Human beings revel in social approval and social connection. For example, individuals want to be liked, and frequently surround themselves with people who provide such positive reinforcement. Past work highlights a “common currency” between social rewards like social approval, and non-social rewards like money. But social and motivational contexts can reshape reward experiences considerably. Here, we examine the boundary conditions that deem social approval subjectively valuable. Participants received feedback about their attractiveness from others. Neural activity in reward-related brain structures (e.g., ventral striatum) increased in response to positive feedback, but only when such feedback came from well-liked targets. These heightened reward responses predicted increases in subsequent attraction to well-liked targets. This work suggests that motivational contexts amplify or diminish the value of social approval in a target-specific manner. The value of social approval is thus defined by the extent to which these experiences bring us closer to people we like.