The Culture of “Like”- Who is involved?
In 2009, Facebook added another function allowing users to interact with social media posts: the Like button. Since then, it has become an inevitable part of social media. Websites began to embed Facebook Like button. Other platforms, such as Youtube or Google+, began to implement the idea, although it was given a different name (i.e., I like this, +1). Marketers began to measure the number of Like as a performance indicator. Users began to press the Like button every time they see a post and conversely, demand others to like theirs.
When the Like button is introduced, it was meant as a rating system. By definition, to like is to enjoy something. Therefore, when a post receives a like, it means to Facebook that users enjoy whatever information contained inside. Users are delighted; as a result, they press the like button. Although it claimed to be a new fun way to express the likable feeling, the Like button might be born with a commercialized purpose. Brands always want to measure the effectiveness of their communication campaign. Now Facebook introduced a method to count how many people like their campaign, it is just a so convenient way for brands to do so. Having people enjoy their content is far more tempted than just having people read it. Thus, number of like quickly becomes a more favourable metric than the reach and frequency. For brands, receiving a massive number of like means the content is loved by the crowd. However, it is only true if the like button works as a rating system. In fact, it means much more when a user clicks the like button.
Someone might post about having a newborn baby and receive hundreds of like. Surprisingly a death announcement can also receive the same amount of people clicking the like button. It is odd when having people like that kind of news. What happened is clicking like in the first case means: “I like it”. The latter case is different. Apparently human beings have more emotion to need to be expressed when reading a post. Meanwhile, they are given just one button to like. As a result, pressing like button does not necessarily mean: “I like it”, it may mean: “to give deepest condolences” as in the latter case, or “have read this”, “to take pleasure” and so on.
Facebook was once demanded by the crowd to implement the dislike button. In response, Mark claimed that the dislike button will not be launched, but they were having a plan of introducing some others function, for example, to demonstrate empathy (Johnston, 2014). Users are demanding more function added to display different emotion regarding the post while they can do so by adding the comment. Are they making themselves nonsense?

Look, if you make a Facebook page we will “like” it—it’s the least we can do. But it’s also the most we can do. (Seth Meyers on Saturday Night Live)
This quote indicates exactly what a “slacktivist” would do. It is combination of “slacker” and “activism” (Davis, 2011). It describes an effortless and cost-free support or action with the contribution of nothing to solve the social issue (Knibbs, 2013). “Slacktivism” is a popular word when mentioning the effectiveness of a charity communication campaign. In such context, the organisation usually calls for a symbolic support for a cause such as wearing a badge or joining in a Facebook page. They are expected to take meaningful action afterward but, in fact, people do not engage. Marketing practitioners take different views on how symbolic support affect the meaningful contribution. Nevertheless, research shows that it does drive the campaign into the area of “slacktivism” (Kristofferson, White and Peloza, 2014).
The theory of “Slacktivism” (Kristofferson, White and Peloza, 2014)
Kristofferson and her fellows (2014) are pioneers in developing a conceptual framework toward “Slacktivism”. They examined the impact of token display of support (i.e: wearing a pin, join in a online group) on a meaningful contribution (i.e: make a donation) and confirmed the prediction that subsequent behavior is diminished by the token support in certain condition. In other words, “slacktivism” may or may not emerge depending on a moderate variable that is the social observability.
According to the study, “Slacktivism” arises when the cost-free support is exposed to a high social observability. In this context, the impression-management motives (Leary and Kowalsky 1990) are activated. As a result, people are more likely to satisfy their needs of being impressed. When the symbolic support is performed and witnessed by a mass audience, the need is fulfilled; thus, there is no motivation to take any other actions.
The conceptual framework of “slacktivism” also suggests that when the token display occurs in a low social observability, customers are more likely to take subsequence meaningful contribution. It is explained that when an action is less observable by the crowd, the social influence is diminished. Hence, one might act according to the self-value (Simonson and Nowlis, 2000) and meaningful contribution is more likely to be taken.

