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Marketers like that you "Like"

The "Like" button on the Levi's website.

TEXT OF STORY

Kai Ryssdal: The movie to see this weekend -- by all the reviews that I've read, anyway -- is "The Social Network." It's the one about how Facebook got started and turned into the be all and end all of social networking that we know today.

Even if you don't have a Facebook account yourself, though, it's pretty hard to miss. Go to almost any corporate website today -- newspapers to consumer products to food -- and you'll notice the Facebook "Like" button. It's about the size of a Tic Tac. It's got a little picture of a thumbs-up on it.

Marketplace's Stacey Vanek Smith reports consumers and companies seem to be liking it.


Stacey Vanek Smith: See a cute picture of your friend's Labradoodle?

Zing!

You like it. Read a great article about Fashion Week in the New York Times?

Zing!

You like it. A cool new tequila bar, "Wall Street 2," the striped grandpa cardigan at Urban Outfitters...

Zing, zing, zing!

Since it was launched five months ago, nearly two million websites -- from the New York Times to Pepsi to Yelp -- have added the Facebook "Like" button to their web pages, and it's not just about ego.

Sally Field: You like me, right now! You really like me!

When you click on the little thumbs up icon, you hand over your Facebook data to the company and it gets access to your friends' data, too.

James Fowler is the co-author of "Connected: The Surprising Power of Our Social Networks."

James Fowler: All of a sudden, they're tapped in to this vast resource that is going to help them to have a much finer picture of each one of their consumers.

So that company you "like"...

Zing!

...Suddenly knows where you live, where you went on vacation, your favorite bands, your friends' favorite bands. Just about everything on your Facebook page. And the "Like" button boils all that down for companies. Fowler says that's what companies really like about the "Like" button.

Fowler: It used to be that the problem was, we didn't have enough information. And now I think, increasingly, the probably is we don't have enough tools to sift through all of these mountains of data that we're collecting online. Essentially, what the "like" button is a one-question questionnaire.

In other words, pushing the "Like" button...

Zing!

...is like sending up a flare.

Whistle of flare flying up

A flare telling a company, "I like your products -- offer me a deal!"

Andreas Weigend teaches social networking and data mining at Stanford.

Andreas Weigend: If you actually really deeply think about, it is that you are doing the broadcasting and they're tuning in. I think it will change the behavior of the next billion people.

Weigend says the Facebook "Like" button is turning our relationship with business on its head. We are suddenly marketing products for companies: Flagging ourselves as people they should sell things to, endorsing the product to our friends and handing the company our friends' information.

Megan O'Conner: We definitely have seen huge excitement and engagement around the "Like" button.

Megan O'Conner heads up social marketing for Levi's, one of the earliest "Like" button adopters. She says the simplicity of the "Like" button is key. In the last six months, about a million people have said they "like" Levi's.

Zing! Zing! Zing! Zing! Zing!

O'Conner: We have ratings and reviews on our site, which takes a little bit longer for somebody to engage with, and this is a really light touch way that people can engage with our products and really share that engagement with their friends.

So you can "like" the Jaded Rinse Boyfriend jean...

Zing!

...or the Cry Baby Skinny jeans...

Zing!

...and set up a Friends Store with your Facebook pals so you can see what they like, and they can see what you like and Levi's can see what everybody likes.

"Connected" author James Fowler says the "Like" button is letting retailers tap into the all-powerful friends network for the first time.

Fowler: We tend to choose friends who are like us. Sociologists call this "homophily": It's a word that literally means "love of like," birds of a feather flock together. Because we tend to choose these people who are like us, knowing what they like helps us to know what we like.

And we like to know what we like, says Matt Britton, CEO of social marketing firm Mr. Youth. He says we trust information from our friends.

Matt Britton: Say I'm searching for an Italian restaurant on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. If I see seven of my friends all like one restaurant, I'm going to go there, and I don't care what else is on a search engine.

Britton says Google does not like this.

