I just finished reading an ExactTarget report called “The Meaning of Like.” This report is part of their Subscribers, Fans, and Followers research which is:

an ongoing research series that sets aside theories, assumptions, and widely held beliefs to deliver new insights and actionable advice about consumers’ cross-channel preferences and behaviors. These unique reports draw on the experience of real consumers as they interact with brands through Email, Facebook, and Twitter, collected through extensive research, focus groups, and online surveys.

I wanted to give you a breakdown of the important facts and findings of the ExactTarget report. This is extremely important when it comes to developing a strategy for Facebook and social media.

1. Only 42% of active Facebook users agree that marketers should interpret “Like” to mean they are a fan or advocate of the company.

I have had plenty of conversations with Jay Baer about this phenomenon. Actually, he is the one that clued me into the true value of the Facebook like. Technically… it means squat. It is easy to take the mouse and click the “like” button. In the words of Jay – “It takes 2 seconds to click the “Like” how can that action be valued as brand loyalty?” It’s true.

2. 93% of Facebook users engage in some form of “Like” behavior at least monthly.

The most common of the “likes” are posts by friends. This is extremely important in relation to the brand advocacy of your social media campaign.

3. 74% “Like” something posted by a friend on Facebook

4. 52% click a Facebook “like” button on another site (news site, blog, website)

I hope we all know why this is important! Facebook makes it extremely easy to integrate their tools within your website. Do it. Seriously, do it.

5. 44% “Like” something posted by a company on Facebook.

6. 45% “Like” a company Facebook page

7. For most of the survey respondents a “Like” was a great way to express approval for a specific piece of content.

This action is casual and doesn’t require any real thought or consideration. How much value should you place on something so… casual?

8. Younger consumers (aged 15-24) tend to use “Like” for purposes of self- expression and public endorsement of a brand.

Accessing deals in order to “like” a Facebook page is not the main driver for the younger generation. However, customized content and insider information is.

9. Consumers aged 25 and up are more likely to expect something of value in exchange for their “Like.”

Remember, statistics and trends are only valuable if you understand your consumer base. You may have younger, older, or middle (of the road) people wanting value for their like. It is more dependent on what the individual wants… not what the statistic tells you.

10. Consumers tend to view a “like” as a way of bookmarking content and sharing information with friends – not a form of consent for marketing.

This is a huge shift in the way people think in regards to permission based marketing. We are thinking email marketing instead of Facebook marketing. In email marketing, if you subscribe to an email… the assumption is… that you are wanting to receive content from that brand. This is not the case in the world of the Facebook “like.”

11. 69% of 65 or older Facebook users have like zero Facebook pages.

12. 30% of 35-44 year old Facebook users have liked 11 or more Facebook pages.

13. Frequent brand-likers also express a greater expectation of having the company’s name appear in their profile, sharing brand information with friends, and interacting with the brand.

14. 46% of Facebook users indicate that a “like” means that they “sometimes” are giving a brand permission to contact them.

15. 56% of respondents indicated that marketers should not access even public profile information after the “Like” a company on Facebook.

Users aged 25-34 are most comfortable allowing marketers to access their information. Not surprisingly, users aged 45 and older are opposed. 70% said that marketers should not access their public information.

This is more of a generational issue than anything else. However, it is important to understand the differences between individuals when it comes to their willingness to give you information.

The majority of consumers using social media exercise some degree of caution when it comes to the amount of information that they share online. In many of my presentations I make the audience repeat the saying… It’s okay to be a little creepy.

It is okay to ask. It is okay to understand the social, psychological, and generational issues behind each consumer.