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Technology Trends: Like The Like Button or Dislike The Like Button?
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Technology Trends: Like The Like Button or Dislike The Like Button? - Executive Leadership Articles

Technology Trends: Like The Like Button or Dislike The Like Button?

Executive Leadership Articles

Technology Trends: Like The Like Button or Dislike The Like Button?

“Pinterest is easier to understand when we remove the Like button altogether,” announced Pinterest on its blog in April, and within a few weeks the Like button was gone. It was a major change to the way many people used the website and mobile app, which aggregates ideas in the fashion of curated content collected by users in a highly visual, idea-board presentation.

Until it removed the Like button, it had the appearance of a social network: users could “follow” some or all of the pinboards created by friends, then hit the Like button on specific content collected on specific boards. Collaborative boards added to the social look and feel. It may not have had the full-blown interactivity of Facebook and Snapchat, but there is no denying its social pull. It was a lot like Tumblr, the blogging platform that made it easy to generate quick, easy, original content, but was also very good for liking, commenting on, and passing along content, which most users’ accounts seemed to favor. It doesn’t take a very deep dive to realize that for most of its users, Pinterest was a casually social collector of other people’s content.

But in an email Pinterest sent to Recode that same week, it differentiated itself from social networks, saying, “There are many services out there with the mission of helping you connect and share with friends; we’re the one app exclusively in the visual discovery business.” Recode offers a few speculative reasons for this separation, but the really interesting issue is the Like button itself, and what it means for users in how to think about social media.

Pinterest claims it removed the Like button in an effort to “keep making improvements,” but is it an improvement? Shortly after the removal, a Pinner launched a petition at change.org, entreating Pinterest to bring the Like button back. Yet in six months, the petition has collected only 175 signatures from among Pinterest’s 175 million active users.

Likes are most immediately associated with Facebook, but they are a key part of the user experience on Twitter, Instagram, Flickr, Swarm, and even Miitomo, Nintendo’s first foray into social media gaming on mobile platforms. For many users, the extent engagement is reading others’ content and hitting the Like button, and for many others, Likes are the personal and professional gauge of connecting content with audience.

This leads to the first and most difficult question about Likes. Are they meaningful engagement or aren’t they? On one hand, it’s hard to deny the immediate requirements a Like implies. If nothing else, someone liking a photo, shared link, or personal anecdote has seen it and wants the sharer to know he or she has seen it. The implied sentiment could merely be an appreciation of someone’s existence or a sincere appreciation for the content itself. However, that’s a wide range of reaction, and for someone wanting to know whether or not his content has really connected with his audience, a like all by itself is pretty close to meaningless.

Because the casual user isn’t paying for deeper metrics, on a personal level, the likes are all the feedback he or she needs. Many likes encourage similar content next time; fewer likes discourage this kind of content. Take it a level deeper, and content creators on the web feel the ripples. If article X about topic Y gets only a handful of likes on Facebook, topic Y is less likely to be shared again, generating fewer outgoing clicks. In this way, many creators under pressure to get clicks are influenced by those likes from FB readers. The simple translation here is that likes influence original content, and when mass appeal is the driving force, content tends to skew toward lowest common denominator themes.

Likes seem to be the language of social media, so removing the Like button really does seem like a big step away from Pinterest’s defining itself as something different. And while the social engine that keeps content moving from one user to the next remains in place, the social capital of likes is gone, meaning that users must find the service itself rewarding and satisfying. Here is where the ambition to “keep making improvements” may actually come into play. Asking users to focus on what the service actually provides, rather than on how other users make them feel, Pinterest can seek to please its enormous user base by improving its product, tapping more deeply into how it connects with its customers. And perhaps other services will follow suit, removing silly, artificial social aspects—are you listening, Candy Crush?—from services that don’t need them.

Reference links:
Pinterest blog: https://blog.pinterest.com/en/goodbye-button
Recode: https://www.recode.net/2017/4/21/15383980/pinterest-like-button-removed-facebook-instagram


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Technology Trends: Like The Like Button or Dislike The Like Button? - Executive Leadership Articles

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