My Facebook page recently got close to about 5,800 followers, and I thought it would be nice to help it reach 6,000 with the help of Facebook ads (Facebook allows you to show adverts either in the News Feed or in the right column, and when people like what they see, they can follow your page directly by clicking on a “Like” button in the advert).
In other words, you pay a little money, people see your ads, and if they like what you have to offer, they become your loyal followers. Sounds quite good, doesn’t it? Except the part that says people.
Facebook click farms
Some people make a lot of money selling fake Facebook likes (which is not what I was interested in, but bear with me). These are sometimes used by companies that wish to create the impression of having a lot of customers in order to look more credible.
How does it work? One of the options is to write a computer program, so-called bot, that operates a fake Facebook profile. The “problem” with this approach is that it is much easier to detect that a computer program does something suspicious than if a real person does it. Click farm operators (people who sell fake likes) often hire real people and pay them to create thousands of fake Facebook profiles. These are mostly located in developing countries, but there are some everywhere in the world.
In order to conceal their fake liking activities, people (or bots) operating fake profiles like everything they can. They like dozens or hundreds of new pages every day randomly, only few of which have been paid for. This makes it much harder for Facebook to detect suspicious activity.
But wait, we are paying for genuine Facebook ads, not fake click-farm likes, aren’t we?
I would never buy fake Facebook likes—it is like pretending you are a celebrity to make people do stuff for you, which I consider rather disgusting. However, I would be happy if there were an easy way to get more real followers, i.e. people who are genuinely interested in my work, share it, and write nice comments that help me improve my website and motivate me to keep writing new articles.
That’s what, in theory, Facebook ads should do. Facebook shows ads to people, and those who are interested follow your page.
However, in order to get you as many new followers as possible, Facebook “optimizes” your ads’ audience. Their algorithms decide which users are the most likely to respond to your ads.
And here’s the catch—who’s the most likely to click the “like” button in Facebook’s eyes? The people who click the “like” button most often! But those are exactly people who operate fake Facebook accounts, for reasons explained above.
The fact is, even when you pay for regular Facebook ads, you will still attract lots of fake likes.
Results of my little experiment
First, I had to decide where to advertise. Since I don’t have many followers from the Balkans and the Balkans are not known to have a lot of click farms, I thought advertising in Croatia, Bosnia, Serbia, and a handful more Balkan countries would be a good idea (that, and the fact that advertising there costs much less than in Western European countries).
I created an ad, set the audience to the people who live in the Balkans and are interested in the English language, set the budget to 5 euro, and let the ad run for a day.
For €5, I got 100 new likes. Not bad.
As the administrator of a Facebook page, you can see the list of people who liked it, and you can click on their names to get to their public profiles (just as if you looked them up in the search bar). I don’t normally do that, but I checked quite a few of those people’s profiles to find out whether they were real. And I found out that the majority of those profiles were either fake or not the kind of followers you would like to have anyway.
On average, the people who liked my page liked about 20,000 other pages. 20,000 pages. Who does that, honestly? One new follower liked the official page of Oreo, a porn star, and a company selling boats within a few minutes after he liked my educational page. Quite a range of interests, isn’t it?
Some of the profiles were so obviously fake I had to laugh. One of the followers had several copies of himself among his friends, with the same profile picture and name. He only posted random images that were then liked by his copies. Kanye West would be proud.
Most of the likes I got were either fake accounts or pathological likers—people who “like” every page in their news feed. To me, that doesn’t make much difference.
Facebook filters out the vast majority of content posted by pages you follow and only shows you posts it thinks you could find interesting. When my posts compete with 20,000 other posts in someone’s news feed, the person will most probably never see a single update of mine.
My conclusion is: Paying for Facebook ads to get more page likes is a waste of money. The results in terms of the “quality” of likes probably would have been better if I had advertised my page in countries like Germany or France, but the cost of advertising there is also much higher (almost €1 per page like). This may be worth it for companies selling expensive products, but definitely not for an educational website.