Facebook Fraud Advertising Controversy
It is a buyer beware marketplace!
Are you involved in digital marketing or run your own small business? Are using Facebook advertising? Then you absolutely must watch this video about Facebook Fraud by Derek Muller on his YouTube channel Veritasium.
The gist of the video is that dubious business people in far-flung locations have set up ‘”like farms”, that for a price will drive up the number of likes on your company or fan Facebook page. It is unquestionably a bad practice and penalized by Facebook’s EdgeRank algorithm. However, as Derek demonstrated in his video, Facebook may unintentionally be benefiting from these like farms.
Facebook is quite clear in its policies that buying likes via “like farms” is an unacceptable practice. It is also clear that via its EdgeRank algorithm these low quality, low engagement fake fans will make your content fall in the rankings and be displayed to fewer and fewer of your fans. Basically buying or receiving fake likes will result in a downward spiral of views and engagement. For a quick visual flow of how EdgeRank works, check out the infographics below.
Where does the Facebook Fraud come in? It seems that Facebook has accounted for “like farms” and actively penalizes brands that engage in purchasing these fake likes. Additionally, Facebook employs other security algorithms that looks for these fakes profiles and shuts them down. So wouldn’t it be safe to assume everything is on the up-and-up?In an attempt to circumvent the security algorithms, the “like farmers” will engage with brand pages that have not paid them to do so.
This is where the analysis becomes a bit more complicated. In an attempt to circumvent the security algorithms, the “like farmers” will engage with brand pages that have not paid them to do so. This is done to even out their “like” profiles and make it look like they are normal users. Though according to the video and other analyses it seems as though these profiles have orders of magnitudes more “likes” than the average user. This easily identifiable trait is one of the points of evidence that the Facebook Fraud camp cites in claiming that Facebook is turning a blind eye to the situation.the old gambling adage ‘the house always wins’ comes to mind
Which begs the question, why would Facebook turn a blind eye to these fake likes? In looking at the answer Muller provides, the old gambling adage ‘the house always wins’ comes to mind. In this case the house, Facebook, wins twice. Facebook first wins as these fake “likers” are liking ads that brands are legitimate buying through Facebook. Given these are pay-per-click (PPC) ads, Facebook makes money irregardless of whether the “likers” are real or not. Then in the vicious cycle of low fan engagement driving down placement of a brand’s content, the brand is forced to sponsor its posts so that more of their original fan base are able to see their content.like the casinos operating outside of any legislative and regulatory framework
This video has generated over 1.5 Million views to date and countless articles and blog posts. Both sides seem to be passionate about their position. Pro-Facebook posters argue that Muller’s methodology is flawed, that his sample sizes are too small and that he did not adequately target his ads. But here is the rub. I would argue that the majority of Facebook advertisers are small and medium size businesses who aren’t sufficiently trained on how to target their ads. So flipping around that criticism, is it fair to say that unless you are an expert you will be subject to fraud? What recourses do you have to make sure that you aren’t being subjected to fraud. This is where the situation gets murkier. Facebook’s terms of service do not allow for independent review. This would be like the casinos operating outside of any legislative and regulatory framework…and we know how good they are, even with these in place.
Am I saying don’t advertise with Facebook. Absolutely not. With the user base that Facebook has amassed a brand would be foolish not to be present on Facebook. But it is as situation of buyer beware. Know what you are getting into, and learn how to check your campaign performance. For a more in-depth look at one company’s Facebook advertising disaster, I highly recommend reading about Raaj Kapur Brar’s experience over on Business Insider.