Internet liking is ubiquitous. It is on my blog, on most social sites, and many others. These like buttons not only offer people the chance to express a positive response but to share this like with their friends. So, what do you like? Are you a supportive friend or brand ambassador? Do you notice what your friends like and sometimes wonder, “really?”

A witty post about what is happening in a person’s life is something that should be liked. Cross that out — must be liked. It is about supporting friends and colleagues in the adventures they are embarking on. Support for their business ventures, artistic endeavours and personal accomplishments are what living is about.

But, how often do you “like” other things? And, perhaps, more importantly, why do we like these things?

Is it brands that you like? Maybe the big companies like Coke or is it the other types of (equally important) brands like celebrities, artists (e.g. content creators), or the output of their creation (songs, books, articles)? These brands are not looking for your emotional support in the sense that your “friends” are but don’t be fooled, these likes are all about emotion and engagement.

The products and services we use are statements about how we see ourselves and how we want others to see us. Our self-identity is caught up in what we buy and pressing the like button is the internet version of the designer label.

There are three clear benefits to companies. The first is that people who “like” them are advocates for their brand and when tied to Facebook information the company gets a good understanding of who these people are (and who their friends are). Second, likes are “word-of-mouth” advertising without nuance (they are safe).  Third, likes, especially in Facebook become an invitation for companies to provide direct content to supporters (read advocates) and this information about the brand that can be used to further enhance the brand conversations that advocates have with their friends and colleagues.

None of this is necessarily bad. Many of us recommend products to others or get asked about a product people see us using (e.g. the many questions I get about my Ipad). What has changed is that companies are actively seeking to build these pseudo-friendships often through enticements of contests (like us and we will enter your name in a draw) or online games (e.g. special things within Farmville).

Advertising on social networks is not just the ads that are in tidy little boxes… it’s what we say and do as well. But, of course, more and more that is the case online or off.

So, who are your pseudo-friends? Are you an advocate for the company, personality, or product offline as well or were you brought into the friendship with a compelling offer?