The raging controversy over fraudulent ‘likes’ on Facebook Ads has cast aspersions on the efficacy of running Ads on Facebook with engineered fake likes devastating the business plans of many advertisers who are now feeling duped.
A viral video on that count speaks for itself. The theory is gaining ground that Facebook is allegedly hand in glove with bogus accounts (bots) and click farms to jack up the number of likes to consolidate its Ad domain.
It was the bold exposure of Veritasium YouTube channel owner Derek Muller that humbled many claims of Facebook and raised questions whether advertising on FB is worth the big dollars spent.
Muller was inspired by the 2012 work by BBC correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones who reported the frustration of FB advertisers and about the low return rates from campaigns run on the Facebook ad platform.
The BBC report unfurled the game behind likes by setting up a fake Facebook page named VirtualBagel and spent $60 on its advertising and promotions. The BBC journalist noticed that the majority of his likes came from Indonesia, Philippines and Egypt. But as soon as he targeted his ads on the U.K market the number of likes to his page steadily plummeted.
Muller used Cellan-Jones’ methodology for his video piece that dissected the anatomy of likes coming from Facebook’s ad platform. Muller made use of free advertising credits from Facebook and found his Veritasium page jumping from 2,000 likes to 70,000 likes in terms of popularity in a few months’ time. This subscribers number was almost the same number as his YouTube channel at that point of time.
But the irony was that even as the number of likes to his Veritasium page grew phenomenally on FB the actual user engagement only dropped drastically showing a discrepancy on the likes and results. Muller argues that these ‘high-likes but low-engagement’ visitors were from countries like Indonesia, Egypt, Bangladesh, Nepal, Philippines, India and Sri Lanka.
Muller then refocused a campaign to exclude the countries where the majority of low-engagement fake likes originated and found that his page still being liked by fake accounts.
Is Algorithm at Fault?
Muller contends that Facebook’s algorithm actually seeds a post to a small percentage of users who like a page and increases or decreases the exposure depending on the user engagement.
The perception is that click-farm accounts like a variety pages to evade Facebook’s fraud-detection algorithms. Facebook on its part is silent or least bothered to remove fake likes from its pages because that may hit its revenue base. Any admission that a significant amount of ad revenue is coming from non-genuine user accounts fondly called bots will be a self defeating proposition.
Faced with intense media scrutiny, Facebook is mulling that it is keen on salvaging its reputation and has put in place mechamiss to crack down on fake profiles. But criticism is that FB efforts in that direction are not full hearted and a permissive attitude in the matter of click farm pages still persists. Some advertisers who burnt the fingers allege “Paid-to-Like” operations are thriving on Facebook platform.
Adverse Business Model
Unlike YouTube which gets paid every time a creator’s video is viewed and a business model that permits maximum outreach to its subscribers Facebook is deploying the reverse business model completely denying mutual benefit in the matter of accessing its real audience.
A Facebook spokesperson also admitted that Fake likes are not helping. Results are proving that Facebook Ads are driving business and holding focus on business objectives.
Since real-world success would not come with fake likes mechanisms are due to monitor and remove fake likes from the FB system. While many prefer to dismiss charges that Facebook is in hand in glove with click farms, the bad experience of many advertisers is giving credence to the belief that many of these concerns are not misplaced.
In fact many Marketing wizards want to dump FB likes. They say if likes are taken out there will be the salvation of having done some real selling and be better off. Sadly the tool for deleting fake Likes are not in shape.
An advertiser on Facebook rightly averred that he hates conspiracy theories and want a scientific method to follow. The sense of betrayal in his words was unmistakable when he said, what I paid to them was real money and in return what I got was useless likes.
Facebook is still parroting its official line that neither it has come across any evidence of a serious problem with its Ads nor any high profile advertiser made an issue out of it. FB claims that all its advertisers are enjoying positive results. Still something is rotten in the city of Denmark!
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