In the pre-digital, pre-Internet age, we had 'word of mouth.' When you liked a news article, story, business, picture, song or anything else, you went around blabbing and telling everybody about it. Today, everybody's online and it's really exactly the same. The only difference is that these days, we tell millions of people all over the world; and all it takes is the click of a button.
Let's say you're watching YouTube and you come across a hilarious video of some idiot jumping off his roof and smacking into a tree. You feel a sudden need to show as many friends as possible so that they can enjoy the gut laugh as well. At the bottom of the video near the description is a little thumbs-up and the word 'Like.' Click it and a notification goes out to all of your friends' Facebook accounts. Now they can enjoy the stupid video with you.
What does it mean when somebody 'likes' your website, video, or comment? First of all, it tells other people about it. It's literally the modern day 'word of mouth.' All of their friends will see that they've liked something, and the authority of a good friend choosing it will make them curious to see what it is. This is much more powerful than someone simply seeing your advertisement, no matter how attention-grabbing or alluring that ad is.
Actually, social media websites like Facebook and Twitter help lots of online and offline businesses spread the word. There are plenty of stores, nightclubs, restaurants and other businesses using this tool to their advantage. They get people to sign up for their Facebook fan page at their brick and mortar location. Then, they send out updates that offer deals, discounts or specials for their fans. There's nothing like a sweet deal to get the 'likes' flying.
Likes also build momentum. They offer a way for you to go viral. As everybody likes your site and tells their friends, it keeps spreading around on its own. In effect, they do your advertising for you. If you get a lot of likes, this can also provide SEO benefits for your site and raise its ranking in the search engine results pages.
There's an excellent WordPress plugin that allows you to put a Facebook 'like' button directly on your site. You can also set your business up with an content management system that has these integrations built-in as well. When someone likes what your website has to offer, they can click on it and immediately tell others about it. You can also get other tools that allow you to integrate your site with Facebook, like a plugin that lets visitors log in to their Facebook account from your page.
As Facebook quickly becomes the most popular site on the web, it truly is the new 'word of mouth.' Everybody on the site is talking, and they could be talking about your business's services and products.