When Facebook first began opening its doors to businesses, creating features like Pages so that businesses could engage with users online, gaining Likes was one of the main goals. Now, however, as Facebook improves its advertising features, with the focus being on gaining engagement and reach rather than watching the little meter gradually tick over in an iframe at the top of a company’s Page, how important have likes become, or how unimportant?

From the very start, Facebook engagement has been centred around the Like button. The Facebook Like button is the easiest and quickest way someone can show appreciation of a post or a Page: just one quick click and comments from a business Page will start appearing in your News Feed. This is the key purpose of the Like button: by clicking Like, users are saying they are happy to see a business’s page content in their News Feed, potentially leading to more engagement.

However, the Like button’s simplicity is also its downside. A Like doesn’t necessarily mean that a user has properly engaged with a business, it only takes one click after all. Although Likes are often a gateway to better sorts of engagement such as comments, they don’t make further engagement a certainty. Also, if someone Likes your Page or post, there’s no real way to thank them. If someone comments on your page, it opens up the possibility of an actual conversation.

If someone Likes your Page, it won’t necessarily show up in their friends' News Feeds. A comment or a Page post is far more likely to appear in the News Feed than a Like. Likes, therefore, rarely directly affect reach, as a user’s friends won’t necessarily see the Like activity. The only place friends’ Likes regularly show up on the News Feed is in the “Add to News Feed” section, but this has been scrapped in the new News Feed design.

So, Facebook Likes help engagement and reach, but they don’t necessarily guarantee engagement and reach. How important, then, are Facebook Likes to your business? They are still very important, in fact, so important that Facebook are still releasing features to encourage users to Like Pages, features like a “Like Page” button and a “Promoted Page Likes” Feature.

At its most basic level, the more Facebook Likes a business’ Page has, the more popular it will appear to people, people who also might be encouraged to click Like. However, amount isn’t everything, businesses need to focus on getting the right Likes for their page. A few months ago, researchers at Cambridge University discovered that what people were liking on Facebook revealed a lot about their age, gender and political viewpoint.

If you get the right people to like your Page, therefore, you will instantly know a lot about your Page posts’ audience, helping you to target them with the right content. As long as they don’t hide you from their News Feed, all your Page posts will appear exactly where you need them to: in the News Feeds of people who have already shown their appreciation of your company by liking your Page.

Facebook Likes also contribute to the stats on your Facebook Insights page, helping you to better understand and target your audience. So, Although they’re a pretty simple measurement of engagement, Facebook Likes are still the best way of building up an audience that you can then engage with properly further down the line.

Do you think Facebook Likes are still important?