Social Media Optimization Case Study: Facebook Like Buttons


This post (written based on a presentation by Simon Cross pictured above) explains how the Facebook “Like” button is poised to alter the world of online display advertising.  It is the second in a series of posts about website marketing with Facebook. The first website marketing post is about Facebook Pages and Facebook Ads. 

At first, the web was about surfing the information highway. Then, it evolved into a place focused on web content, pages, databases, and documents. 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, meaning third-party software developers can create applications inside the service. Facebook “Like” buttons are the killer app for achieving the kind of reach that, 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 the Activity Streams, 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 locations are joining them every day, using Facebook social plug-ins.  Today, 250 million people use Facebook through destination websites without visiting 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 have found it.
  • Engagement – Like, comment, and share functionality results mean they do more and stay longer.
  • Insights – The ability to see precisely how people engage with your brand, get demographics on who they are, and improve your efforts over time, whether at or via your destination domain using Facebook Connect.

How Do You Do It?

What’s the easiest way for nontechnical people 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

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 socially optimized sites, the “liker” or recommender’s profile picture appears beneath the “Like” button. So, in this case study, if you like the movie The Social Network, your Facebook friends will also see your “like” as a recommendation on IMDB.

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 pieces their Facebook friends have “Liked.”  The Independent newspaper in the UK has positioned 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 the plugin Add This — is that if any of my Facebook friends “Like” an article, I see 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 show faces and set the width. Given the amount of real estate the default settings require, the inclination is to 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 below, which are the default “Like” button widget settings, are much more likely to encourage engagement.
Optimizing Facebook Like Buttons

Facebook partner engineer Simon Glass says that seeing faces amplifies the likelihood of getting click recommendations ten times.  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 return 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 published on that subject appear automatically in their newsfeed at

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 five weeks of deploying their new “Like” button subscription integration.  “You can kind of think of it like RSS, but that people actually use,” says Mr. Cross, who formerly worked as a developer for the BBC.
Facebook Like Buttons Replace RSS

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

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

Half of Facebook’s users visit daily, and many do so multiple times daily.  Before La Repubblica integrated Facebook, readers had to go to the website to check for updated content. With this new integration, the newspaper can get links to its articles in front of readers who spend most of their time on the Net.

Facebook users spend on average 5 hrs 25 mins on 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 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 public.

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