I want to dislike something!

Update: Since this post was created back in 2014, Facebook have added some new ‘Like’ options

Businesses need data. Data becomes information, and from that decisions are made. Depending on the data that you have will you make a good or bad decision?
In November 2012 a particular brand got over 61 million ‘Likes’, but as high as that figure is, what information and data can we get from it, and can we make an informed decision from it?
Social media platforms can be an effective way of getting feedback, marketing and advertising, but like most of those tools it is only as effective as the way it is used, the assumptions that you make and the questions that you ask. We also have to remember that it is only in the last 6 years that Twitter was founded and Facebook opened up to everyone and the now ubiquitous ‘Like’ button has only been around since April 2010.
The effect of social media on marketing and user engagement has profoundly altered the landscape between the corporation/company and the consumer. Feedback can be virtually instantaneous and hard for the company to manage. This year the Olympic coverage by NBC in America was advertised as ‘good as being there’ but it decried by those watching it, with time delays, little live coverage and pre-recorded segments. The Twitter hash tag #nbcfail went viral, used not just to refer to the Olympics, but other programs on its network and its brand was tarnished. Also in 2012 the short film ‘Kony 2012’ also went viral but in a more positive way and raised the awareness of the child soldiers in a militia lead by Joseph Kony in pats of Uganda, Congo and Sudan.
There have been many high profile incidences of this sort of positive and negative viral feedback, made possible by the ease of use of social networks ability to communicate among its users, but it is also the ease of use that is its fundamental weakness.
As simple test also indicates something strangely amazing …that actual engagement depends on the question, and looks for simple answers to simple questions. In a completely un-scientific test one of our employees posted the following two status updates within seconds of each other on their Facebook profile:

1: What shall we do about the gap between the rich and poor in the world today???
2: Someone just brought in Crispy Cream donuts into the office…Get in!!!!

Which got the first reply? Answer: 2 (with in 5 minutes of posting)
Which got the most likes? Answer: 2
Which got the most comments? Answer: 2

But to be fair, is this a judgement of the subject matter or just their friends?
Using the ‘Like’ button as an example, it is far too easy for the user to click it, and not a good measure of user engagement. Charities in particular have noticed this, it can get a large number of ‘Likes’ for a campaign, but when averaging out the donations to ‘Like’ ratio it can be as low as 10p per like. Data from the ‘Just Giving’ web site, has found that over a 17 day period they found that about 6% of visitors that came to the site from Facebook ‘Like’ links actually donated. It indicates that it is easy to push the button like, but not to engage. Using the ‘Kony 2012’ example, how many people today can say what happened after they clicked ‘Like’
But back to the original statistic at the start… in November 2012 a particular brand got over 61 million ‘Likes’.
What information can that tell us? In this case nothing of real value. You may have figured out the 61 million ‘Likes’ is referring to the 2012 United States Presidential election. It is only when you consider that Barack Obama got 61,170,405 votes (50.5% share) to Mitt Romney’s 58,163,977 (48% share) can you actually make an informed opinion. In this case the population of America is very much polarised politically and no matter who won would, roughly half the people would not like the winner. In effect 58,163,977 people pushed the ‘Dislike’ button for Obama.
It gets even harder when you look at the effectiveness of the marketing campaign. The campaign to re-elect Obama, cost about $930,000,000, or about $15 per vote. Or was it? We have to remember that the most important people were the undecided voters. Those that would have voted Democrat or Republican anyway do not count in the calculation as their votes are given, and no positive or negative marketing would have made an impact on them. In America for the 2012 election about 23% of registered voters classed themselves as Swing/Floating voters. With 39% committed Democrats and 37% committed Republicans as mentioned before who will vote for their party regardless. So to get from 39% of voters to 50.5% actually cost the Obama campaign just over $300 per vote. A back of the envelope calculation of the combined Democratic and Republican campaigns results in a total spend of $639 for each swing voter. These figures are a very rough approximation of the data, but it indicates that in the whole population of voters, only 23% can be classed as actively engaged.
So we can draw a rough idea of the interactions of the user:

1. Expect a low engagement rate
2. Only expect simple answers to simple questions
3. Target your market selectively

Current customer and market research by Adobe has highlighted an interesting feature request. Users want a ‘Dislike’ button. Why? Maybe because the user wants a choice, they want to be able to say ‘No’ this doesn’t appeal to me, maybe just having a ‘Like’ button is a bit corporate sycophantic, to many ‘Yes’ men driving the functions of the business to disaster. How many people would have pushed the ‘Like’ button if Captain Smith of the Titanic had posted ‘Just told the engine room full steam ahead….icebergs be damned!’
So we can add the following to the list

4. Users would like the choice to ‘Like’ things or not

Currently companies such as Starbucks & Amazon are having a bit of an image issue with the British public due to their low payment of corporation tax. What would be interesting to see is a comparison of the ‘Likes’ over this period. Have they gone down? Have they stayed the same? What would also be an interesting thought experiment is to see what would have happened if there was a ‘Dislike’ button. Would a user be more likely to press this option, rather than not respond? If we are measuring results and success accurately then companies need the fullest information that we can get, ‘Dislike’ may help provide that.

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