Why Likes & Shares on Social Media No Longer Matter

Find this blog post from a social media post? Congratulations! You are one of a few who clicked on the link. 

Probably doesn’t make sense. There were several likes and shares on the social media post. Shouldn’t this imply that everyone who liked and shared the social media post also read this article?

Not quite. In fact, most likes and shares are simply just that—likes and shares. 

But look at how many companies aim for hundreds of likes and shares! Can’t we then assume that there’s value from collecting hearts and retweets?

I disagree. And I’m here to tell you why likes and shares on social media no longer matter.

Stats Don’t Lie

So many times I am excited by the number of likes and shares my blog posts receive on social media. And so many times I am disappointed when loading my analytics log to find low web traffic on this blog post.

Truth is, likes and shares on social media don’t guarantee link clicks. After sharing my blog posts on social media for close to a decade, I can safely conclude that I have received significantly more likes and shares of my articles than visits to my blog.

That’s the reason why likes and shares on social media no longer matter. Likes and shares do not indicate how much your followers appreciate and/or agree with your posted articles or website links. It only means that they like the title of your post.

And I know that I’m not alone.

Research, Back Me Up

We’ll start with a study from Columbia University. This research team analyzed 2.8 million shared posts—worth 75 billion in hypothetical views—and found that 59% of shared links weren’t even clicked.

That’s right—people are more willing to share an article on social media than to read it.

Don’t believe me? This study published in IEEE analyzed user behavior of over 300 Reddit accounts for one year and found that 73% of posts were rated without clicking on the shared article.

Here’s the most fascinating find of this study. Their data showed evidence that the biggest contributor towards this click-less rating behavior was cognitive fatigue.

Need more proof? Let’s look at The Science Post’s mocking experiment. The satirical publisher garnered 127,000 shares on social media for posting an article entitled “Study: 70% of Facebook users only read the headline of science stories before commenting.”

The irony? If you actually clicked on the article, you would see that the piece only contains “lorem ipsum” placeholder text. In short, thousands of social media users shared a study that doesn’t even exist.

Twitter Taking Charge

There’s a new technology in town that could make blind sharing a thing of the past. Twitter rolled out a test on its platform for Android users aiming to stop reckless social media sharing.

It works like this. A user taps the retweet button on a tweet. If the user hasn’t tapped to read the tweeted article, a message pops up asking if the user really wants to retweet a link they haven’t read. The user has an option to proceed or to tap the link of the article.

Think of it as the equivalent of apps that prevent drunk texting

Why We Believe That Likes & Shares on Social Media Matter

We should be beyond the point of showing our work when proving why likes and shares on social media no longer matter. However, we cling to this myth of social validation as we do to the belief that bulls hate red or that bats are blind.

So, why do we believe that likes and shares on social media matter? Because likes are a number. Shares are a number. And both of these numbers can be measured. 

Most companies love to tally up likes and shares within their analytical reports—really, any stat that can be quantified by numeric digits. Marketing leaders and senior executives want access to all social media data in order to assess which stats had value to the bottom line.

Thing is, not many social media stats can validate the investment in social media. Most social media posts don’t compel instant action from users that drive business revenue, such as making a purchase or filling out a form. Posting organically on social media can lead to these behaviors in the long run because of recurring visibility within user newsfeeds.

Put bluntly, the social media post has become the digital equivalent of a pizza delivery flyer. 

The reason why we believe likes and shares on social media matter is because we measure it as a short-term win for a big-picture strategy. Oh, they liked this post so they must want to buy our product. Oh, they shared our article so they must want to do business with us.

But that’s not always the case.

So, What Do Likes & Shares on Social Media Mean?

The meaning of likes and shares on social media is straightforward:

  • “I agree with you”
  • “Good for you!”
  • “I align with your expression on this topic”
  • “I want my name attached to this”
  • “I’ll bookmark this for later”

When a person likes or shares your social media post, it has everything to do with how that person wants to be perceived.

In short, likes and shares of your social media post have nothing to do with you. 

And That’s Why Likes & Shares on Social Media No Longer Matter

We falsely categorize likes and shares as social engagement. So many expert websites mislead readers on the relevancy of counting likes and shares.

But no engagement occurs with a like or a share. Heck, there’s not even a conversation. And no customer relationship or business partnership can exist without a conversation.

A like or a share can potentially lead to a conversation, be in on a social platform or directly with the business. But how often does that happen for you?

Likes and shares do not drive revenue. Conversations do.

When users leave a comment, you can respond. That’s a start to a conversation. And when the relationship is genuinely nurtured, conversations can lead to further actions with your business.

Your social engagement strategy should focus more on instigating social media conversations. You should then measure the strength of your strategy by how often these conversations convert users into customers or partners. 

Social engagement can no longer be a passive activity. You have to engage effectively in order to establish any value on social media—whether you “like” it or not.

What do you think? Do you agree or disagree that likes and shares on social media no longer matter? Share your opinion in the comments section below.


    1. Absolutely. That alone is scary because, through the power of the like button, people potentially endorse ideas that don’t align with their beliefs—all because they didn’t take the time to read, or even scan, the article.

      Thanks for reading my blog post! 😊

    2. Ya, as a result, when im looking to support my friends who are, sometimes sharing an article to gin-up viral response, i make sure to click through to the article , at least. (im thinking of my ex-wife who writes fashion blogs that really dont interest me at all, but she’s trying! i gotta give my clicks to support her!).

      That said, the result of a ‘like’ for a company-page , for default-privacy users, will post a message on their wall, which can come up on their follower’s news-scroll and generate interest. ‘Oh, Nicole likes that cafe? She’s pretty dialed-in, and its just up the street from me!’, and that has its qualitive conversion.

      Great article

  1. I’ve long thought social media to be a con, as in a time waste with little real effect on the bottom line. I get on social media when I am absent minded and bored. I don’t use it to interact with businesses at all. I’ve never been persuaded to buy anything from social media. I use YouTube for product reviews but only after I’ve already made most of the decision to buy. I’m looking to confirm my own thoughts with that or ensure there isn’t some known problem with the product. I like people’s posts on my facebook groups to be polite and because its expected. Its a way to acknowledge the other person while maintaining the rule…..if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t. Social media has high engagement for the SM platforms because people use it to time waste, but little engagement for the content creators I’ve noticed. Even superstar content creators with massive followings will tell you how hard it is to make any sales that way. It’s easier for them to sell the audience to a willing advertiser via the platform.

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