After reading this research article, you would definitely doubt the effectiveness of the most popular social media platform and yes you guessed it right, it’s Facebook. With its most legitimate revenue coming from ads-based revenue but have you ever pondered over the authenticity of the entire model?
While one could easily increase its reach on Facebook by buying likes and thus promoting the page but what if these likes are just numbers without any true identity or meaning?
Here for an experiment, I have used a page that I managed by the name of “Fly Goldfinch”. This page is primarily about an Outbound Travel Company and thus we promote content related to travel. To boost the likes of the page I have a mixture of organic and inorganic (paid) likes. Fortunately, with the Ad Manager, I could increase the likes for the page from some odd 300 to roughly 2300 within a week’s time.
Screen shot of likes
I was highly satisfied with the results as now I thought as I have chosen a very niche category in terms of the targeted audience for the ads, thus my money spent on ads would now get engagements and prospective leads which would then convert and even out my cost on the ads on Facebook. But I was certainly wrong, with almost no engagement from these paid likes, I was really doubting its authenticity in the first place.
Here is a screen-shot of the engagement report for some of the posts on the page which is well representative of the overall engagement on the page.
Now the obvious question arises why is it that people who were interested in the page (i.e the paid likers) did not like the posts both of which were completely related? P.S. The posts on the Facebook page were made at different times but still no engagement was registered.
So if Facebook is true then these reports are wrong. I saw a similar trend with several other pages which I can’t mention as I don’t have access to the insights to those pages.
The next step is to study the profiles of people who liked our page. One such profile is of Mr. Vishal Chaudhary. The one peculiar thing about this person was that he had no posts on his timeline and the pages that he liked varied from marketing-related pages to fan pages which led to no conclusion about his interest, then how does Facebook decide the type of interests that one has and accordingly channelize the advertisements.
Screen-shot of the friend list of Mr. Vishal
I have enclosed a screenshot of his friend list which certainly does not look genuine. One can easily see he does not have a profile and a cover picture but still has so many pages liked and with nothing appearing on the timeline.
Taking the average cost per like for a page to be 2INR and keeping in mind the limitations that Facebook keeps for the max amount of pages that one can like (i.e.5000), we have Mr. Vishal Chaudhary to be worth 5000*2 = 10000 INR which certainly is huge.
The advertisements which led to all these results that I have shared till now were targeting a particular set of people interested in travel and tourism but were also geographically located in India. India is a hub for fake accounts and non-traceable businesses for fake likes, all the details above should not surprise you much.
On 7th Oct 2015, I launched an advertisement as follows for the same “fly goldfinch” page.
There are few quick points to note from this ad
This ad was supposed to promote a travel startup and the ad says nothing about it but I still managed to get likes on the page using this ad.
It is explicitly calling people “foolish” and make fake promises to promote our page (promise to give a Mercedes with every trip and the fact that we can all make you fly).
The audience set is targeted to people living in US where it is said to have least amount of fake accounts.
The ad that is used is using the cover picture of a book written by my dear friend, Sirjandeep Kaur Ubha and thus she owns the “copyright” for it. Thus my ads contains “visual plagiarism” but still goes scot free.
Though the per like cost is very huge, we could see results from only one night of operation of this ad and with only 500 INR invested in this ad promotion on Facebook.
I am sure if this ad was run in countries like Bangladesh and India, I could have easily achieved a huge amount of likes at a much lower cost.
Quoting the Facebook Advertising Guidelines, any ad with “Deceptive, false, or misleading content, including deceptive claims, offers, or business practices”. would be prohibited which is not adhered to in this case. Also, quoting “relevancy: All components of an ad, including any text, images, or other media, must be relevant and appropriate to the product or service being offered and the audience viewing the ad.” from the same set of guidelines, one can easily see how Facebook fails to detect any error in the same.
Screen-shots showing the costs involved in the ad, ad set, & the cover of the book used:
Now coming to boosting a particular post, the same story repeats. A particular post about “Desert Safari in Dubai” which had only 1 organic like, was boosted with the targeted audience in France and interested in Music which was certainly not related to the audience which could have possibly liked the post. After the post was boosted it saw an increase in the number of likes by the irrelevant audience. Though the number of likes could have been more if I targeted developing countries it was not the case in developed countries like France.
After further researching, I came across one application called “addmefast”, which helps people trade on social media engagements using points that one could earn by engaging with other’s pages or handles. So one could use his Facebook account to like other pages and earn points and could further use those points to use it for increasing the likes on his own page.
But the interesting part is that one could use a fake account to like other pages and use a bot with a script to collect points by randomly liking pages and then thereafter use those points for increasing the likes on the page it want to. Screen-Shot showing random post likes increased by using “addmefast”
Both the application “addmefast” and it’s bot (available for mozilla firefox) are for free and require no hassle to install. You have the option to geographically set the targeted location for the likers and other such filters and trust me some of them are genuine also. So if addmefast uses a virtual currency and while Facebook uses actual cash for the same thing then, what’s essentially is the difference? I would say nothing, one is for free and other is not, and for the rest the choice is yours to choose among them.
Why is this still getting unnoticed by Facebook?
Yes, all this information is in the public domain with a normal browser and we all can access it but why is Facebook not doing anything about websites like addmefast.com. I think when Facebook and other such service providers are essentially doing the same thing why would Facebook point fingers at others when its own model is illegitimate. After all, Facebook still holds the larger share of the pie.
But at the same time Facebook now has such a large active user base, then why would it want to resort to illegitimate means when its platform can act as a neutral platform for advertisers. With Facebook regularly deactivating fake accounts and putting limits on the number of pages one can like (i.e.5000), one certainly on the upfront can trust Facebook’s measures to control these illegal activities. So this gives rise to a more realistic assumption that organizations/people who are involved in these activities to mint money can surely roam scot-free if they like every other page be it sponsored or for their business purposes. This way Facebook can’t track them as now these are not people who like some specific country pages and belonging to some particular geographical locations, these are people who try to blend with others and act normally liking pages across countries and across their domains.
This might be the reason why Facebook’s algorithm can’t truly put their interests into categories and thus our ads might just appear randomly to these people.
Though the latter conclusion seem to be more realistic and easy to digest one can’t out rightly ignore the former.
I am not encouraging the use of “addmefast” or any such applications but the fact that Facebook still has a lot to do in terms of its algorithms, one certainly can’t rely on Facebook alone to thrive and get genuine leads.
Having the other problems well addressed, how Facebook will address plagiarism and relevancy problems and improve the statistics related to “Interest of the audience” is still doubtful.
I am not saying all likers are fake but all likes aren’t genuine also. My research is based on statistics and representative sample data and that’s where I am trying to draw conclusions from.
The purpose of this research is not to play the blame game but to caution people who invest so much into Facebook without getting any valuable returns.
Just as you can’t judge a book by its cover, don’t judge a Facebook page by its likes.
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