Brands Favor Social Shares Over Likes

Chatter is key

Headshot of Christopher Heine

Asking consumers to like an ad or post on Facebook—common practice among marketers for years—has, let’s face it, become about as popular as Friendster.

While Facebook has for some time now preached the gospel of shares to its advertisers, brands finally seem to be heeding the social giant’s advice and ditching likes for shares in measuring their social media efforts. Some are even calling shares the new retweets.

One such marketer is Boylan Bottling Co., the 122-year-old beverage brand that gave away bottles of its Shirley Temple soda to consumers who went to great lengths to share its promos. Boylan’s “People Talking About This” metric, which calculates chatter on Facebook, soared to five times greater than the normal rate.

“We’ve done some advertising to get Facebook likes,” said Kristin Krumpe, Boylan’s CMO. “But we have found that Facebook is a better place to percolate a frenzy around our brand.”

Online food delivery service Seamless and candymaker Mike and Ike are among the brands to recently add the share button to their Facebook ads.

Other marketers say they, too, put a high value on social sharing. “Whether people are sharing our content is an indicator we use to understand if we are going in the right direction,” said Catherine Schenquerman, digital ad manager at JetBlue.

Scott Monty, social media director at Ford, called likes the “digital grunts” of Facebook. “The like, as far as I’m concerned, is the minimum commitment you can ask from a [Facebook] fan,” he said. “Likes, comments, shares—it goes in that order of importance. Even the person who authors the first comment is like an ‘ugh,’ another digital grunt. I am more interested in the value of a share.”

Facebook’s News Feed algorithm gives up to 1,300 percent more weight to shares than likes when it comes to what’s shown near the top of a user’s feed, affecting a promotion’s viral performance, said Dennis Yu, CEO of social media insights firm BlitzMetrics.

“Shares are the best for word of mouth,” he said. “It says people endorse your content to the point of putting their reputation on the line. Your ad or post is interesting enough where people are willing to share it.”

According to Yu, some brands err in using click bait-type content for ads and posts to get easy likes and comments. “They post cute photos that get a lot of views,” he said. “Brands should focus on storytelling to create real engagement.”

Entertainment brands in particular may want to focus on shares. An Eventbrite study found that Facebook shares are worth $4.15 apiece when it comes to event ticket sales—more than twice as much as a retweet ($1.85) and four times greater than a LinkedIn share (92 cents).

Peter Heffring, CEO of social marketing software firm Expion, said it’s time brands entered a “Facebook 3.0” phase in terms of how they evaluate ads and posts. “Social effectiveness is evolving from experimentation to science,” he said.

Now there’s a message worth sharing.

@Chris_Heine Christopher Heine is a New York-based editor and writer.