Facebook, website innovation

Why I Like the Like Button: Spreading Nonprofit Messages

31 Comments 30 April 2010

As most Facebook users know, Facebook changed its entire ecosystem a little over a week ago. Facebook created social plugins, an open graph, changed the “fan” setting to the thumbs-up “like” button, changed personal privacy settings, created Community Pages, links personal interests to automatically-selected pages or search queries, and…I still can’t find where the groups I belong to are showing up on my profile. Whew.

Facebook has always used the power of influence marketing to show you what your friends are doing on Facebook. In a new study by McKinsey consulting, word of mouth marketing is shown to be the only factor that ranks in consumer influence at every step of the purchase decision process. And every step of the process of becoming engaged with an organization as well, I would suggest. When I used to be a community organizer, I really encouraged “friend to friend organizing.” The power of a personal recommendation by a trusted influencer is incredibly strong. Virtual friends may not be strong influencers, however, but they are stronger influencers than strangers.

The Like button weaves influencers together, and networks together, easily.

Here are two examples:

Categorizing Friends vs. People who Like Your Facebook Page

Did you notice that when you go to a page, you now see the people who like divided into two categories? Facebook has always embraced the concept of influencers, and now divides the “people who like”a page into two sections:”friends who like” (those you are personally connected to on Facebook) and “people who like” (with whom you are not connected).

Facebook is not-so-subtly influencing you to Like a page your friends like, or Like a page that people who influence you also like.

Your Friends Influence You All Over the Web

You’ll soon begin to see the Like button all over the web. At the top of news articles, blog posts, websites, videos, etc. Facebook makes it very simple to grab the code for the Like button and place it anywhere on your websites. The Like buttons automatically display the names of your personal Facebook friends who also Liked the same content.

When you press the button it will appear in your Facebook news feed, and also become part of “interests and likes” in your personal profile.

With the Like button, Facebook enables your organization to become a network weaver.

I also see great opportunity to use the Like button to spread nonprofit messages and attract new supporters through network weaving:

1. Lower barriers to participation. As Jordan Viator wrote very eloquently in her summary of how Facebook changes might affect nonprofits, “there are less boundaries than ever before in getting people “engaged” with your cause.” I agree with this. However, I also think that the quick Like and lower fan barrier also means lesser commitment. Think about how you can motivate the really committed core within your organization to Like your Facebook page, and also Like it all over the web. When we see the same core group of people Liking our organization’s content on the web, the Like button’s influence grows. In other words, it’s not a fluke that someone clicked that button once; fans demonstrate greater organizational commitment when they Like something by your organization in several places on the web.

2. More exposure within Facebook. As Ashley McFarland writes, “instead of dropping targeted links into your text, allow a user to click the familiar “Like” button and save yourself so much work!” Placing the Like button on your content means that you expose more people to it: all Likes are shared via the news feed on Facebook. All Likes are entered into someone’s interests in their profile.

3. New fans from outside of Facebook. The new Insights for your pages are at http://facebook.com/insights. Insights now display sources: if your page acquired new fans from within Facebook, or outside of Facebook. You should see the external source fan count begin to grow due to the new Like button.  Facebook is working hard to bring you more “people who like your page”and offering you more exposure.

Here is a screen shot of the new insights page:

4. Understanding your supporter’s interests helps your organization become network weaver. With the new Open Graph, website admins now have access to information about where a Page’s fans are visiting elsewhere on the web. If you put the button on your website,, Facebook promises all sorts of great information about what else these visitors do on the web. As Ashley McFarland wrote to me in an email, “the big thing for smart NPs is that they will be able to widen their nets and gather their own information on a similarly large scale. Like options embedded in the content of your website? For free and with only a simple snippet of code? Fantastic!”

I see in this opportunities for cross-promotion, strategic partnerships, alliances, and information sharing. Nonprofit (and corporate) organizations can take this information and create network maps of where fans visit, have a sense of fan’s other interests, and better understand their needs. Though I personally am a bit worried about privacy issues with the new Facebook, I can’t argue that this type of information would benefit organizations tremendously.

In Beth Kanter’s blog post about the new Facebook changes, she writes that Robert Scoble thinks that “a website that doesn’t have Facebook “likes” on it will seem weird sooner than we think.”

I tend to agree.



Debra Askanase is an experienced digital engagement strategist, non-profit executive, and community organizer. She works with mission-driven organizations to develop digital strategies and campaigns that engage, create trust, and move stakeholders to action. Debra speaks at conferences worldwide on the intersection of technology, social media, and nonprofit organizations.

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