As you may have noticed, many of your favorite web sites are now featuring Facebook’s Like button, allowing you to show your appreciation for content or products you come across with a simple click.

Since the Like button for websites became available a year ago, over 2.5 million websites have added it to their web pages, and every month another 300,000 or so sites join the party.

Immediate benefits

The benefits seem clear: Facebook reports that publishers are experiencing increases in traffic since adding social plugins, such as the Like button. Here are some examples: ABC News (+190%), Gawker (+200%), TypePad (+200%), Sporting News (+500%), and NBA.com (#2 referral source). Publishers also report that people on their sites are more engaged and stay longer when their real identity and real friends are driving the experience through social plugins. For example, on NHL.com, visitors are reading 92% more articles, spending 85% more time on-site, viewing 86% more videos, and generating 36% more visits.

 

It’s not just publishers that are embracing the Like button. For e-commerce sites, like Gilt Groupe and Levi’s, it has become an alternative to both organic search engine traffic and paid media. The Like button lets shoppers quickly share a product or deal with their Facebook connections, driving traffic back to the retailer’s online shopping cart. Additionally, liked products show up in search both on Facebook and Bing, changing SEO best practices overnight.

According to a Gallowayt/L2 study on the early effects of the like button, retailers that have incorporated the Like button on their have seen 80 percent increase in traffic from Facebook,  and Gilt Groupe has reportedly seen a 50% increase in sales coming from Facebook after the first week of implementation. It also turns out that users who Like content and products they find, are more influential than the average Facebook user: “Likers” are more interested in exploring content they discover on Facebook — they click on 5.3x more links to external sites than the typical Facebook user.

The average ‘liker’ has 2.4x the amount of friends than that of a typical Facebook user” – meaning there are potentially much more influential than the average Facebook user.

Long term value of a Like

However, what’s the long-term value of the Like button, or put this way: What’s the long-term value of generating Fans of your web pages? Very few marketers seem to have addressed this question, leaving thousands of high-value prospects to their own devices – when they should have been nurtured to a conversion point.

Have you seen any retailers leveraging the Likes on their sites beyond getting a like story into the News Feed?