Facebook Like Fraud – Is it really a thing?

In a rousing video, Derek Muller posed the theory that Facebook likes by spammers will hurt your Page engagement, but Facebook won’t admit it because they make money from the advertising that you then pay for to gain more engagement. Is Facebook Like Fraud really a thing?

Here, watch the video and form your own opinion:

Are the conclusions right? Are they wrong? We are left with a bunch of questions after watching Muller’s video. One thing is definitely missing…what exactly was his targeting for the free advertising he did for Likes on his page. Was it broad? Narrow? Did he specify that he didn’t want likes from those countries? We don’t know.

Muller wasn’t clear about the targeting for his page likes (his real page), his second test while it was targeted was tested using one post and $25, not exactly the broadest/longest test ever. He says as much in the video.

One of his conclusion was if you advertise to get your posts to people who should care and they don’t engage with your content, it’s because they didn’t really care about the content in the first place. They liked your page to look legitimate to Facebook so they don’t get marked as a spammer.

To no one’s surprise, The Washington Post picked up the story, then Facebook responded to the Post story:

Fake likes don’t help us. For the last two years, we have focused on proving that our ads drive business results and we have even updated our ads to focus more on driving business objectives. Those kinds of real-world results would not be possible with fake likes. In addition, we are continually improving the systems we have to monitor and remove fake likes from the system.

Just to be clear, he created a low quality Page about something a lot of people like – cats. He spent $10 and got 150 people who liked cats to like the Page. They may also like a lot of other Pages which does not mean that they are not real people – lots of real people like lots of things.

Not exactly the same as the determined and fun rebuttal against Princeton, is it? It’s clear that Facebook benefits from this system, but it’s up to them to address that part of the problem. We don’t know when or if they will or if it’s truly an issue on the targeting side or the Facebook side. What can you do?

Work on your targeting

Targeting is very important when advertising. Facebook Advertising is no different than any other form of advertising. If you get your targeting wrong, you will reach the wrong audience and will get horrible engagement rates as a result.

Here’s how to better target your advertising on Facebook to get better results:

Set up a persona

In order to generate the results that you’re looking for in marketing, you have to identify the type of person that would be interested in the information you are sharing or the product that you are offering. You’ll have to identify all of the characteristics of that persona: what they like, who they are, where they are, and so on. If you skip this part then, of course, you’ll get horrible results and will be throwing money down the drain. Get as granular as possible on your targeted personas, and your ads won’t underperform.

Advertise to your people

By this I mean advertise to the people who are actively engaged with your brand. Our best recommendations on how to do this? Use Facebook (and Twitter) custom audiences which allow you to advertise only to certain people via the Power Editor for Facebook Advertising.

Here are some of the ways you can target people according to Facebook:

  • Email addresses
  • Phone numbers
  • Facebook user IDs
  • App user IDs
  • IDFAs
  • If you have a website or mobile app, you can use a Facebook pixel or the Facebook SDK to reach people who’ve visited your site or have taken actions within your app with Facebook ads

This is one of the ways which the data that you have about your fans and followers will come in handy. If you’re targeting people who have already shown their interest in what your company has to offer, don’t you think that’d work better than randomly targeting cat lovers on Facebook?

For every person out there experiencing poor engagement, there are others who have learned to use Facebook targeting who aren’t seeing the same results as Muller. He made a controversial video about Facebook marketing when some marketers are already skittish from recent brouhaha around teens and Facebook and Princeton’s study.

If companies do the work and take the time to plan campaigns, they’ll find that the advertising generates better results. It nearly always does.

Chel Wolverton
Senior Marketing Analyst


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