Why social media likes, tweets, shares are the best things since cheeseburger

social media likes

Social media likes and shares truly resonate with the individual’s on-line identity, others perception and social acceptance within the group.

The cheeseburger is an all-American iconic food. It is as close to America one can get. Loved by all. It is the burger bread, with the cheese and the meat patty sandwiched in between. In some parts of the world, we know it as just the cheese and the burger bread.

The Cheeseburger was invented in the early part of the twentieth century in America. It served not only as a quick businessman’s meal for busy office goers but also for the hungry industrial workers in the factories. It was the common man’s food with all the plain good old goodness and kindness cooked in it.

Exactly after about 100 years, we have the social media boom! Facebook’s ‘Like’ and the Twitter’s ‘tweet’ have become iconic pretty much the same way.

There’s something about the social media likes, tweets, and shares that we have made it as a way of life ! cheese or not, it’s special with the plain good old goodness and kindness in each and every ‘like’ and ‘Share’ we love clicking so much.

Social media likes for the love of business brands

Having said that, in the recent months, there have been a number of articles which have come out on the importance of a Facebook “Like”. With titles such as, “What is the value of a like?” from Harvard Business review has been quite popular. You can click for the article here.

Brands spend billions of dollars on major social media platforms for promoting their brand’s social media presence. Almost 80% of the companies in the world have a Facebook page presence. ‘Social media likes’ is big business.

In spite of the brand promotions, branded content and endorsements the consumer (social media users) behavior has been quite different and it is not in the way, the marketers perceive.

Conclusive research studies from Harvard Business Review (Thanks to the authors !) have shown that –

Just because somebody endorses a brand with a ‘like’, it does not mean that they would make a purchase decision to buy or become a follower for life.
Their friend’s purchase decision and endorsement on social media do not influence them either.

This consumer behavior has left the marketers confused. The reasons for such behavior have been attributed to Facebook’s algorithm of providing a highly personalized experience to its users.

But the truth is far from it.

To ‘Like’ and ‘not Like and ‘to Share’ and ‘not share’ is deeply embedded in our human nature.

We want to be autonomous, connected, have the freedom and competency to choose and express and at the same time be disconnected and be remote to the proceedings. There is an element of connection and disconnection to social media likes and to life as a whole.

Social media likes are influenced by feelings of general connection and disconnection to life

I happen to read an article from The Spectator recently. Which led to me ask this question.

Who is a misanthrope?

I was quite bewildered when I read that word in the article. I was scrambling to get the dictionary to look up for the meaning.

Well, to be honest, I am hearing the word for the first time in my life. Excuse me for I am a non-native English writer nor have any previous journalistic experience.

Well, that apart, I just write. I thank the author and the article from The Spectator magazine titled ” The rise of the crowds the death of the individual”. You can find the article here. A hilarious and yet a satirical take on the human nature and crowd behavior in social media.

The online Wikipedia says that,
‘Misanthropy is the general hatred, mistrust, and contempt for the human species and the human nature’. A person having such feelings or views is a misanthrope. That way, misanthropy is a general feeling of disconnection to life.

For example,

You are in a hurry and you board a crowded bus on a hot sunny afternoon. The bus is cramped and there is hardly any space to stand. You wish you were given a breezy window seat with not many people around you. Further, you would still wish there were no people at all! But alas ! you need to cope with that for the rest your journey.

Such situations happen to us, some time or the other, even if some of you are chauffeur driven. Were we born crowd lovers, are we? We love our space, isn’t it?

There is a tiny bit of a misanthrope in all of us. We need to agree. If there is a misanthrope in us, then there should be something opposite to it on the other end, as well. Maybe, Pollyanna.

Pollyanna is someone who is cheerful and an excessively optimistic person.

It is this characteristic which exists to a large extent in all of us. Otherwise, the human civilization wouldn’t have progressed and evolved to who we are today. Human beings are social animals. We love groups and are cheerful people.

We love to spread the goodness and kindness to others. It is this human nature which has made social media so ubiquitous.

I was surprised to know from the Global Web Index study that there are 2.3 billion active social media users in the world as of Jan 2016.

