Low on social media likes? It’s not always a bad thing

“I loved your post on social media!” someone said to me recently and I was taken aback as he quoted my entire post back to me which he’d clearly memorised.  This was genuinely flattering and yet astonishing because I distinctly remember this person had not clicked the like button at all.


It’s not the first time this has happened, not by a long way.  The other week I was hugged in a toilet by someone who said she’d read my blog.  I was kind of stunned – in a good way.  I mean, that’s impact, right?  What you’re really looking for is to make a good impression and without feedback, that can be tough.


So we come onto the psychology of the act of liking on social media:


In the moment where I have a person in front of me saying “I really liked what you posted!” that, to me, is more genuine than someone who clicked a little button with a thumbs up on the internet.  Yet when it comes to business social media, companies place so much store by online metrics as proof that people like your content.


You know the danger with online metrics?  It’s not real.  None of it’s real.  You have no way of measuring the strength of what went into that like.  Was it a passing fleeting like from someone absent-mindedly scrolling through a day full of likes?  Or was it that person’s carefully considered only genuine like of the day?  There’s a big difference.


When I studied online learning for my MSc, my lecturer used to say, “A like takes very low cognitive processing”.  That is true and well worth remembering because we maybe ought not to place too much store by it.


I have the privilege of being able to see my clients’ metrics and to nosey through the numbers on a regular basis.  At the moment I’m handling 6 Twitter accounts all of a good size i.e. many thousands of followers, and on 2 accounts they have many hundreds of thousands of followers, all with multiple tweets per day.


On Buffer’s Analytics I can check to see who liked, retweeted, mentioned and clicked on the links.
This is where things get interesting.


Example 1
Often there will be multiple link clicks i.e. bonafide website traffic of over 100 with fewer than 10 likes and no interaction.  In the example below, only 5% of people who clicked the link, also liked the post.

Example 2
Where as on another post you may get a far higher rate of likes – here it’s 72% in the ratio of likes to link clicks (56/77) so the likes look great but actually only half as many people clicked through to the website as in example 1, which is bad for traffic (my client's objective):

On the face of it example 2 looks better in terms of likes and RT's but example 1 was twice as good for driving traffic to the website. Likes are starting to look rather pointless, aren't they?


You might think no likes mean poor content, but you’d be wrong.



My clients’ content is genuinely good – I’m in the very fortunate position to only be working with companies who have consistently excellent content, and I know there is no quality issue, so we need to look for other reasons.  If comments are made they tend to be on the blog post itself, thus social media comments are always nil to low.


What are the reasons people may not click ‘like’ on your content and what to try and do about it:


1.       Sheep mentality. Some people won’t be the first to like a piece of content. It’s herd mentality if you’ll only like something that already has at least 10 or 20 likes.  Here’s a tip for social media managers and content creators - neither underestimate the volume of people in the sheep category, nor let it dull your sparkle.  Keep going.  Vanity metrics are just that.


2.       Some people will go through to your link, get hung up on the content and forget to go back and like it on whichever social platform they came from.  THIS IS GOOD!  If the user stayed on your website and read a further 2-3 articles this is what you want.  They maybe even signed up to your newsletter or made a purchase if you have an e-commerce site.  Forget the like count, look at your revenue, web traffic and sign up rates which are far more important metrics for your business than a set of likes.


3.       Your headline may be too clever or obscure and may need revising.  If so, it will take too much cognitive processing.  This is counter-intuitive to the state of mind people take to social media.  I’d recommend re-posting with a simpler headline and see if that works for more likes e.g. something that stands true in its own right that doesn't necessarily need clicking on.


4.       You may not have used any relevant hashtags.  Consider re-posting the same content but add 2-3 popular and relevant hashtags and see whether it attracts people who find your post via their own search.


5.  Try posting the same content at a different time of the day to see if that works.  Sometimes the exact same content, headline and image can be posted and get very different rates of engagement. Don't lose heart, maybe your fans were otherwise occupied.


I wrote another post about keeping things dumbed down to attract more likes.  My own research has shown that people are more willing to like obvious easy to digest content.


I hope you found these tips useful. If you have specific requirements or issues with your social media, feel free to get in touch and ask your question. I offer 30 and 60 minute consultations to improve your social media, with very positive results.