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Thumbs Up to Online Engagement

  |  July 29, 2010   |  Comments

How can the ubiquitous Like button be leveraged by brand marketers?

A few months ago, Facebook gave Internet users the ability to "personalize" their Web experience by giving online content a hearty thumbs up. With the launch of the universal Like button, users are now able to express their approval of the content on sites like NYTimes.com, CNN, and Time.com while simultaneously sharing their opinion with a post on their Facebook account news feed.

This development is giving Facebook the ability to extend its social reach beyond its own site, and publishers the chance to use Like data to increase engagement rates and attract additional traffic from Facebook itself. According to Facebook, within the first three weeks following the Like button launch movie database IMDb.com saw its Like button clicked over 350,000 times and traffic from the social site double, while video site Dailymotion experienced "tens of thousands" of clicks per day that resulted in more than 250,000 users engaging with one particularly popular video, a quarter of which came from Facebook.

The question now is how the ubiquitous Like button can be leveraged by brand marketers. One approach is to encourage your clients to incorporate the Facebook version into their brand and product sites. Levis.com was among the first to feature the button when it launched back in April, allowing users to share their affinity for a pair of jeans with their Facebook friends and see which of those friends like them as well. Even smaller marketers are getting involved; Ohio-based online pharmacy HealthWarehouse recently posted news of its addition of the Facebook Like button to its products on Twitter.

When it comes to generating higher customer engagement rates, Facebook is eager to help. Last week it announced the addition of new features to the universal Like button that are said to offer even more value. Included among them was advice on how to make use of the button for product marketing. In its blog, Facebook encouraged marketers to publish "relevant updates to its connected users;" in other words, those who have Liked a specific product on a site should be provided with a special offer pertaining to the purchase of that product.

Another tactic - one that was inadvertently provoked by Facebook's button - is to take advantage of the popularity of the thumbs up symbol in other ways. The link is already present on many sites independent of Facebook as a vehicle with which visitors can indicate their interest in the content there. It has long been the way users bump up interesting stories on Digg and approve of videos on YouTube and sites on StumbleUpon. But it's also being used to draw attention to ad campaigns.

In fact, it has become so iconic that digital marketers have begun to incorporate it into their digital creative. A recent campaign on Internet radio site Pandora (which also happens to be one of the sites featuring the Facebook Like button) appeared to users only when they indicated that they like a song by giving it a thumbs up. The creative itself, a custom skin typical of Pandora advertising, read "Thumb's Up to a Sweet Escape!" and linked to a Sweet Escape radio station and more information about the product, Extra Fruit Sensations gum.


The media buyers behind this campaign were clearly tuned in to the buzz surrounding the symbol and made the decision to capitalize on it with a cleverly targeted campaign. In this case, the symbol was used as a hook to draw consumers in, but the potential also exists for a dynamic version of it to start popping up in online ads. Taking another cue from Facebook, which affords its users the ability to Like ads on its site, both publishers and media buyers should be looking for ways to use the thumbs up symbol to further personalize their clients' online advertising. This week, automaker Ford took the first step by incorporating the Facebook Like button into a banner ad that ran on AOL Mail; once the user clicked to Like the brand's 2011 Explorer model, he was required to Like Ford's Facebook page as well.


Just think of the possibilities. Advertisers have long been using banners to harvest user data, from e-mail addresses to poll results; why not give them multiple product options within an ad and use the resulting Like data to deliver more personalized ads moving forward? Marketers who routinely buy section sponsorships on content sites could dial up the pressure on publishers to incorporate ad-based Like buttons that let them further engage with promotional material, and use those preferences to deliver advertising that better suits their users' individual needs.

We may have Chicago movie reviewers Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel to thank for taking the thumbs up/thumbs down symbols mainstream, but Facebook's role in engraining it in the North American culture through its efforts to expand the social experience is undeniable. This little icon has a lot of meaning, and a lot of opportunities exist for marketers to use it. Now what's not to Like about that?

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Tessa Wegert

Tessa Wegert is a business reporter and former media strategist specializing in digital. In addition to writing for ClickZ since 2002, she has contributed to such publications as USA Today, Marketing Magazine, Mashable, and The Globe and Mail. Tessa manages marketing and communications for Enlighten, one of the first full-service digital marketing strategy agencies servicing such brands as Bioré, Food Network, illy, and Hunter Douglas. She has been working in online media since 1999.

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