Bzzzzz!

because Google has focused on bringing us the most popular results for our searches, but Facebook could show us what is most popular among our friends. What they thought of the movie you're buying a ticket for, or the brand of paint you're thinking about using in the nursery.

Britton: In a lot of ways, your social network soon is going to be the web. The web is your social network, where every website you're on and every web browser experience will be in some way socially enabled.

Britton says Facebook is hoping its "Like" button will just be the beginning, and eventually everything we search for, read about and shop for will be filtered through our network of Facebook friends. In other words, Facebook's little button?

Zing!

Is, like, huge.

I'm Stacey Vanek Smith for Marketplace.

About the author

Stacey Vanek Smith is a senior reporter for Marketplace, where she covers banking, consumer finance, housing and advertising.
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Yes, the forfeiting of personal details is an issue. That aside, let's not get too carried away here. The piece itself mentions how easy the Like is to evoke. Just how valuable is such a mindless action? In some minds Like is just one notch up from Yeah, Whatever and two from Don't Like. Anyone betting the farm on one click.

Also, Stacey, in your piece from earlier this fall, you reported that a data miner was able to pick up that you were Googling for a wine bar in Berkeley. Could you provide a more detailed report on how that happens? Only with the use of "smartphones"? What difference does it make if one Googles only on one's home or work computer? Any at all? If there is a difference, what makes the difference? And, if you wanted to block a data miner from picking up your smartphone or computer-based searches, is there a technical means to do so? I'd love some instruction here along with the insights.

I hope Marketplace Money will add some clarity to what information is or is not shared and under what circumstances. Austin Haugen from Facebook says pressing the "like" button transmits no personally identifiable information. Ken C says "When you like a company Facebook page or click the Facelook like button on a company website, there is a good possibility that you are interacting with the other version of "like" that sends your personal information including your likes (which includes that you like that photo) and what your friends like." Drew Burk says, from a business point of view, "There's two kinds of the like button. There's one you implement using the Open Graph protocol, which does send all the information about you and everyone, and there's the other one which merely communicates the fact that a user liked this or that page. We opted to not go the Open Graph route, as we were uncomfortable with that level of intrusion into our user's online lives. But we do like the marketing opportunities provided by the simpler version."
Stacy or someone - can you please get to the bottom of this and explain in greater detail what happens under what circumstances? I've been extremely hesitant to get onto Facebook and your story fed my loathing for the whole social networking thing, but I'd like to know what's real here.

A pertinent point I heard recently, possibly by Douglas Rushkoff, is that when people think of facebook they think of keeping in touch with friends and socialising. But it isn't about that at all, it's about monetising your relationships.

I am quite impressed to see the point that you picked to display Facebook in a different way usually people don't take it like this. This tells that privacy provider is using our personal information for business benefits.

I am quite impressed to see the point that you picked to display Facebook in a different way usually people don't take it like this. This tells that privacy provider is using our personal information for business benefits.

This is Austin Haugen, a Product Manager, from Facebook. Thanks for covering the Like button, Stacey. I wanted to clarify however, how the social plugin works. No personally identifiable information is shared with websites through the Like button or other social plugins – not your name, profile information, what you like, or who your friends are or what they like. Instead, social plugins work through an iframe when you’re logged into Facebook, and none of your information leaves Facebook. For example, the Recommend button on your article does not share any user information with NPR.
Websites with social plugins can view aggregate, anonymous insights into how people are interacting with their site, but do not have access to any personally identifiable information of you or your friends.
More information can be found in this video here: http://www.facebook.com/video/video.php?v=10150210521510484

I enjoyed the fact that there is a "Like" (recommend) button on the transcript of this story. Appropriate!

This is exactly why they also need a "DISLIKE" button.

Yes, the forfeiting of personal details is an issue. That aside, let's not get too carried away here. The piece itself mentions how easy the Like is to evoke. Just how valuable is such a mindless action? In some minds Like is just one notch up from Yeah, Whatever and two from Don't Like. Anyone betting the farm on one click - personal attributes captured or not - appears to be grabbing grabbing for straws.

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