“Slacktivism” effect on Facebook
Facebook culture of Likes is suffering the same effect of “slacktivism”. The idea of like as rating and comment as review does not work so well. In fact, users end up with clicking the like button and too lazy to give any comment even if the content is not that interesting.
Although there is no empirical study on “slacktivism” on Facebook context, evidence from observation suggests that the mechanism is still the same. Obviously, Facebook provides a high social observability. Users’ activities such as posting a status, clicking like and adding a comment are highly observable by others. The only difference is the need. Instead of the need of being impressed, it is more likely to be the need of showing care. Users want their friends to know that they care by performing an effortless action, which is clicking the like button. As the need is fulfilled, no further action is taken.
Not only the charity organizations, but also other companies that are doing communication campaign on social media needs to take into account the meaning of reaching a huge number of likes. Having a million likes on a Facebook page does not mean that a million users will check the page for an update. Activities on Facebook are highly observable; therefore, “slacktivism” is more likely to occur. Clicking the like button when an ad shows up on ones’ home page is an effortless action. Brands hope to create awareness by having this person check the update regularly. That might be a “slacktivist” who just want to show to his peers he cares about this matter, too. The need is fulfilled; thus, there is no motivation to keep checking the page. Since “slacktivism” exists, number of like is not a very good metrics as it should be.

Counting the number of likes- should marketers stop what they are doing?
Having people like content is the beginning, not the end. In 2013, UNICEF Sweden launched a new marketing campaign named “Likes don’t save lives”. It is evidence that marketers started to realize the not-so-powerful meaning of like. They started to move away from the illusion of having hundred of millions likes on social media (Grummas, 2013). While they are true about likes don’t save lives, the culture of likes is meaningful in a different point of view.
Facebook has an algorithm to decide what to show on the news feed. Although they have never really published how this algorithm works, it has come to the belief that posts with many likes, shares and comments and those similar to what users frequently interact in the past will be displayed (Dredge, 2014). The communication campaign on Facebook can receive benefit due to the mechanism of this algorithm. If a slacktivist likes a post, that activity will be shown on his friends’ news feed. Since the news feed is already filtered, if that information is displayed on the friend’s page, it is likely he has interacted with that kind of post before. In other words, having people like the post not only increases the frequency of display, but also reach relevant people. As a result, the reach and frequency are improved.

Since the introduction of Facebook Like button, Users and marketer have adopted it in different way. Facebook users like almost everything they come across and no longer bother to add a comment while marketers are seeking for likes as an indicator for the success of their marketing campaign.As from Facebook explanation, the like button is meat as a rating system and the comment is the review. However, users click likes even when they do not like the post. Therefore, it is failed as a rating system, and the number of like is not a very good metrics for judging the quality of a communication campaign.
Although the Like button is not the only option Facebook provided for its users to interact with a post, they choose it over the comment. The culture of Likes on Facebook is suffering from the effect of “slacktivism”. People click like as an effortless action to manage the impression o others. Since Facebook is highly observable by the public, the need is fulfilled. There is no more motivation to perform any other meaningful actions.
Since the culture of Likes enters to the area of “slacktivism”, marketers should not count it as evidence for the effectiveness of their campaign. Having a million likes does not mean that many users love their campaign and will come back regularly. Instead, the fact that the content receive a huge number of like will improve the reach and frequency thanks to the way of working of Facebook algorithm.

