If you follow social media news, you would have seen that it is rumoured that Twitter will be removing the Like button. The overall sentiment has been predominantly negative with most people voicing their disagreement about the decision. For most, ‘liking’ is a form of bookmarking posts as a ‘save for later’ function. Early 2018, Twitter introduced a ‘Bookmarks’ feature for this very reason yet people are still unhappy about the potential change. Regardless of the rationale behind why Twitter could be considering it, or even if it will actually happen, it does raise some questions about the future of social media marketing.

If you remember, when Twitter first launched in 2006, there were three ways users could interact with a tweet, viz. Reply, Retweet, and Reply. The Favorite option was replaced with a Like button in 2015, but essentially meant the same thing – i.e., an indicator of agreement, appreciation, or love.

The first ever tweet
The first tweet ever by Twitter founder, Jack Dorsey

In 2016, Facebook took it one step further by introducing Reactions. This addition gave users an extra five ways to engage with a post with just the click of a button. This was a significant change for Facebook as they were now, more accurately, able to track people’s emotive response to content.

Facebook Reactions as introduced globally on 24 February 2016.

The option to Like a comment or post has become a standard across most online platforms with email platforms, such as Outlook, even giving people the option to Like emails. Although it has become a universal function, what it means can differ between platforms and how or when it is used will differ depending on which channel it is. For example, the value of a Like on Facebook will differ to that on YouTube. No matter which social platform, though, it allows for feedback from users, which can be useful in expressing what content your online community likes, as well as informs publishers what is resonating with their audience.

The ability to Like social posts is something we take for granted but if it were to be removed, it were drastically impact how many brands and agencies measure content performance.

What Does the Potential Change Mean for Marketers?

Marketers can often get caught up in vanity metrics such as engagement when that is, often, the wrong metric to be measuring, as it does not necessarily represent impact, advocacy or resonance. It’s easy to Like a post without thinking too much about it – passive engagement. As an example, 100k people could Like a video, but if only 6% of those individuals watch to the end with a sharp drop-off within the first 4 seconds, it actually means the post didn’t perform well.

Poor video retention rate on Facebook video
An example of Facebook video content performance indicating a sharp drop-off early in the video, with less than 10% of viewers watching it to completion.

A Like is a passive form of engagement – a double-tap on your mobile screen is easy to do. A share/retweet is, arguably, as passive as we should get to having an action that means anything because it indicates the content was worth the viewer sharing it with their community, which is a form of advocacy. A Like is a false measure of affinity or interest – almost too passive to measure at all. Should Likes be removed, it will force marketers to create content that actually gets retweeted, or commented on, or viewed.

In social media analytics, we have five main measurements of content performance – these are typically Reach, Engagement, Amplification, Sentiment and Conversion. These will vary depending on whether the content is inbound or outbound, which will inform the key performance indicators (KPIs). Without these, your analytics department would not be able to accurately report on content performance, which informs content and platform strategy, which informs the type of creative you post. By knowing what your objective is right from the start, you can make sure that interaction with your content is meaningful and gets you a favourable return on investment (ROI).

So as much as Twitter users are complaining about the possibility of losing the Like button, it’s an important wake-up call for marketers to consider other forms of engagement and ensure that we are very clear of our objectives and are optimising content and media buying in a way that makes business sense. Twitter removing the Like button may be a speed bump, but it could very well have a positive impact on performance tracking through social analytics.