Facebook would prefer it if you checked your account daily (or even hourly). Its nearly 1 billion users spend an average of 55 minutes per day on the site, and Facebook is the second most frequently visited site in the United States. Facebook also is expanding the network in which it operates by making it easier for users to share information outside of Facebook.

Social plug-ins are “like” buttons placed on a business’s website that encourage a social experience outside of Facebook. Social plug-ins make it easier for the user to share content from other websites with friends with a single click; if users like the content, whether an article, a restaurant, or a band, this preference gets shared automatically on their Facebook newsfeed. Friends in turn can link easily to the liked site, such that the system benefits both the external company and Facebook—and users. Companies thus place “Like” buttons on their web pages to drive more traffic to Facebook and then enjoy more return traffic from Facebook to their own web pages.

Currently, 2.5 million websites contain “Like” buttons, but 10,000 more get added every day. Users like the “Like” button. Only 13 percent of users ever write reviews on websites, but a much higher percentage of people are willing to click “Like” buttons: It is easy and it gives Facebook users a simple way to communicate with friends and possibly extend their social influence.

Businesses can use Facebook users’ information to target potential customers. For example, Yelp can use your preferences to give you personalized information on restaurants or music venues, because Yelp can access songs that you “like” on Pandora, and also the restaurants that you “like” with their own Yelp.com.  Even IMBD, the comprehensive site for movie lovers, is getting in on the game, gathering Facebook users’ favorite movies and television shows. By getting to know all those 1 billion users, Facebook offers incredibly relevant and increasingly useful information to advertisers—which is why its annual advertising revenues of more than $1 billion continue to grow.

What is a social plug-in?

Sources: Mike Elgan, “Click ‘Like’ if You Like ‘Like’,” BusinessWeek, May 4, 2011; David Goldman, “Get Ready for some Big Facebook Changes,” CNNMoney.com, April 21, 2010; Liz Gannes, “Facebook: The Entire Web Will Be Social,” Gigaom.com, April 21, 2010; Harry McCracken, “Microsoft Melds Office With Facebook,” Technologizer.com, April 21, 2010.