Everyone obsesses over whether others like them.
It’s one of the most primal and desired human needs — are we loved, liked, appreciated, and valued?
Today, likeability is measured by digital signals — Facebook likes, Twitter favorites, Pinterest repins, Instagram likes and all the rest.
Few people are more obsessed with likability than marketers — people like you and me. And there’s a good reason to be obsessed with it, at least to a degree.
It matters. It matters for conversion optimization.
Being liked is just another way of expressing the fact that customers value and appreciate you, and are therefore more likely to convert on your site.
Let’s dig into this subject to see why it matters, what it looks like, and how to make it better.
Does it matter whether customers like you?
... Yes, it matters a great deal.
Your brand depends on it.
A brand is like a person. It has a personality. It has an identity. It has likes, dislikes, friends and enemies.
Your brand is a complex mashup of legion factors — and all of these morph into something we call likeability.
If your customers don’t like you, your brand will suffer. Once your brand suffers, everything comes toppling down with it.
Your marketing depends on it.
Marketing is built on the concept of customer appeal. Marketing doesn’t work unless your target audience likes you.
I like the way that Stephen Key put it in his Entrepreneur article:
These days, it’s not just word of mouth that you have to worry about. If your customers love you, they can sing your praises to the world. On the flip side, one bad review can be hard to shake. That’s the Internet for you. There’s absolutely no reason not to make the commitment to offering excellent customer service.
Sorry, but there’s no way around this likability thing.
Your legacy depends on it.
Like people, businesses build a legacy. Unlike people, brands can live for hundreds of years. What kind of legacy is your brand building? It depends on how well people like it.
Obviously, every business is going to have its haters — those who oppose it and despise it. But if the business expects to stay in existence for any amount of time, it’s going to need to be liked.
Your revenue depends on it.
Your brand, your marketing, and your legacy don’t matter much at all unless they are producing positive cash flow. Yes, your revenue depends on likability, too.
Basically, your business's entire existence depends on it. If your customers don’t like you, you’re done for.
What does it mean for customers to like you?
The concept of “like” can be fuzzy. Furthermore, it’s easy to conflate the term like with its Facebook definition.
I want to get specific. What does it mean for customers to like you?
If your customers like you, here’s what they do.
- They talk about you. You reach the ultimate level of marketing success when your customers start doing your marketing for you.
- They follow you on social media. Some of the most common marketing KPIs are the measure of social media followers and likes.
- They refer their friends to you. If a customer likes you, they’re going to want to tell others about you. Referral traffic, widely considered as the most valuable of business leads, can grow exponentially when your customers like you.
- They buy from you. At the most basic level, a customer who likes you is going to buy from you.
- They keep buying from you.
- The buy your bumper sticker. I’m using the term "bumper sticker" as a metaphor for brand promotion. Have you ever wondered why people proudly wear clothing that does nothing but advertise a brand? Why would a person buy an advertisement and wear it? Whether it’s Nike, Under Armour or Gucci, people do it because they like the brand. They like the way it makes them feels. They are proud to associate with it. That’s what customers do when they like you.
- They spend time on your website. You want web traffic? If your customers like you, they’ll give it to you.
- They subscribe to your email list. Take a look at your email list. Are the people on it still prospects — people who have never converted or bought a product? Or are they existing customers? Sure, it probably depends on what email list and segmentation we’re talking about. I’ve found this to be true: The majority of email subscribers aren’t altruists; they’re customers. People subscribe to your brand because they are satisfied; they like you.
- They read your blog. Who’s consuming your content marketing material? Ideally, you’re getting some organic traffic and unique visitors. A quick glance at your analytics, however, is going to show a healthy percentage of returning visitors. Those are customers. And they like you.
- They generate content for you. Some of the world’s most-loved brands hardly have to pay for any content. Why not? Because their customers fork over content in massive quantities. Take GoPro, for instance. Their massive content output is provided by their rabid customers, who can’t get enough of the cool brand.
If your customers like you, here’s what it means for your business:
If your customers like you, there’s a very good chance that you’re succeeding at all the big things that marketers crave.
All of these likability things translate into major business success.
But what is likeability anyway?
The definition of “likable” is redundant and self-referential: “pleasant, friendly, and easy to like.”
In other words, being likable is about being likable, and it’s a totally subjective thing.
In personal relationships, likability is something you can only sense through emotional intelligence, through feeling.
In online commercial situations, likability is quite different. We can measure it, to a degree. But still, there is an aspect of likability that defies quantification.
How to measure likability.
Likability is assessed by two main things:
1. Brand appeal.
2. Bottom-line revenue.
Here’s how it works.
To be appealing a brand must first be known. In order to be known, that brand must have some marketing presence.
This is the fuzzy likability factor — impossible to quantify, but essential to analyze.
Brand appeal leads to customers, which leads to purchases, which leads to revenue.
Revenue is where you can actually smell, taste and touch the likability. Although you may not be able to measure likability, you can certainly measure dollars, cents, conversions, page views, click-throughs and all the other KPIs that are part of a business enterprise.
