Reflection: The Facebook “Like”

Before I made up my mind a few weeks ago to go see J. J. Abrams’ Super 8, I checked the movie’s score over at Rotten Tomatoes. Eighty or so percent, I thought. Sounds good. I then noticed some interactive features I didn’t remember seeing the last time I had visited, which had admittedly been months, maybe a full year earlier: two gray buttons, labeled “WANT TO SEE IT” and “NOT INTERESTED.” Since I didn’t (and still don’t) have an account on Rotten Tomatoes, I expected clicking either one would take me to a page asking me to sign up to the site. But it didn’t. After telling Rotten Tomatoes that, yes, I had been wanting to see Super 8 for sometime now, a little message popped up that said I had “liked” the movie on Facebook. Huh. That’s neat, I guess. I checked my Facebook a few minutes later to see if the click on Rotten Tomatoes had translated, and it indeed had. And, not only that, but two of my friends had already “liked” my “like.” A successful collaboration between Facebook and Rotten Tomatoes, and a demonstration of the efficacy of three-dimensional digital nanotargeting.

In “Long-Tail Nanotargeting,” Koster claims the Franken campaign taught him that Facebook and Google are far better nanotargeting tools than traditional print media, chiefly because Facebook allows users to demographically specify themselves, giving companies data to analyze. Notably, for some time now, the side bar to the right of the primary Facebook frame has been a place where Facebook advertises things related to my “likes”: it tells me about local tennis lessons because Roger Federer is one of my favorite athletes, or encourages me to “like” (the less good) Sister Act 2 simply because I “like” Sister Act 1, or points me toward Don Draper swag because I watch Mad Men. But this type of advertising or collaborative promotion is still fairly one-dimensional–two-dimensional, at best. On the low end, it’s still one corporation (Facebook) helping other corporations earn my attention, support and/or money by telling them how to cater to me. On the up-side, companies have opened lines of communication by noticing what I “like.”

As we have been discussing, the most effective dialogue is three-dimensional: not only superior (company) to inferior (consumer), but equal to equal, consumers amongst each other. When I told Rotten Tomatoes that I “WANTED TO SEE” Super 8 and it told Facebook, I was advertising Super 8 for Paramount by nanotargeting, of course, but also by nanotargeting in the most persuasive way–three-dimensionally, emphasizing my status as a fellow consumer to my Facebook friends who noticed my “like,” trusted my taste and/or remembered their own interest in the film, and “liked” it too; an action that, of course, will show up on their newsfeeds and nanotarget their friends.

This is surely the whole rationale behind the connection Facebook has forged with sites like Rotten Tomatoes, AV Club, Huffington Post, etc. Why dedicate time and money and brain power to inventing an ad that has a catchy slogan, memorable image, or interactive game built in (the newest craze) when, with the click of a button, visitors to a site can “like” a story and nanotarget its content straight to their Facebook friends–people who, in all likelihood, are similar to them and thus are likely to be intrigued? Even better, why spend even more resources trying to convince the hard-to-convince when people’s friends, even those fundamentally dissimilar from them, can be the most persuasive? In short, the Facebook “like” might be helping the modern “fractured” audience pull itself together, both intra-niche–by encouraging people to promote things that Internet users similar to them are likely to enjoy–and extra-niche, by telling dissimilar Facebook friends to trust each other’s taste.

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