Facebook earned a whopping $2.59 billion in Q4 of 2013. It did this with 1.23 billion users a month, and with revenues split roughly evenly between mobile and desktop.
Facebook is a company (obviously) driven by ads – it’s their main way to make money. So of course it’s in their best interest to maximize the amount of money marketers have to pay to reach their target audience.
And unfortunately that’s where the dirty little secret comes in…
Buying Fake Likes and Shares
I’d imagine that everyone reading here realizes that it’s very, very easy to buy Facebook likes and followers. You can see people offering various packages of FB marketing packages at sites like Fiverr or SEOClerks. I suspect that way less than half the people who buy those packages realize that all of those 5,000 likes for $5 they just bought are from bots and not real people.
I suppose at the end of the day it doesn’t matter too much if those are real or fake, right? Sure, it inflates their like numbers and makes them look more popular. But what does it say when a site has 10,000 followers but zero likes or comments? Something wouldn’t sit right with visitors (or at least the ones that pay attention).
Buying Facebook Ads
So what’s the right way to do it? Of course Facebook says that it’s to buy ads! They let you do it based upon impressions or on an action (a like), and most importantly they give you a crazy amount of options to select from to target your audience exactly. For example, I can target my ads towards females aged 25-30 living in Phoenix, Arizona and like cats.
How amazing is that? Assuming I can craft a good sales message, my sales should be off the charts for anything and everything I want to promote, right? After all, it is a completely laser targeted audience.
Over the past year there has been a crazy amount of products released selling the secret recipe for riches using Facebook. Even that great marketer Ryan Deiss has released a couple of products promoting easy profits using Facebook ads.
After all, if I can buy likes for .01 (or less!), it’s crazy easy to build a list to start marketing to.
- Pick niche
- Launch FB ad for .01 likes (following basic steps)
- ??? [add to mailing list, sell teespring shirts, insert favorite marketing gimmick]
Of course I try to stay current with trends and proceeded to make 6 Facebook groups that now have between 10,000 and 80,000 fans. The groups ranged from dieting to TV shows to political figures, just to get a good feel for the various markets, and I was able to get the likes for very cheap. (And in targeting people to market to to obtain Likes, I was very targeted in my ads)
But when it came time to monitize, the profits just weren’t there.
In digging into the issue, I quickly came to realize that user engagement was quite low. This means that if I’m making a post to my George Bush page with 80,000 fans, very few people see it and even fewer like/comment on it.
You see, Facebook doesn’t show your posts to everyone, even if they like your page. Many people don’t realize that fact, and, in my opinion, it’s a bad user experience. Facebook initially drips out your post to a handful of people and based on their engagement levels, decides whether to show it to others. And, over time, if your engagement level is low, even fewer people will see it. Talk about a crazy death spiral!
Many groups attempt to get around this by posting silly like/share photos or asking people if they like Coke or Pepsi better. Sure, they’re inane posts, but it drives up engagement (which leads to more people seeing posts and ultimately leads to more monitization for the page owner).
Notice how the dumb post gets way higher engagement than the typical light hearted post? Seems like Facebook is really encouraging high quality content by leveraging engagement so heavily, isn’t it?
Now back to my example pages that I grew via Facebook ads. My engagement was quite low compared to the organically grown groups, even when making silly posts meant to boost engagement. So I took a step further and found that a very large number of the likes on my ad-grown pages were from obvious spam accounts that had very few posts and liked TONS of other pages.
And even though I targeted my ads to a US demographic (as seen above), the most popular city is Bangalore, India. Odd, isn’t it?
What’s Actually Happening
I believe Facebook is totally and completely overrun with bots. These bots will click like on dozens/hundreds/thousands of pages, all in an effort to camoflauge the activity of the people buying through marketplaces like Fiverr.
What leads me to that conclusion?
- A majority of the paid FB ad likes are from low activity users with thousands of other likes
- The engagement is very low across the board from very precisely targeted visitors
Check out this video someone posted detailing exactly the same issue:
How Can Facebook Fix This?
Interestingly, I don’t think Facebook will ever fix it because it’s just not in their interest financially.
Think about it… I want to build a group and I try the organic approach, finding that not only is “going viral” like trying to catch smoke, but it’s too slow. So I pay Facebook for ads for likes on my page. The default settings of ad campaigns will end up costing you 10x more than if you use tactics for “penny likes”, so I end up paying Facebook more for ads than if I researched things heavily. Now I have tens of thousands of likes and am happy. But when I post, I find that my reach is relatively tiny. What do I do? Pay Facebook to boost my posts so more people see them.
There is zero incentive for Facebook to fix the fraudulent like issue. The only thing they need to do is pay lip service to keeping out the spammers so that businesses still trust that Facebook is operating in good faith. So every now and then Facebook makes a big show about cleaning things up while the issue still goes on every day.
For Advertisers, We Have a Solution
Believe it or not, as advertisers we can get around this problem while working within the tools that Facebook gives us. It’s a bit more involved than the normal 30 seconds it takes to create an ad, but it will generate amazingly better results for your campaign.
The solution, in three easy steps:
- Find pages that match your target demo
- Find people who are already engaged with that page
- Extract that user list and build a custom campaign targeted JUST to those users. It’s a bit involved the first time, but you can find some good instructions on Facebook.
Pretty simple, yet amazingly effective. As in night and day better results.
And what type of site would we be if we didn’t actually give you a way to automate the process?!
We originally had our own tool to do this, but it was a bit clunky (and of course not our core business). But we’ve found a tool that does this so much better. It’s got an amazing amount of flexibility – you’re going to love it!
Please, don’t waste any more money on boosted posts or buying likes that aren’t pointed at a specific user list. If you have extra money to blow, just donate it to a good charity like the Human Fund!
Again, the key is to laser target custom audiences of engaging people. Fewer bots, no wasted clicks and money. And these guys have the solution locked up. Go give it a shot and see your ROI skyrocket.