Brands not 'liked' as much as they may believe

A recent survey from audience research company Crowd Science revealed that less than 20 percent of Facebook content is "liked," and that brand pages have only been liked by 9 percent of internet users.

The concept of "liking" anything on the social network can be seen as a vote of confidence from users, a sign of popularity and confirmation that others are keeping track of - and supporting - a certain brand.

However, researchers found that of the more than 1,200 people surveyed, no single Facebook feature attracted likes from more than 20 percent of the population.

These features, commonly used by brands to try to boost their visibility, include wall posts, pictures, comments and videos. The more personal the content, the more popular it was with respondents. Specifically, 16 percent liked wall posts, pictures and comments across the board, while videos, non-brand pages and brand pages followed at 12, 10 and 9 percent, respectively.

It was also revealed that the majority of those who liked content did so not to stay informed or receive discounts from the brand, but rather due to a more general need to show their support (28 percent) and because they enjoyed what was being said or shown (also 28 percent). This is important for marketers, as it seems interesting and captivating content on a Facebook page is more likely to garner interest than simply posting deals or relaying information about the brand.

Specifically, 14 percent stated they "liked" a brand because they literally felt positively toward the company or service. In addition, 10 percent did so to stay informed, 7 percent "liked" to inform friends about the brand, 6 percent wanted to receive discounts while 5 percent performed the action so they could enter a sweepstakes.

"These findings show that while users have been willing to 'like' Facebook items to some extent, they're far from loving the idea," says Sandra Marshall, vice president of research at Crowd Science.

The concept of offering likes in exchange for promises such as discounts or sweepstakes entries is being monitored by the Better Business Bureau's National Advertising Division, a self-regulatory forum for the advertising industry, AdAge reports.

The division explains that consumers should be aware of "like-gating," when brands use misleading or artificial means to inflate their number of Facebook likes. This has become an increasingly popular practice, and brands may be referred to the Federal Trade Commission if it's perceived they're engaging in such tactics.