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In this series of articles, our correspondent tries to figure out how Facebook’s promotion feature actually works. Our goal is to find out whether advertisement on Facebook actually increases the popularity of you page or whether it is plainly useless or even harmful.
If you have a business page on Facebook, you’ve probably thought about promoting it. After all, it’s only natural. Facebook constantly reminds you of its promotion functionality and promises that if you buy this feature today, you’ll get hundreds of new subscribers.
The argument goes on whether it’s in any way useful, and that’s why we’ve decided to get down and dirty and figure out Facebook promotion for ourselves and share the results with you.
Our correspondent took the job and in the first issue of our Facebook experiment we promote an utterly useless page aimed at pet lovers in the USA.
Anna, the floor is yours!
I’ve noticed a peculiar problem with ZorbasMedia’s Facebook page: likes keep coming but the overall engagement seems to stay at the same level, what’s up with that?
I decided to figure out how Facebook promotion actually works and find out what is behind thousands upon thousands of likes on Facebook which seem to bring zero value.
Danger behind fake likes
So, first things first: I had to research the problem and find some more information about it. And, boy, I did find a lot. Businesses complain that their pages are flooded with likes which seem to bring absolutely no value and activity. Various articles claim that this suspicious activity is tied to click-farms. But why are fake likes such a big deal? No harm, no foul, or is it?
In order to figure it out, let’s take a closer look at Facebook’s promotion algorithm. Say, you have a bakery. Your Facebook page has 500 devoted baked goods lovers, all of them are your frequent customers and they are pretty interested in whatever you are baking. They leave comments and share your posts with friends. And your goal is to increase your dedicated audience.
Then, you launch a promotion campaign.
Likes keep coming, the campaign has been active for several weeks in a row, but the overall activity is actually going down, what’s up with that?
Facebook’s algorithm is based on popularity rating. Every new posts is shown to a limited amount of subscribers. If it generates feedback such as comments, shares and likes, then the algorithm marks it as an interesting one and shows it to other subscribers.
Bots, on the other hand, don’t interact with your posts and show zero activity, but they do press the Like button, and so it becomes unlikely that someone really interested will actually see you post. Money spent, zero value received, so to say.
Advertisers vs Facebook
The most well-known1 video on the subject of fake likes is the one made by Veritasium channel, it reveals the results of research conducted in 2014 where the author shares his experience of using Facebook promotion.
He resorted to Facebook promotion, but the results of the campaign were lacking at the very least. It seemed as if he had just purchased a bunch of click bots. 80% of likes came from Bangladesh with almost identical accounts liking his page.
The author of the research came to a conclusion that Facebook turns a blind eye to click farms and allows them to operate, as the influx of likes seemingly shows that the product is actually being promoted.
But why do bots like the pages that they are not paid to promote? The author suspects that in this case bots mimic a real user’s behaviour. However, these fake users seem to be interested in pretty much everything on the social network and like various pages on a random basis. As these people like everything without actually interacting with the page, their likes become worthless and they tend to see way more of promoted posts that they don’t engage with.
Facebook retaliated against such accusations stating that it’s their business to make their advertising platform helpful to businesses.
For example, they banned 2.2 million fake users in the first quarter of 2019 alone.
Experiment: USA targeted ads
What’s the actual scale of the problem? Has it gotten worse since 2014, the year when the Veritasium video was published? I decided to carry out an experiment and see whether Facebook promotion is indeed useless.
I created a useless and pointless group on Facebook.
The post I made were pretty simple: combinations of 3s and 4s and that’s it. And there is a cute cat on the profile pic of the group. I planned to target promotion at different countries with and without click farms.
For starters, I decided to launch a campaign aimed at the USA, there aren’t any known click farms there. In the article mentioned above it was stated that USA-based subscribers looked a lot like fakes, as they liked a bunch of different stuff, and so Veritasium said that they are indeed fake and it’s pointless to promote your page this way. But I launched a campaign to see who would like my page.
Budget: 500 rubles ( ~$8).
Campaign time period: 4 days.
Targeting: USA, pet-lovers.
Likes came right away, I expected that no one would like my page or it would be bots or weirdos, and the latter was actually true.
Looking at the pages, I can definitely say that there were real people liking my page, just slightly weird.
On one of the pages, there very regularly updated profile pics with holiday filters on!
Another guy was obsessed with his abs, I wrote him and complimented his physique, he thanked me and added to friends.
On the other pages, there were comments to pictures and photos by friends, fresh memes and a bunch of selfies. Every user has been on Facebook for quite a while, and so they didn’t seem like fake accounts. One of the profiles belonged to a guy championing far-right political views. So, even my personal profile seems to be fake compared to these people.
But the motivation behind liking a pointless page remains obscure. It is possible that pet lovers will like any page that has a cat on the profile picture. But it seems that only those users who like everything indiscriminately can like a page similar to the one I created. Such user behaviour looks odd, but it doesn’t prove that these accounts are actually fake, as all the people who liked my page also liked a bunch of other pet-related pages.
Veritasium’s conclusion that people who like a billion of pages are fakes is hard to prove, but it’s also hard to prove the opposite notion: people don’t tend to like SO many things, especially the pointless stuff.
Nevertheless, we will continue trying to find out why people like pages that seem to have no value behind them.
If you aim to promote something in the USA, your promotion will reach some real people. I hope to identify fakes next time when I launch promotion aimed at Indonesia, Vietnam and Bangladesh, countries that are notorious for their click farms.
If you have any ideas, let me know and see you next time!
It is most often cited by those who write about fake likes on Facebook.
- Their Fraudulent Facebook Likes Are Hurting Brands Like Never Before!
- The Great Facebook “Boost”: How Click Farms Make Facebook’s Paid Promos a Scam
If you want to reach new GEOs and audiences, maybe it is all waiting for you on Telegram? We’ve prepared some material about Telegram audiences. What are the messenger’s users like this year? How old they are, what they do, and what they are interested in!