Cava, M. (2014). How Facebook changed our lives. [online] USA TODAY. Available at: [Accessed 9 May 2015].
Davis, J. (2011). Cause Marketing: Moving Beyond Corporate Slacktivism. [online] Available at: [Accessed 16 May 2015].
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Gross, D. (2014). 5 ways Facebook changed us, for better and worse – [online] CNN. Available at: [Accessed 17 May 2015].
Grummas, E. (2013). Likes don’t save lives – lessons from a social media campaign. [online] the Guardian. Available at: [Accessed 17 May 2015].
Johnston, C. (2014). No dislike button for Facebook, declares Zuckerberg. [online] the Guardian. Available at: [Accessed 16 May 2015].
Knibbs, K. (2013). Slacktivists, unite! Social media campaigns aren’t just feel-good back patting. [online] Digital Trends. Available at: [Accessed 16 May 2015].
Kristofferson, K., White, K. and Peloza, J. (2014). The Nature of Slacktivism: How the Social Observability of an Initial Act of Token Support Affects Subsequent Prosocial Action. Journal of Consumer Research, 40(6), pp.1149-1166.
Leary, M. and Kowalski, R. (1990). Impression management: A literature review and two-component model. Psychological Bulletin, 107(1), pp.34-47.
Pearlman, L. (2009). I like it. [online] Facebook Newsroom. Available at: [Accessed 16 Apr. 2015].
Simonson, I. and Nowlis, S. (2000). The Role of Explanations and Need for Uniqueness in Consumer Decision Making: Unconventional Choices Based on Reasons. Journal of Consumer Research, 27(1), pp.49-68.

I remember hearing a phrase that “A photo is worth a thousand words”. If story telling is so precious in marketing, why don’t we you visual materials to tell that story instead of words? The question urged me to pay a visit to Google and a new concept then emerged: Visual content marketing.

What is visual content marketing?

Back to the definition of content marketing, Joe Pulizzi- author of Get Content, Get Customers- explained

“Content marketing is a marketing technique of creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire, and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience – with the objective of driving profitable customer action.”

What set content marketing apart from other forms of advertising is the word “valuable”. The ultimate goal of content marketers is to deliver as much value in their content to target audiences as possible, and it is the value that keep the audiences watching. In his recent blog post, Steimie presented five examples of content marketing including infographics, webpages, videos and books. Among those, infographics and videos are the two form of visual content. So in a nutshell, one might understand visual content marketing is using visual objects in content marketing.

The power of visual objects

When scrolling down my Facebook page to see all the posts this year, I noticed that posts with pictures received more interest than ones with text. Same pattern appeared on the homepage. Thus, I believe it is fair to say visual object facilitate interaction better than words.

From psychological aspect, people think by visualizing in their mind (Berger, 1972). In his book, Berger quoted a saying of Dr. Lynell Burmark, Ph.D. Associate at the Thornburg Center for Professional Development, that “…unless our words, concepts, ideas are hooked onto an image, they will go in one ear, sail through the brain, and go out the other ear. Words are processed by our short-term memory where we can only retain about 7 bits of information… Images, on the other hand, go directly into long-term memory where they are indelibly etched.” Hence, it is always easier to use images than description.

What’s next for visual content?

At an early stage, visual content takes forms of videos, images and particularly, infographics. Although the means can better attract attention, generating ‘like’ is not enough. Marketers want interaction. On a Facebook page, it is observable that responses to viewers’ comments are generated to keep the conversation going. Photo contests are held to encourage customer to share their experiences with brands through visual materials. Those are just two in several ways to facilitate interaction. These days, I witnessed a new emerged method called interactive video, which you can find in The other side video commercial of Honda Civic type R. Yet the one that interests me is a Vietnamese interactive music video, which introduce products on sale in an online store.

Well, watching is better than wording. Enjoy and tell me, is it the future of visual content marketing?


Berger, J. (1973). Ways of seeing. London: British Broadcasting Corp.

Pulizzi, J. and Barrett, N. (2009). Get content, get customers. New York: McGraw-Hill.

For the last few years, marketing has been spinning around the content as a key to win the market share. Whether through blogs, videos or social media, what matters the most is interesting, inspiring and educational materials. Creating an amazing content becomes crucial. However, will an outstanding content work if it is delivered in a bad time?

In my case, well…probably not. I have been searching online for a winter coat. Thanks to Big Data, ads related to winter coats appeared on every platform I visited. The first time I saw an exclusive offer on my Facebook page, it was so tempting that I almost clicked on the link. Yes, almost. I would have done that if my lecturer hadn’t come in. I wanted to check out the offer but sorry, lecture went first. Later, when I had spare time at night, I logged in to my Facebook again but couldn’t find that ad. The marketing simply failed because of bad timing.

