A new study from an organisation called Veritasium has proven with overwhelming evidence that paid Facebook likes are pretty much all fake. The embedded video below goes over this information in incredible, well-researched detail that is well worth the nine minute watch and the information obtained from the video is all outlined below. One thing is for certain; Facebook advertisers, be aware. Hard earned and well intended advertising dollars are very likely going to waste.
Veritasium begins their evidence by talking about the Facebook page, Virtual Bagel that was set up by BBC Virtual Technology correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones back in 2012 because he wanted to find out the worth of a Facebook page. One of the ways to buy Facebook likes is off-site through websites that use “click-farms” from developing countries such as India, the Philippines, Indonesia, Egypt and Bangladesh. Employees generally make about $1 per every thousand pages they click “like” on. Facebook has banned buying likes this way and both offers and encourages users to buy advertisements through their online advertising platform.
This legitimate process was how Virtual Bagel got their likes. Cellan-Jones targeted his $100 of advertising to the U.S. and the UK but also to several of the previously mentioned developing countries. Within a day he had over 1,600 likes, which mostly came from developing countries. Besides this problem, he also noticed that his new “fans” were both suspicious and highly disengaged with his page, much like how click-farm followers behave.
While Facebook did take measures to delete fake likes and removed as many as 83 million fake accounts, they did not come anywhere close to deleting all of them and many fake paid likes are still out there. Veritasium took advantage of a Facebook offer to advertise their page and tripled their likes; however the results of this were less than appealing. Despite the massive increase to their page’s likes, the rate of engagement did not increase. In fact, if anything it actually went down. The chart below, which was included in their YouTube video explains why.
When a page manager creates a post, Facebook sends that post out to a number of fans of the page. If those fans “like” and engage with the post then it goes out to more. The issue is that when a page accumulates a mass number of fake Facebook fans, their posts do not receive this engagement and actually end up going out to less real followers. Unfortunately, there is no way to delete fake likes in bulk and the most a page manager can do is target advertising around them.
However it gets even worse because that does not even solve the problem.
Veritasium did another experiment of their own and set up a fake Facebook page called “Virtual Cat.” The page was actually set-up with the following amusing description.
Veritasium then paid $10 to advertise the page and target only to cat lovers in the U.S., Canada, Australia and the UK. Within 20 minutes they had blown through their entire budget and obtained 39 likes. Oddly, all of the profiles were from the U.S. but there was something very off-putting about the accounts that had liked the page. They had all liked literally hundreds of different Facebook pages with absolutely no rhyme or reason as to why they had liked those particular ones or so many.
The reason why can perhaps be found in an article from The Next Web that explains how real business pages can easily be overrun by fake likes and spammers. Click-farms actually click ads other than the ones they have been paid to do in order to avoid Facebook’s spam detection algorithms and seem more genuine. In fact, several high-profile pages actually provide evidence to back all of these theories up. Both Facebook’s own security page and Google’s Facebook page is most popular in Dhaka, Bangladesh.
The end result is that spending hard-earned advertising dollars on paid Facebook likes is a waste of money because they are fake, even if admins are buying through Facebook’s own platform. Facebook pages that already have low engagement can pay for “sponsored posts” to increase the reach of their posts to people who have already clicked “like” on their page. Essentially, Facebook advertising is a gold mine for Facebook but an empty node for advertisers themselves.
By Jonathan Holowka