The relatively new “Like” button from Facebook, allowing website owners to add a simple social networking button to their site so that visitors can share it on Facebook, has gained popularity amongst many websites.
Sites ranging from news outlets to e-commerce spaces are sporting the new Like button, but some are questioning who benefits more from it: them or Facebook.
The benefits should be obvious, as the button allows users to share their “likes” (i.e. a specific website, page, or product) with their Facebook friends. The average person clicking a Like button has 140 friends, all of which are potential customers who may be interested. This word-of-mouth can be powerful, but the data the website owner gets can be murky.
Facebook shares simple, aggregate data with demographics and similar, but not specific data about individual users on even the most active of users. Although this data is freely available to other Facebook users, it is not available to websites outside of Facebook. This is due to obvious privacy concerns, but some website owners are wondering whether the data Facebook gains from the Like button is more valuable than what they’re getting from having it on their sites.
Other sites, however, find the Facebook interaction extremely useful and profitable. One popular celebrity news outlet says that Facebook users who visit the site are more likely to spend two to three times the amount of time on the website as are “surfers” who come in from search engines and other sources. The longer a user stays on the site, the more valuable its ad revenues become.
Shopping sites are also gaining revenue from using the Like button. Some see as much as a 50% leap in sales coming from Facebook after adding the button.
Those who have a problem with Facebook’s unwillingness to share data are those whose primary income is from advertising. Without the data, they can’t get top dollar from their advertisers because they can’t produce the metrics those top buyers want to see in order to invest.