What’s Really Wrong With the “LIKE” Buttons

Filed in Sharisax Is Out There 26 comments

When we are really “all about” LIKE — and forget what  might be most beneficial — then we’ve got a problem.

The Topic Du Jour in the blogosphere is Influence vs. Popularity. One wonders why we should even be discussing the subject. Isn’t it obvious?

Apparently not.

Some of my favorite bloggers, including Brian Solis and Suzanne Vara, have blogged about the topic recently as have a slew of others.

1) Brian‘s newest article on the subject highlighted the findings from a survey on What Makes an Influencer. Here are just three of the conclusions to ponder:

∞ Popularity is just that people like you; influence is when people listen to you.

∞ Popularity is fleeting. Influence lasts.

∞ Lady GaGa is popular. Bono is influential.

We can now measure a FICO score for how influential we are by such tools as Klout, TweetLevel, and Peerindex. The most important action a person or brand can take to increase influence is to create and share compelling content that is relevant to an audience.

2) Suzanne discussed how today’s world is different:

“The Web and all things digital have changed the game on us. Influence is quickly becoming the currency of choice on the web.”

3) Jennifer Mattern studied the difference between influence and popularity in blogging and concluded:

“The relationship between the bloggers and their audiences determines influence much more than traffic stats . . . [One] blogger’s audience might be even more likely to do what’s asked of them, think a certain way about a niche issue, try a new tool, take part in a survey, or even buy a product. That’s influence.

4) A recent Mashable article case study of Kim Kardashian’s stats on Twitter characterized popularity as quantity and influence as quality:

“And we think the ability to direct web traffic is a pretty big part of influence.”

5) Malcolm Gladwell’s powerful book The Tipping Point described three types of Influencers who can tip the balance to make things happen: MAVENS, who know a lot of data; CONNECTORS, who know a lot of people; and SALESMEN, who know how to persuade:

“Simply by finding and reaching those few special people who hold so much social power, we can shape the course of social epidemics.”

6) My new British friend and blog-within-a-blogger, Mike Maynard, listed five psychological devices of influence;

  • Dedication – Show commitment to something and it influences people.
  • Liking – If people approve of you and what you are doing, they will be influenced.
  • Common goals – When you share goals with people, it is easier to influence them.
  • Shortage – If you have something that is scarce or rare, you can influence those who want it.
  • Weight -Those with titles or high positions will have influence attached.

7) Here are some “quotables” that make sense to me — from a Copyblogger post entitled 60 Ways to Increase Your Influence Online [I “like” them]:

Mike Volpe: “We share lots of things that most companies would keep internal. By sharing both the good and the bad, you build digital influence.” @mvolpe

Scott Porad: “Make connections with people online, and then go and meet them in person in the real world, offline.” @scottporad

Scott Belsky: “Share your ideas liberally. Accountability and letting people know what you’re up to can make all the difference.” @scottbelsky

Mark Silver:“Many people are afraid to speak; if you speak for them, they will be listening.” @markheartofbiz

8 – In Chapter 11 of Stephen Covey’s Principle-Centered Leadership [remember his The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People], he writes that our motive for achieving positive influence is to win new business, keep customers, maintain friendships, change behaviors, and/or improve relationships. Among the 30 methods of influence he lists are these ten:

→ Refrain from saying the unkind or negative thing.

→ Exercise patience with others.

→ Keep the promises you make to others.

→ Assume the best of others.

→ Seek first to understand.

→ Admit your mistakes, apologize, ask for forgiveness.

→ Renew your commitment to things you have in common.

→ Prepare your mind and heart before you prepare your speech.

→ Don’t give up and don’t give in.

→ Let natural consequences teach responsible behavior.

9) My own thoughts:

When I think about “popularity,” I can’t help but be reminded of the vacuousness of the In Crowd in high school (even though I was part of it). When I think about “influence,” I think of Responsible Parenting, Compassionate & Passionate Teachers, and Geniuses in the Arts, whether they are Writers, Artists, Musicians, or Actors.

