People go to these sites, submit 1-2 sentence posts, then ‘like’ them using one of Facebook’s like buttons. This puts an update with the text they just created and a link back to the like site in the news feed of all their Facebook friends. If their friends are amused and ‘like’ the update as well, it can quickly spread virally and rack up thousands of likes.
It appears that people using Facebook and like sites this way are still a tiny minority of the network’s users, but if you have just one or two friends doing this, they can quickly take over your news feed.
This morning, Nick Sha wrote us on behalf of The Like Page, one of the like farms we contacted before writing the story. Here is his response:
TheLikePage.com is purely for entertainment and we provide services for users to share images, videos, and quotes. By design, and the most effective mechanism of sharing content on the site is through Facebook’s social plug-in, the “Like” button. The most popular content the users create and share are quotes and phrases. They range from poking fun of recent pop culture, an inside phrase for a group of people, to something mundane we’ve all done, and many more. The most popular quotes are ones that are relatable and users want to be the first of their friends to share interesting insights.
What TheLikePage.com and other such sites further provide is a way for Facebook users to explore beyond their circle of friends, get views and opinion from a wider scope, and offer an opportunity to engage in sharing ideas. While at first sight, these like pages may feel spammy, due to the viral mechanism of Facebook’s design (most successfully used by Zynga). However, look closer and you’ll find we don’t entice our users with any free in game marketing, what you see is simply all that you get.
The viral mechanism of the “Like” button isn’t enough to drive the success of these sites, the other half of the equation is user demand. There are a few quotes with hundreds of thousands of likes and there are many, the majority, that are well below thousands. This large gap between successful quotes and unpopular ones is evident that not only are users in control of what they like, they are also consciously the driving force.
There is little surprise why TheLikePage and other like sites are so popular; it is the same underlying reason that makes Twitter, Google Buzz, and Facebook status appealing to its users. However, with TheLikePage, you’re no longer limited to the quirky insights of just you or your friends.
We actually agree with most of this. Like sites aren’t exploiting some security hole to make it into your news feed; they succeed because a subset of Facebook users like them and want to use them. But their success is Facebook’s failure, for two reasons:
- There is no reason that (ad-heavy) third-party sites should be required for this. Facebook should have enabled more Twitter-like communication on its own a long time ago now.
- The result is a worse experience for everyone than if Facebook were doing this itself. People who aren’t interested in this sort of thing — the majority of Facebook users — feel like their feeds are filled with what amounts to spam. And the people who are using these sites have to leave Facebook and be bombarded with huge, gaudy ads.
Facebook was apparently trying to strike a balance between enabling Twitter-like chatting and keeping the news feed interesting and relevant when it split the news feed into “top news” and “most recent.” Apparently the company is still tweaking this system, but so far it’s a flop.
As a result, like farms are serving ads, and our news feeds are filled with junk.