Facebook’s Fake “Likes” Problem
In the above video, Veritasium explores the growing problem of fraud with Facebook’s paid “likes” advertising platform. We know it’s possible to buy them for pennies on the dollar illegitimately outside the system. But what about those you purchase via Facebook advertising? Even when you target specific audiences, it’s highly likely you’ll wind up with followers from zombie accounts in Third World countries. The last time we checked, these zombies do not engage with your content, and they most certainly do not buy your products.
Where are they coming from? This isn’t an initiative on the part of Facebook to steal your advertising, but rather the result of good intentions–attempts to shut down the shady bulk “like” sales in the first place. Here’s how it works: previously, merchants of bulk “likes” could simply write computer scripts to create millions of zombie accounts that like your page. However, Facebook found it odd that some accounts were only following certain pages in a completely different country; and if they had no other activity, they began to delete these accounts in bulk. Suddenly brands had an unexplained “like crash” about a year ago.
Of course, in this spy vs. spy world, these “like” merchants made adjustments to once again circumvent Facebook’s process. They had to disguise their interactions with customer pages by “liking” as many random pages as possible. This means that when your advertisement is displayed on Facebook, it’s tempting for someone with a fake account to click your ad and disguise their true intent. You not only get charged for a meaningless “like”, but it sticks with you forever. Every time you pay to promote your content to existing fans, you’ll be charged to promote to a person who simply does not exist.
What does all this mean for managers of Facebook pages? Taking a hard look at whether Facebook will continue to be a viable medium for advertisers, it is difficult to swallow the notion that we have to pay Facebook to show content to audiences we have already paid to grow. Now when we pay Facebook to expand our audience, we have to question whether it’s an audience at all.