Of course, people can be influenced for the good — or, unfortunately, for the bad. So when we think about defining, recognizing, and applauding Influence, let’s envision a better world and the people who make it so.

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Posted by Shari Weiss   @   2 October 2010
Tags : , ,
Oct 3, 2010
12:34 am
#1 Sandy Davis :

Liked the article, but IMO online influence is more about
perception of the person than what the person really does. He can say that Lady
Gaga is not as “influential” as Bono, but all the kids want to dress like Lady
Gaga so in that way she is more “influential”. It might be “fleeting” but it
sure sells a lot of stuff for the moment.”

Oct 3, 2010
2:44 pm

Shari thanks! The Brian Solis article was fascinating.

Oct 4, 2010
9:30 am

Point well taken Shari. However, popularity and influence need not be mutually exclusive. I wouldn’t be surprised if there was some amount of correlation.

Author Oct 4, 2010
10:20 am

I’m coming around to agreeing that there is a great deal of correlation. I said as much in a followup article that is supposed to be published on someone else’s blog next week. Then I’ll run it here. Have a great day and week, Larry

Oct 5, 2010
8:14 am

This is an interesting topic and one that I’m sure could create a lot of good debates. I think being authentic and letting it take care of itself is a good way to go. Just my “2 cents” worth.


Author Oct 5, 2010
8:20 am

Mike, I posted this article on a few LinkedIn sites, and one “marketing prof” made a great point that I will be posting here with her permission. Briefly, she said that her clients were really confused about the use of the Like button and, of course, what it really means.

Oct 5, 2010
9:45 am

Philosophers and psychologists have been studying and writing about like and love buttons throughout history. All kidding aside, in Facebook, “like” seems to suggest some amount of interest or approval.

Oct 5, 2010
1:19 pm
#8 Ras chan :

Young girls have looked up to famous women for years. The have gone to great lengths to achieve exceptional looks. Rather, they should be more focused on education to make their parents proud of what they can accomplish, not simply what they look like.

Oct 5, 2010
1:20 pm
#9 smokeyy :

I would say popularity is most influenced by what the media shows a person out to be. But, then again, if you know they were merely following someone else’s lead, then how much would that influence you?

-Maurice aka smokeyy

Author Oct 5, 2010
1:37 pm
#10 Shari Weiss :

No doubt about how much any type of media coverage can put someone in the limelight, but will that be for 15 minutes — or a lifetime [or beyond]?

Oct 5, 2010
1:24 pm
#11 Jacqueline Black :

I was wondering what is the “Like” button… But now that I know, everyone is entitled to their own opinions. Whether something catches your attention or not, it will always be somewhat of influence to others.

Author Oct 5, 2010
1:31 pm
#12 Shari Weiss :

Yes, Jackie, in our country we have the freedom to have and voice our opinions. Of course, that doesn’t make every opinion as “valid” or “valuable” as every other opinion. One hopes that people use some of their critical thinking abilities to determine whether or not a popular “thing” really has any meaning in their lives.

Oct 5, 2010
1:33 pm
#13 Melat Mersha :

I like this article because I didn’t know there were so many ways to influence people.

The other thing I saw from this article was that if someone can get so many people influenced, then that person is more likely to become popular, as well.

Oct 5, 2010
1:35 pm
#14 Kwame Nyamekye :

This is such a wonderful topic and is also interesting to read. This shows that not all popular people are influential. Now I know that influence is something that shows the kind of person you are or could be and the way you live your life can rub off some people to make them want to do the same thing.

Popularity is like a job that if you want to keep it there are certain things that need to be done; once you’re not doing those things anymore, then your popularity is gone. Popularity can go away anytime but Influence lasts forever.

Oct 5, 2010
1:38 pm
#15 Ebtisam :

i enjoyed reading the article.

One thing you said was that Lady Gaga is popular and Bono is influential. It that is the case, then why do so many kids like to be more like lady Gaga and act like her? So, to me, she is influential.

