Facebook Like Button Optimization Best Practices


This post (written based on a presentation by Simon Cross pictured above) explains how the Facebook “Like” button is poised to kill online display advertising as we know it, and help you understand why the social networking giant has been valued at $50 billion.  It is the second in a series of posts about marketing with Facebook. The first post with about marketing with Facebook Pages and Facebook Ads.  Let's get started.

At first, the web was about surfing the information highway. Then it evolved into a place where the focus was on web content, pages, databases and documents. Today, it has become a place to connect with friends and trusted colleagues.  The web of tomorrow will be about finding relevant content from our friends, signaling the end of algorithmic search as the dominant means of locating relevant content online.

Facebook is a platform, which means third-party software developers can create applications that run inside the service. Since the launch of Facebook in May 2007, more than 550,000 Facebook apps have been created.  Today, more than a million developers are creating Facebook apps. And, as you probably know, the social network counts 500 million users.

Facebook “Like” buttons are the killer app for achieving the kind of reach that up until now, had been the exclusive province of mainstream media. “Like” buttons are the most used and easiest to use of Facebook’s Social Plugins and they provide a practical way for filing URLs and other online objects as nodes on the Facebook social graph.  But if you count all Activity Feed (meant for news sites), Live Stream (meant for Live Events) and other Facebook  widgets, more than 2 million websites are extending Facebook functionality to their sites and roughly 10,000 new sites  are joining them every day, using Facebook social plug ins.  Today, 250 million people use Facebook through destination websites without visiting Facebook.com, every month.
Benefits of Using Facebook Like Buttons

Life is Short. You're Busy.  Why Bother?  Three Reasons:

  • Traffic – Getting people to your website who wouldn’t otherwise have found it.
  • Engagement – Like, comment and share functionality results means they do more and stay longer.
  • Insights – The ability to see exactly how people are engaging with your brand, get demographics on who they are, and improve your efforts over time, whether its at Facebook.com or via your destination domain using Facebook Connect.

How Do You Do It?

What’s the easiest way for a nontechnical person to extend Facebook functionality to their website?  Here it is.

Like” Button – This is by far the most important Facebook Social Plugin.  It’s how Facebook users can attach an object, like a web page, to their newsfeed and social graph.  They click the “Like” button and create a feed story, which can be seen by their friends at Facebook.com.

Their friends can “Like” it as well, attach a comment to it or forward it to their Facebook friends by clicking the “Share” button, extending the object’s reach and adding social relevance. “Liking” an object also means it becomes a node on the Facebook graph, so it appears in search, and if it’s a product, brand or service, it also appears on the Facebook profile page of the “Liker.” On social optimized sites, the “liker” or recommender’s profile picture appears beneath the “Like” button. So in this case, if you like the movie The Social Network, your Facebook friends will see your “like” as a recommendation on IMDB as well.

Integrating the Facebook Graph API

Last summer, Facebook director of media partnerships Justin Osofsky launched a campaign to get more news media outlets to integrate Facebook functionality, so their audiences can share articles in their newsfeeds, and find articles that their Facebook friends have “Liked.”  The Independent newspaper in the UK has done so by positioning the “Like” button in the upper right-hand corner beside every article on their website.
Integrating Facebook Like Buttons

The advantage of integrating the Facebook like button in this manner — rather than just using a simple share button such as Add This — is that if any of my Facebooks friends “Like” an article, I wind up seeing their profile picture on the Independent’s website. In the example above, if my Facebook friends happen onto this story on the Independent’s website, they can see I’ve recommended it.

The article also gets posted to my newsfeed. The more of my friends who “Like” it and comment on it:

  • The more people who see it
  • The more social relevance it gets
  • The broader the reach
  • And the more referrals to your website

When installing a “Like” button, you can elect to show faces, and set the width . Given the amount a real estate the default settings require, the inclination is to go adjust the setting and so with the smaller “Button Count” or “Box Button” options.  But these are not nearly as effective because profile pictures do not appear.  The options shown below right, which are the default “Like” button widget settings, are much more likely to encourage engagement.
Optimizing Facebook Like Buttons

Seeing faces amplifies the likelihood of getting click recommendations ten times, says Facebook partner engineer Simon Glass.  As the research from Facebook shows, once just two Facebook friends have clicked a “Like” button, the likelihood that others will click it as well increases exponentially.
Facebook Like Button Optimization

The Italian newspaper La Repubblica is using the Facebook “Like” buttons to let users subscribe to their content in their Facebook newsfeed.  Instead of relying on users to come back to their destination website to “like” content, La Repubblica readers can use the “Like” button to subscribe to news by subject-matter, and any stories the published on that subject appear automatically in their newsfeed at Facebook.com.

Readers can “Like” their favorite football team, and links to stories about their team are syndicated directly to their Facebook newsfeed in one click. La Repubblica got 104,000 “likes” in the first 5 weeks of deploying their new “Like” button subscription integration.  “You can kind of think if it like RSS, but that people actually use,” says Mr. Cross, who formerly worked as a developer for the Beeb.
Facebook Like Buttons Replace RSS

What are the benefits of using Facebook “Like” buttons?

  • Distribution on Facebook.com
  • Collect social recommendations
  • Reach new people through personal recommendations
  • Drive inbound traffic and user engagement

Half of Facebook’s users visit Facebook.com every day, and many of them do so multiple times daily.  Before La Repubblica integrated Facebook, readers had to go to the website to check for updated content but with this new integration, the newspaper can get links to it’s articles in front of readers where they spend the majority of their time on the Net.

Facebook users spend on average 5 hrs 25 mins on Facebook.com per month, versus 2 hrs 17 mins on Yahoo, 1 hr and 52 mins on AOL, 1 hr and 41 mins on MSN, 1 hr 17 mins on YouTube and 1 hr 14 mins on Google.

This blog post was written using source material from a special session at Le Web 2010 presented by Facebook partner engineer Simon Cross, a complete audio transcript for which is available at On the Record…Online. At the time of this writing, the PowerPoint presentation he used was also available.

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