ency to think of them as stan­dalone com­mu­nic­a­tion activ­it­ies. “We’re now launch­ing a new fea­ture or function.”

However, the real story is often to be found with­in new infra­struc­tures. It’s often the infra­struc­ture that provides impact. By think­ing of fea­tures and func­tions dif­fer­ently, we can begin ask­ing dif­fer­ent types of questions:

  • Can we offer new infra­struc­ture to influ­ence how people in our niche inter­act with each other?
  • Can we change the intern­al polar­ity? Instead of ask­ing developers what kind of new fea­tures and func­tions they want us to pro­mote, can we ask ourselves what kind of fea­tures and func­tions need devel­op­ing to shift crit­ic­al com­mu­nic­a­tion behaviours?
Signature - Jerry Silfwer - Doctor Spin

Thanks for read­ing. Please sup­port my blog by shar­ing art­icles with oth­er com­mu­nic­a­tions and mar­ket­ing pro­fes­sion­als. You might also con­sider my PR ser­vices or speak­ing engage­ments.

PR Resource: Why We Share on Social Media

Spin Academy | Online PR Courses

Why We Share on Social Media

People want to be loved; fail­ing that admired; fail­ing that feared; fail­ing that hated and des­pised. They want to evoke some sort of sen­ti­ment. The soul shud­ders before obli­vi­on and seeks con­nec­tion at any price.”
— Hjalmar Söderberg (1869−1941), Swedish author

When we share on social media, we share for a reas­on. And that reas­on typ­ic­ally has some­thing to do with ourselves:

  • We share to make ourselves look smart.
  • We share to fit in and to stand out.
  • We share to express individuality.
  • We share to belong to our in-group.
  • We share to be loved.
  • We share to pro­voke reac­tions for atten­tion.
  • We share to extract sympathy.
  • We share to make us feel bet­ter about ourselves.
  • We share to get ahead.
  • We share to grow an audience.
  • We share to com­pensate for our shortcomings.
  • We share to get the respect we need.

If you can get social media to work for you, great. But you should also be mind­ful not to let the pres­sure get the bet­ter of you.

A status update with no likes (or a clev­er tweet without retweets) becomes the equi­val­ent of a joke met with silence. It must be rethought and rewrit­ten. And so we don’t show our true selves online, but a mask designed to con­form to the opin­ions of those around us.”
— Neil Strauss, Wall Street Journal

Learn more: The Narcissistic Principle: Why We Share on Social Media

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Jerry Silfwer
Jerry Silfwer
Jerry Silfwer, alias Doctor Spin, is an awarded senior adviser specialising in public relations and digital strategy. Currently CEO at Spin Factory and KIX Communication Index. Before that, he worked at Kaufmann, Whispr Group, Springtime PR, and Spotlight PR. Based in Stockholm, Sweden.

The Cover Photo

The cover photo isn't related to public relations obviously; it's just a photo of mine. Think of it as a 'decorative diversion', a subtle reminder that it's good to have hobbies outside work.

The cover photo has



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