Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Facebook ads - not worth the money, and suggest fraud

Facebook ads aren't worth it, and Derek Muller of Veritasium fame explains why:

(Derek has made an earlier video too, on the problems with facebook).

He's also had a response from Facebook, and had asked that this response be mirrored. Given that he's a top block, who am I to say no. Here's the text of that post repeated in full:

My response to Facebook’s response to me:

FB: I'd like to be clear that he intentionally created a low quality Page about something a lot of people like – cats.

Me: Correct - the goal here was to see if people would blindly like anything, including a page that clearly calls them an idiot if they like it. And they did. The implication is they never even looked at the page, and this is backed up by statistics on the page. To me this is not genuine behavior. I don't know anyone who would like a page without either knowing the brand or checking out the page first.

FB: He spent $10 and got 150 people who liked cats to like the Page.

Me: Why can't they get the facts right? I spent $10 and got 39 likes (much faster than I expected and from only the US, Canada, Australia and the UK).

FB: 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.

Me: OK, here's the thing. The global average likes per person is 40. For most countries it looks like 20 and below:
Virtually everyone who liked my page liked in excess of 900 things (I say virtually because I could only spot-check random profiles and then the number of likes is not easy to ascertain - you have to scroll for miles through their likes and then count using a query of the code). These are clearly not typical accounts.

Now the claim this "does not mean that they are not real people" might be valid. They may well be accounts made or controlled by an actual human (could be an employee at a clickfarm, could be someone who is paid to like pages, eg. via However I think their likes are not genuine. So this is a distinction I imagine FB would not be keen to make. There may be 'fake' likes coming from 'real' profiles.

Then they might throw up their hands and say 'even if what he's saying is true, how could we ever deal with this kind of activity?' I would say if there is a page like that never results in engagement with the page, it is a bogus like and the like should be deleted, not necessarily the account, but certainly the like.

FB: Also, his example for his own page from May 2012 is almost two years old, and as indicated above, we have significantly improved these systems over the past two years."

Me: This is perhaps most worrying of all. In essence: in the old days, sure fake likes could happen, but not now. What troubles me most about this admission is they have done nothing to correct the problem. If they're aware those 80,000 likes are dead weight they should have eliminated them. And they have since benefited from those 80,000 likes when I paid to try to reach them. I hadn't dug into my demo data so I didn't know how bad the problem was and I paid to boost posts out to these useless likes. That is a problem!

Reporter: Some of the people who were passing around your video this week cited as a reason to be skeptical of Facebook's market valuation. Of course, it is very difficult to know just how big a problem clickfraud is. Do you have any evidence that gaining likes actually helps you?

Me: I was thinking about this a bit last night. In the past I have run Google Adwords campaigns and I never saw much suspicious click activity. But people have rightly made the point that some clicks in any campaign are bound not to be genuine.

But here is the big problem with fake likes on Facebook. Unlike a fraudulent click on Google these fakes stay with you forever (even two years later when Facebook's Fraud detection has moved on). They weigh on your engagement and edgerank because the accounts never intended to engage with you. And then you end up paying again to boost the post out to them - and they were never real in the first place!

Cutting through the crowds on Facebook news feeds.


  1. How interesting, I have heard conflicting things about facebook ads. Some say it is highly profitable, but others share wierd results like this one...

  2. Advertisement is the core element for Facebook to earn money. But somewhere I agree with the author.


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