“Likes” from fake accounts are a waste of advertisers’ money, says report
Companies may be wasting money on Facebook advertising as they pay for “likes” that hold no true value for their business, says a recent BBC report.
Facebook makes significant revenue from its advertising, which charges businesses to show adverts to a pre-selected section of users, and has long been seen as an efficient way to reach a target demographic. “Likes” are often highly valued by marketing departments, since they give a company direct contact with their target market, allowing relationship building and user-instigated viral promotion.
But computer programmes designed to spread spam and members who have entered false personal details may be eroding the value of this kind of marketing. Facebook itself acknowledges that 5-6% of its profiles may be fake – a percentage which could equate to 54 million profiles.
"Spammers and malware authors can mass-produce false Facebook profiles to help them spread dangerous links and spam, and trick people into befriending them," said Graham Cluley of the security firm Sophos.
"We know some of these accounts are run by computer software with one person puppeteering thousands of profiles from a single desk handing out commands such as: 'like' as many pages as you can to create a large community.
"I'm sure Facebook is trying to shut these down but it can be difficult to distinguish fake accounts from real ones. And they're making money every time a business's advert leads to a phoney Facebook fan."
Michael Tinmouth, a social media marketing consultant, ran Facebook advertising campaigns for a number of small businesses but became suspicious of their efficacy when all their "likes" appeared to be coming from countries such as the Philippines and Egypt, despite targeting users worldwide.
"They were 13 to 17 years old, the profile names were highly suspicious, and when we dug deeper a number of these profiles were liking 3,000, 4,000, even 5,000 pages," he said.
An experiment by the BBC appears to have confirmed this was not a one-off issue, but Facebook told Mr Tinmouth that the majority of profiles were authentic, and refused to discuss a refund.
"We've not seen evidence of a significant problem," said a Facebook spokesman.
"A very small percentage of users do open accounts using pseudonyms but this is against our rules and we use automated systems as well as user reports to help us detect them."
To read the full article, and find out more about a BBC experiment marketing “Virtual Bagel”, visit the BBC website