If this is the case, then what would be the true value of a ‘like’?

The true value of social media likes

Social media like and conversation

I wouldn’t be surprised if some of us wouldn’t go to sleep or retire for the day without pushing or clicking a ‘like’ on Facebook.

Clicking or sending a “like” or tweeting a post is a feel good factor no doubt.

Psychologically, it creates a sense of recognition and importance for the person receiving the ‘like’. He/she feels rewarded and encouraged. And a sense of fulfillment and joy for the person who gives it.

According to an article, published in the “Personality and individual differences” journal titled “Why do people use Facebook ?” there are two fundamental reasons why we use Facebook. They are 1. the need to belong 2. Self-presentation. You can find the article here.

The need to belong refers to our intrinsic need for social acceptance and being seen as part of a group and being affiliated with it. Ostracism from a group negatively impacts the emotional well-being of the person. The person loses meaning and purpose.

There are self-esteem and self-worth associated with the need to belong. Any dip in the acceptability within the group, the self-esteem takes a hit and the individual works towards improving his or her standing in the social hierarchy and to become more acceptable.

Consistent with this understanding are the social media likes’. More social media ‘Likes’, tweets and shares on a post reflect on the social acceptability as a better determinant for the rise in self-esteem and self-worth of the person posting it.

Online identity

Social media users also care much about their online identity and self-presentation. There is a bit of self-enhancement and image management. Users do not want to project their true personalities rather they are happy projecting an idealized self.

So to like or not a like a post or even be influenced by a brand is so much about their on-line identity. People are careful about the others perception of themselves.

The true value of a ‘like’ is the real, authentic and direct feedback that social media users are giving back to the brands and others. A ‘like’ action which resonates truly with their on-line identity, other’s perception of themselves, their thought patterns with regard to connection and disconnection to life at that moment and importantly, the social acceptance that they crave for.

The study further concludes that social media likes and shares have a specialist function to play both in the individualistic as well as collectivist cultures.

Social media likes, tweets, and shares enhance self-esteem, self-worth and social acceptability in both the cultures alike. For the individualistic culture, it is done through opinions, personal views, comments and also by conveying thoughts and feelings.

And for the collectivist culture, it is by the frequent interactions among social media users. But then, there could be a mix of the two as well.

And therein lies the success and worldly acceptance of the social media likes. There have been recommendations recently that social media be tuned to serendipity encounters as well.

Social media likes and shares: in praise of serendipity

In the age of social media likes and shares, it is highly possible that you are not only hearing you own echo but also other’s views on your post. It creates an environment of acceptance and social conformity. This is rewarded and encouraged. It promotes shared experiences and easily solves problems in a diverse society.

Social media likes enable us to connect with our friends and connections at least three levels deep. You connect to your friends and your friend’s friends as well and so on. There is every chance of serendipitous encounters to happen. Such chance encounters deepen our relationships and bring us opportunities in unforeseen ways.

We live in a digital age and ideas are exchanged. A typical social media function something like a #hashtag can lead us to a different network and a chance encounter of some influential groups knowing you. Their thoughts and views might point you to a newer direction.

It’s all about spreading the goodness and kindness and being meaningful

Whether you are using social media for commercial purposes for branding or for personal use, creating meaningful and useful content is appreciated and respected by all. It is this content that everybody likes and wants to share.
Social media does not follow any set rules. It evolves on its own through user behavior over time.

The future of social media interactions and social media likes relies on the altruistic behavior of users. Long term sustainable actions for mass mobilizations, influencing purchase behavior and effective a long-term positive business change can happen by introducing appropriate incentive structures suitable to all cultures into the social network.

And rest is the act of spreading the goodness and kindness and being altruistic. It is human nature. Perhaps we need to learn something from the humble Cheeseburger.

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Ramkumar Yaragarla

I am 43 years old. Founder, Loving dad and Husband. Worked as an IT Business analyst and program manager in several Fortune 100 companies.Alumnus at the University of Warwick, UK. I love the WWW and write on Social aspects of information, Social collaboration, Digital Sociology, Digital Humanities and Work life balance. I enjoy playing on the beach with my 9 year old daughter. I am open to your suggestions and comments.
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