September 21, 2010 7:03 pm

E-commerce takes instant liking to Facebook button

The Like button feature for websites unveiled by Facebook in April is fast gaining traction among e-commerce and media companies which have seen spikes in internet traffic and increases in sales after using it.

The pale blue Like button lets Facebook users casually signal their affinity for a brand, item or product and broadcast that back to the social networking site. In the months since its debut, more than 350,000 sites have installed it ranging from retailer BestBuy.com to TMZ, a purveyor of celebrity gossip.

“This is Facebook putting their hooks all around in the internet,” said Jeremiah Owyang, analyst with the Altimeter Group.

Facebook was already a large source of traffic for many of the most popular sites on the web, driving clicks to other sites as its 500m users shared links with their friends. As clicking the Like button is so easy, its rollout has accelerated this trend.

IMDB, the film database, has seen traffic from Facebook double since it installed the Like button throughout the site. ABC’s news site said traffic from Facebook was up 250 per cent.

Tea Collection, a children’s clothing site, is using the Like button to let users vote on which items they want to go on sales. When Tea Collection first tried the promotion, more than 3,000 people voted on summer dresses, and the most popular ones sold out the next day. Hits to the site were up 300 per cent, and sales were 10 times the average daily amount.

Bret Taylor, Facebook’s director of platform, said the Like button made it easier for content from websites to go viral. “It is demand generation rather than demand fulfilment,” he said. “It’s like seeing a print advertisement in a magazine and going around and handing it all your friends.”

Now companies are finding new uses for the Like button. TheFind.com, a comparison shopping site, last week unveiled a section of the site that refines results based on a user’s previous likes on other sites on the web. “These are the building blocks for social commerce,” said Siva Kumar, chief executive of TheFind.

Facebook also stands to benefit from the Like button. By encouraging users to flag their preferences as they travel around the web, Facebook is subtly compiling a map of the internet, part of its brewing rivalry with Google.

Whereas Google indexes the web and uses its algorithm to determine what is most relevant, Facebook has charged its users with the same task.

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