TECH

Why Your Friends Go Around 'Liking' Brands On Facebook

06/27/2013 02:16 pm ET
CocaCola

To many, "liking" a brand on Facebook seems even more disagreeable than befriending a former coworker with a cat obsession. It means opting in for more advertising, cluttering up an already-cluttered News Feed and irritating all the friends who'll soon get pitches from whatever brand you've "liked." To sign up for all that, many assume there’d have to be some kind of cash reward.

Yet according to a new study from Syncapse, a social media marketing firm, people who “like” brands on Facebook do so because they actually like that brand -- not necessarily because they’re being bribed.

The survey polled 2,080 Facebook users who were fans of 20 major consumer brands, such as Nike, McDonald’s and Coca-Cola, on why they’d decided to “like” a brand’s page. Forty-nine percent of respondents cited their desire to “support the brand I like,” making it the most popular reason among the 10 that Syncapse’s survey offered.

facebook like brands

Though the survey’s "support" language is somewhat vague, the finding nonetheless underscores that some Facebook users are willing to befriend corporations and endorse their products on the companies’ behalf, without any financial incentive.

A large share of the survey respondents (41 percent) actually wanted to get updates from the brands they "liked," and just under a third (27 percent) had become fans the brand to "share my interests/lifestyle with others."

The motivation to show off one’s taste in fast food or apparel hints the “like” could be evolving into the online equivalent of the logo tee. The “like” helps publicize your brand affiliations to all the faraway Facebook friends who can’t see you donning your Adidas sandals while sipping from a Starbucks cup.

Perhaps the “like” is merely a precursor to more explicit brand endorsement by Facebook users. If a friend will “like” Victoria’s Secret’s Facebook page, why wouldn’t she be willing to put the lingerie-maker’s PINK logo all over her Facebook Timeline? After all, she may already be wearing it on her sweatpants, tank tops, swimsuit and sweatshirts. Nike T-shirts, with their enormous swoosh logo, could easily evolve into the Nike Timeline.

In a press release outlining the suvey’s findings, Syncapse advised its corporate clients that, "Overall, emotional and relationship motivators were more prominent reasons for becoming a fan of a brand, versus transactional offers and incentives.”

Yet money still speaks: a desire to get coupons or discounts was the second-most highly ranked motivator for "liking" a brand. Forty-two percent said they'd hoped to get special offers by becoming a brand’s Facebook fan and 35 percent had "liked" the brand in order to participate in a contest.

Syncapse’s research did not probe why people who haven't "liked" brands opted not to do so. Nor did it examine how people react to seeing updates from all the companies their brand-friendly acquaintances have subscribed to.

What’s good for the brands may not be good for Facebook. Just over a year ago, the social network started showing users ads from brand pages their friends have liked, and though Mark Zuckerberg has claimed users don't mind the ads, it remains to be seen whether people really will put up with the new noise.

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