The PR BlogDigital PRDigital-First StrategyPR Case Study: The Facebook Like Button

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.

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

Learn more:

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 was able to tap into much lar­ger parts of the engage­ment pyr­am­id as it gave users an oppor­tun­ity to inter­act eas­ily besides shar­ing and commenting.

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

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 needs devel­op­ing to shift crit­ic­al com­mu­nic­a­tion behaviours?

Please sup­port my blog by shar­ing it with oth­er PR- and com­mu­nic­a­tion pro­fes­sion­als. For ques­tions or PR sup­port, con­tact me via jerry@​spinfactory.​com.

1 Facebook Like but­ton. (2023, February 3). In Wikipedia.
Jerry Silfwer
Jerry Silfwer
Jerry Silfwer, alias Doctor Spin, is an awarded senior adviser specialising in public relations and digital strategy. Currently CEO at KIX Index and Spin Factory. Before that, he worked at Kaufmann, Whispr Group, Springtime PR, and Spotlight PR. Based in Stockholm, Sweden.

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