Author Oct 5, 2010
8:54 pm
#16 Shari Weiss :

Great point Ebtisan. The only thing you didn’t tell us was whether you, personally, are influenced by Lady Gaga.

Oct 5, 2010
1:41 pm

The article states that influence is when people listen to you. But I don’t see that at all because the people I’ve grown up with don’t beleve anybody until there is proof. I tried to get people to beleve in what I beleve in but there was no way I can unless there is somebody inportant who will beleve in me!

Oct 5, 2010
1:47 pm
#18 Han San :

People oniy listen to what they think they like. Whether they will believe it, though, depends upon what they value.

Oct 6, 2010
1:30 am
#19 Lynn Moore :

My clients feel a real confusion over “like” and the group experience. Is it an invitation to join future conversations? There have been a few bad “likes” that feel like a laugh at the moment but then become part of your profile… Facebook should get their act together with an informative roll over that explains what you are agreeing to.

Oct 8, 2010
10:09 am

Great article. The statement “Popularity is just that people like you; influence is when people listen to you” should inspire us to really think about what truly influences us. Are we influenced simply because of popularity — if even if there is is no substance or credibility in the message, or do we listen because of credible information?

Perry A Davis Jr
Music City USA

Author Oct 8, 2010
10:14 am
#21 Shari Weiss :

Perry, the sad truth is that Popularity is enough to convince many people to do things to follow the crowd, e.g., fill their closets with clothes or their music collections with tunes, etc. The true test of influence becomes, to my mind, if people change in some way . . . doesn’t have to be much, but in at least a small way.

Oct 8, 2010
4:38 pm
#22 Deb Augur :

Hi Shari,

My first visit to your blog and Wow! am I impressed. What a great topic to write about, fabulous research that you did, and quite a discussion happening in the comments. Congrats! Very well done.

Also thanks for “introducing” Suzanne Vara to me! I hadn’t read her blog before. I took a stroll over there since Brian Solis is also one of my favorite bloggers.

I also loved your last statement about envisioning a better world and the people who make it so. I’m all for that!

Great read. Thanks.

Author Oct 8, 2010
5:04 pm
#23 Shari Weiss :

Hey, Deb, thanks for visiting 🙂
Suzanne Vara has become a friend. We’ve chatted on the phone, and have guest blogged for one another. Chris Brogan even did a post on her awhile back. She’s been very prolific lately — lots of great stuff!

Author Oct 13, 2010
12:54 am
#24 Shari Weiss :

HERE’S THE VERSION OF THE STORY I WROTE FOR ANOTHER BLOG — a few similarities, but the audience was “strictly ballroom” OOOOPS, I meant “strictly business”

Popularity and Influence: As They Are Manifested in Social Media

You want to be popular and influential. You need to ask yourself some important questions to determine if this is the case. How important is it for you to be popular? Where do popularity and influence coincide? How do the benefits differ for popular vs. influential people?

These are the kinds of questions discussed by a great number of online writers in the past several months. In fact, Fast Company magazine conducted an Influence project this summer to determine the most influential people online. More than 32,000 people submitted entries, but the results merely gauged popularity – and sparked the online discussion over the difference between popularity and influence.

A recent case study on Twitter participation showed that celebrity Kim Kardashian has more influence than other celebs even though they have more followers. While Lady Gaga has 6.5 million and Britney Spears has more than 6 million, Kim hasn’t won more than 5 million; however, her website gets far more traffic, ie, more referrals from Twitter.

LinkedIn recently added a section to the discussion groups that lists the top influencers of the week. It is a good idea to pay attention to that. You can learn a great deal from those influencers.

The ability to direct website traffic is considered a sign of influence. According to blogger Suzanne Vara, the world used to depend on popularity for sales conversions. In today’s New World, “The web and all things digital have changed the game on us. Influence is quickly becoming the currency of choice on the web.”