You can have revenue without likability, of course. After all, a brand like Goldman Sachs doesn’t have much likability, but they sure do have revenue ($34.5 billion in 2014).
The same is true for other unsavory companies like Monsanto, BP or Comcast. They’re insanely successful according to revenue, but shockingly inept at brand appeal.
These two features — brand appeal and bottom-line revenue — are simplistic, but nonetheless make up the broad brushstrokes of likability.
So, how do you make your customers like you?
The simple answer is you can’t. You can improve your brand’s likability, but you can’t force anyone to like you.
The fuzzy and emotional definition of likability has morphed into a misunderstanding of how to become likable. Being likable has less to do with who you are, and more to do with what you do for others.
Here are six strategies of ultra-likable companies:
1. Know your customers.
I’ll go down to my grave repeating the mantra that knowing your customers is the No. 1 ingredient for successful conversion optimization.
It’s also the starting point for creating a likable brand.
You’ve heard all your life that “you can’t please everyone.” This truth, essential for contentment in everyday life, is also critical for online likability.
Define your audience, create a persona, and really know them.
You won’t be likable until you do.
2. Stand for something.
People will only like your brand if you stand for something. It’s not necessary to take a moral or political stance, although that’s certainly fair game.
It’s more important to take a stance that resonates with your target audience.
A disclaimer is in order. Just because you stand for something doesn’t mean that everyone is going to like you. It means that some people will like you.
Take a couple of examples to heart:
Donald Trump is likable only to a certain group of people. He stands for something, and that is part of his appeal, gaffe-prone and onerous though he may be.
Apple is not everyone’s jam. But, as a brand, they stand for something — great products, yes, but they’ve taken it a step further. They promote inclusion. Such a stand may not appeal to everyone, but it does promote likability among their chosen customers.
If you don’t take a stand for something, you won’t define your brand’s identity or create likability among the people who matter.
3. Make a kick-ass product.
All likable brands have one thing in common. They create a great product.
Take Wegmans for example — the supermarket. They don’t sell just one product; they sell thousands of products in each of their grocery stores. And just look at the raving results!
But Wegmans, by creating such a great store, has produced an absolutely lovable product. People don’t love your brand simply because you exist; they love your brand because of what you do.
This is where online likability must extend to the actual product or service. Likability happens in the trenches of product and service awesomeness.
However, you can assert your likability by producing testimonials. If you’re still trying to get people to like you, you can tell them how much other people like you.
Testimonials are the ideal way to do this. Many retailers love Square, an online payment method. They assert their likability with their testimonials.
Now, anyone can see how likable Square is.
4. Like your customers.
In order to get people to like you, you have to like them. And since you’re the one eliciting likability, you have to be the first to act.
How do you like your customers? Here are some of my favorite methods:
Like their comments on Facebook.
Yep. It’s that simple. A few clicks, and you’ve liked your customers. Facebook "likes" equal real-life likability.
Here’s the thing about Facebook. Many companies feel no qualms about demanding that their customers like them. “Like us on Facebook!” If you’re not offering a kick-ass product and loving on your customers, though, they’re not going to care.
It takes effort, action, and intention to like a brand on Facebook. Asking for it outright sounds crass, unless you have established some promise or foundational quid pro quo.
It’s okay to ask for it, but do your part to let customers know that you like them, too.
Retweet their comments.
A simple retweet goes a long way in making a customer feel loved. Retweet away! The customer need not be lauding your company in order to warrant a retweet.
Respond to their inquiries right away.
If you do not respond to customers quickly, you’ll alienate them. Harsh but true.
Call them individually.
Depending on the nature and scope of your business, you may wish to call customers individually.
Offer them special deals.
Marketing isn’t just about dangling carrots in front of your target audience. It’s about delivering great deals to the audience — i.e., customers — that you already have.
Send them cake.
Hey, why not? Freshbooks does it.
Tell them if anything is changing.
If you’re going to make a change to your business, keep your customers fully informed.
National Geographic did this with their Instagram account one time, and it had wide appeal.
5. Customer service is absolutely paramount.
If there’s a single and indispensable ingredient about likability, it can be summed up in two words: "customer service."
Your primary business isn’t really your particular product or service. It’s your customers. And what do your customers want more than anything else? They want to be served.
Focus on your customer service, and you’ll experience an improvement in revenue.
6. Smile. No, really.
Smiling is the way that humans show their likability. It works in person and it works online, too.
The easy way to smile to your customers is to have pictures of smiling people. Sounds simple, but it works incredibly well.
HighriseHQ used smiling people in its landing pages, and conversions went up.
FreshDesk, a customer service platform, shows smiling kids. Nice.
ZenDesk does it, too. Smiling faces.
Online likability isn’t complicated, even if it is a bit fuzzy at times. It’s worth investing time and effort into likability.
Basically, if you’re likable, you’ll be profitable. If you’re not likable, you haven’t got a chance.
Give likability your best effort.
And if you want, you can like this article on Facebook.