How the Like Button Changes Everything

You can’t go 5 minutes without hearing another story about the impact of social media on… well… everything. How it changes the way we communicate. How it changes the way we shop, engage customers, learn about partners and competition. The list goes on, and on, and on.

At the center of most (if not all) of these stories is Facebook. Certainly the most popular and broadly recognized social network, Facebook now boasts hundreds of millions of users, over $1 billion in revenue, and over $50 billion in value for its owners. But one could argue that its greatest impact lies in one simple feature.

The Like Button.

I heard a story this past weekend on the public radio show Marketplace Money, which discussed the impact that the Like Button has had – on consumer behavior, brand marketing, and of course, market research. In the story, James Fowler, the co-author of “Connected: The Surprising Power of Our Social Networks,” put it best when he likened the Like Button to a “one-question questionnaire.”

And he’s right. The power, of course, is in it’s simplicity. That one simple act – clicking “Like” – whether it be on a brand or a band or anything in between – tells a market researcher more that they could have ever hoped to learn in the pre-Facebook era. It allows the consumer to broadcast their interest, and in doing so, also shares a treasure trove of information about that person, and their friends!

So my question is this: does the Like Button fundamentally change our approach to market research? Do we now rely on the consumer to signal the brand that they’re interested and ready to buy? How do the “likes” of friends and others within our social network impact what we like as consumers, and how does that change the way we approach learning about new markets?

I want to hear your thoughts. What’s the impact of the Like Button? How should it be used? And where are other approaches to consumer market research still required?

About Joshua Hoffman

Joshua Hoffman is Technology Specialist at Microsoft and a frequent contributor to Research Access.


  1. One quick, top of mind observation. Facebook does not include a “Dislike” button. A bit biased for my taste. There are more issues where that one originated. :-)

  2. You’re absolutely right, Steve. The Like Button seems to be a powerful tool for a consumer to signal when they’re open to more from a brand. And in some ways, it can make the job of a market researcher easier, sharing information about people you know are engaged with your brand. But you bring up an important point – bias is a dangerous think in the MR game, and relying too much on this kind of data leaves us prone to missing out on potential problems before they become real problems! Should Facebook introduce a “Dislike” button, too?

  3. Thank you Joshua. Personally, I would “Like” a “Dislike” button. It seems unsettling that when someone has posted something such as human tragedy that we are limited to “Like” it.


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