There has been confusion recently around the meaning, and more importantly the value, of Facebook “Likes” versus “Shares”. The enthusiasm of companies to engage their audience through social media has been validated by several studies into the influence of social media platforms on organic rankings, including a study by SEOmoz earlier this year that revealed a strong correlation between number of Facebook “Shares” and higher rankings on Google for competitive keywords, although always remember that correlation isn’t causation (and that may especially be true in this case). But how do we distinguish between “Likes” and “Shares”, especially following news that the latter term is being gradually retired from Facebook’s terminology?
You may assume the basic difference is as follows: “Liking” a page adds the content to your Interests section on your Facebook profile, whereas “Sharing” a page results in a post on your Facebook wall. This is not entirely correct. Clicking “Like” does not automatically add it to your interests page, it depends on how the page in question has been tagged using Facebooks OGP, meaning Open Graph Protocol, and this determines what action that will be taken after hitting the “Like” button. For example, if a page has been tagged as an article and “Liked” by a reader, it will not appear in your Interest section, and therefore the publisher won’t broadcast their posts on your Facebook feed. The article that was “Liked” will only show up in the interests section if it has been tagged differently, for example as a “restaurant” or “website”.
The OGP can be easily implemented on content on a page using basic meta tags and their four required properties. For this example we are using a page on IMDB for the movie “The Big Lebowski”.
- og:title – The title of your object as it should appear within the graph (eg. “The Big Lebowski”)
- og:type – The object type (eg. “movie”, “article” or “website”). Facebook’s Open Graph Protocol defines over 30 object “types” tailored to activities, businesses, people, places, websites and other objects (full list here). If your URL is a piece of content – such as a news article, photo, video, or similar – you should set og:type to “article”. Note that pages tagged as an “article” will not show up on user’s profiles because they are not real world objects.
- og:image – An image URL representing your object, must be at least 50px by 50px and either PNG, JPEG or GIF format.
- og:url – the canonical URL of your object that will be used permanently as an ID in the graph. (eg. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0118715/)
In addition to the four required properties above, there are also three optional meta properties that can be used to provide a human-readable name for your site and more detailed descriptions. There are also more advanced meta data options for multimedia content, contact information and locations.
Facebook also implemented the “Insights” dashboard last year, allowing users to track “Like” button clicks and impressions. The tool is quite powerful, featuring functionalities such as the ability to analyse trends within user growth, demographic information, and use of content.
The following points should be considered when deciding whether to implement Facebook “Shares”, “Likes” or both on your domain:
- Detailed post on user’s wall (similar to copy/pasting a URL into you Facebook status bar).
- Higher probability of user’s friends clicking on the link.
- A high number of “Shares” correlates to higher organic rankings.
- Detailed post on a user’s wall (provided users comment on their like).
- Can add the “Liked” page to the user’s interest section (depending on OGP tagging).
- Subscribes user to the publisher’s Facebook feed (depending on OGP tagging), giving the publisher the ability to reach their target audience multiple times in the future.
- Facebook gather’s data around “likes” and can use this to recommend pages to your Facebook friends.
There are clear benefits to implementing a mixture of both “Likes” and “Shares” on your Facebook pages and domains. Placing “Share” buttons on unique content on your website can serve as a means of driving traffic back to your domain as users post links on their Facebook accounts. From here one can encourage users to “Like” a Facebook page and grab those long-term feed subscriptions.
For e-tailers especially, gaining “Likes” from existing and new customers can be a very effective means of encouraging repeat business. Here’s an ideal example: An online retailer that sells books and DVDs and has a large number of Facebook “Likes”, a weekly “best sellers” or promotional offer published on the e-tailer’s wall would likely result in a high volume of clicks from their followers and achieve a higher conversion rate due to the followers’ familiarity with the online retailer. Using Facebook “Likes” in this instance could prove a very valuable strategy to gain additional referral sales, at virtually no cost.