Most pundits agree that popularity equates more with quantity while Influence is related to quality. Popularity is measured by hits where Influence measures actions and effects. We all like to think that quality wins over quantity.

But does it?

How important is it for your organization to be influential or is popularity really enough? To answer a question like that, you need to look to your overarching goals. For those companies with products aimed at the masses, the likelihood is that Popularity is critical. After all, how many purchasing decisions are made simply because your friends are buying something or everywhere you turn, you see the product in the media and on the streets.

Popularity, of course, is considered fleeting while influence tends to last and be more than just superficial. But popularity and influence are not mutually exclusive. In fact, achieving popularity, ie, getting the recognition of many, may just be the best first step to having the kind of influence that (a) builds a customer base, (b) keeps current customers, (c) maintains other relationships, and (d) changes behaviors.

The best thing for your organization, then, may be to figure out how to be popular – in the sense that people like and approve of you – and how to be influential, ie, get them to buy from you and act on your messages.

How to Influence Others

In Chapter 11 of Stephen Covey’s Principle-Centered Leadership (a follow-up to his The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People), he writes that our motive for achieving positive influence falls into three basic categories: (i) to model by example, (ii) to build caring relationships, (iii) to mentor by instruction.

Social media platforms, including the most popular ones like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and blogging are great for modeling best practices, building relationships, and offering valuable information.

Here are some tips on how to use social media from the tweets of online influencers:

“You don’t have to be a blogger to know how words can bring people to know each other’s head, heart, and purpose in life.” Gary Vaynerchuk @garyvee

“What you should do is create a great product or service…the goal is to change the world…if you do that, maybe you’ll be a legend.” Guy Kawasaki @guykawasaki

“An opportunity to be helpful is an opportunity to earn money.” Chris Brogan @chrisbrogan

“Stop talking about your products and services. People don’t care about your products and services; they care about themselves.” David Meerman Scott @dmscott

“We share lots of things that most companies would keep internal. By sharing both the good and the bad, you build digital influence.” Mike Volpe @mvolpe

“Consistency demonstrates commitment. You’re going to earn trust because you are consistent.” Michael Port @michaelport

“Follow better people. The better your inbound is, the better your output will be. And your output is what people follow.” Robert Scoble @scobleizer

“The most important action a person or brand can take to most increase influence is to create, post, or share compelling content.” Brian Solis @briansolis

“Ground your content in who you are. Don’t be afraid to have a point of view. But also give it wings to soar freely and bye shared.” Ann Handley @marketingprofs

You can check out more advice on how to be influential on the web by searching Twitter under #influencers.


In the discussion or controversy or strategic planning around the concepts of popularity and influence, especially in this new world of business and marketing, one factor needs to be abundantly clear, and that stems from the intention to offer people products and services that can truly help them lead better lives as well as enhancing their business lives.

About the Author. Shari Weiss is a writer, teacher, editor, and marketing consultant who is working full-time on All Things Social Media. With a journalism degree from Northwestern University and a master’s in PR from Kent State, Shari has taught college courses in journalism, marketing and English for 20 years. In addition, she has edited an array of publications from Harcourt Brace Jovanovich trade magazines to a city-wide student newspaper. Currently, she is the Chief Blogger for SHARISAX IS OUT THERE, in which she writes articles on a variety of social media categories, including How-To Lessons for social media beginners; Interviews with industry professionals; reports on meeting presentations; and strategies for social media marketing. She is also the Community Manager for Performance Social Media and leads workshops for entrepreneurs, small businesses, and university students. Her website is http://shairsax.com

Oct 20, 2010
5:43 pm
#25 Bethany Lamb :

Great post, I think that we all get caught up in having as many friends/followers as possible when what really matters is the influence we have on them.

Author Oct 20, 2010
8:21 pm
#26 Shari Weiss :

very succinctly stated, Bethany.
Thanks for visiting, and BTW, how would you rate your own influence factory?
And should we care about how many people we influence . . . or how deeply we influence them?

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