One might quickly realize that if the ad had appeared when I browsed my Facebook at night, I would have clicked onto the link and checked out the offer. Hence, it is fair to say that the right time is equally important as the right message and the right audience. Companies certainly don’t prefer mass marketing. They want a segmentation and focus on content. Apparently they are working on the right message to the right audiences. How about the right time? Luckily for marketers, the digital age provides just the perfect opportunity to bring not only the time, but also the whole context in.

Big Data allows marketers to act on real time data, you know where your customers are, what device they are using to browse, probably what they are doing at the time they browse. Basically, the whole context is visible to marketers. Why not take advantage of it? Fleming presented a brilliant example of contextual marketing in his white paper. A shoe website can tailor a customer experience by choosing which shoes showing up on the page based on the weather and the geographic. If she is in sunny Brighton, summer sandals are recommended. Similarly, if she is in Manchester, where it is raining, wellies are introduced instead (Fleming, 2014). Even if that customer does not make a purchase, the website owner can send her an email presenting an exclusive offer on items which she has viewed, but taking the context in consideration. She would be more likely to check her email at office hour and browse the website at lunchtime. Thus, dropping email around 15 minutes before her break would probably increase the conversion rate.

In a nutshell, context can add into the effectiveness of content marketing. The scenario that marketers can provide offers just about the right time when their customers need them is not in our imagination anymore. Context can be brought in and started a new phenomenon in our marketing world.


Fleming, J. (2014). Contextual Personalization: The next frontier in customer engagement. pp.3-10.

Social media have been a share of interests for marketers in the digital era. In the early age of emerging, it was simply a platform for people to share stories regardless of where they are. Now it becomes a mean for businesses to disseminating news and handling customers’ requests. What else can companies benefit from the popularity of social media these days?

Finding customer insight is the prominence of account planning in advertising. Companies spend a large part of the budget on focus groups and in depth interviews to obtain this precious information prior launching any campaign. However, the issue is no one tells you their insight. That explains why there is always a moderator facilitating the discussion so that observers can read between the lines and obtain valuable insight.

Social media since the beginning have played the same role as a moderator, even in a better manner. In a short period, it created the amount of data as large as the whole world did in generations. Facebook and Twitter everyday handles 500 and 12 terabytes of data respectively whereas that of Stock Exchange New Yorks is only 1 terabytes (Vance, 2012). Every day, people upload photos, post statuses and share stories with others. Increasing consumer conversations taking place in an online platform with so much being said about brands open up a new research opportunity. Social Media data, therefore, becomes a huge source for businesses to understand the behaviour of their customers, how they make purchase decisions and even their needs in the near future. Eventually, social media communities like Facebook and Twitters become the world’s largest focus group companies could afford.


How Nestle resolved its issues using social media monitoring


Several distinct advantages arise when social media serve as research tools. Conversations are generated in the public domain, so there is no financial and practical constraint on sample size. Gaining access to a large sample of users means marketers can have a broader view to build the big picture. Additionally, little planning required makes the method suitable for ad hoc and short term project.


Most of the data created by social network is unstructured (Smith, 2014). As a result, it is difficult to manage and analyse. The disadvantage creates some rooms for social monitoring service to grow (e.g. Google Alerts). However, people are still questioning the ethics of social media monitoring (Berkman, 2014). You certainly don’t want anyone keep a record of your every post and every comment on Facebook, do you?

In short, social media could be an alternative for focus group. It’s less time-consuming, more cost saving and facilitates the view of the big picture. However, codes and conducts are required to protect consumer’s privacy.


Berkman, R. (2014). Ethics of Social Media Monitoring. [online] Available at: [Accessed 24 Oct. 2014].

Smith, C. (2014). Social Networks Are Only Just Getting Started In Mining User Data. [online] Business Insider. Available at: [Accessed 24 Oct. 2014].

Vance, A. (2012). Facebook’s Is Bigger Than Yours. [online] Available at: [Accessed 24 Oct. 2014].