Article | Harvard Business Review | March–April 2017

What's the Value of a Like?: Social Media Endorsements Don't Work the Way You Might Think

by Leslie John, Daniel Mochon, Oliver Emrich and Janet Schwartz

Abstract

Brands spend billions of dollars a year on lavish efforts to establish and maintain a social media presence. But do those campaigns actually increase revenue? New research provides an answer to this question, which has vexed marketers ever since social media burst upon the scene. In a series of experiments, the researchers tested four increasingly interactive ways in which Facebook might affect customers’ behavior. First, they explored whether liking a brand—passively following it—makes people more likely to purchase it. Second, they examined whether people’s likes affect their friends’ purchasing. Third, they looked at whether liking affects things other than purchasing (for example, whether it can persuade people to engage in healthful behaviors). And fourth, they tested whether boosting likes by paying to have branded content displayed in followers’ news feeds increases the chances of meaningful behavior change. The results were clear: Merely liking a brand neither increases purchasing nor spurs friends to purchase more. Supporting likes with branded content, however, can prompt meaningful behavior change.

Keywords: Social Enterprise; Social and Collaborative Networks; Consumer Behavior; Marketing Strategy; Online Advertising;

Citation:

John, Leslie, Daniel Mochon, Oliver Emrich, and Janet Schwartz. "What's the Value of a Like? Social Media Endorsements Don't Work the Way You Might Think." Harvard Business Review 95, no. 2 (March–April 2017): 108–115.