I recently tested paying for Facebook likes on a Facebook business page. It seemed like a low-effort way to build a channel for future marketing messages. Start with some good page content, put in some money, and watch it grow. In retrospect, maybe I shouldn’t have expected so much. Let me show you what I did and you can see for yourself whether there’s an underlying “ugly truth”.
The ad I created ran over the summer, around August. Facebook ads are undergoing new development, so what was true about the procedure this summer may now require modification. But I think the overall procedure must be the same. Start with an appealing image and some good text, like this:
I’ve completely distorted the ad because I don’t want any of my paid likes to see it here and think, “Oh man, he’s talking about me!” I’m not talking about you. Probably, you’ve never seen the Facebook page on which I ran the ad.
The ad used the full glory and power of Facebook targeting. Find me people:
- in certain US cities,
- between the ages of X and Y inclusive,
- who like culture, geneology, or the arts,
- who are not already connected to my Facebook business page,
- who are in one of the broad categories related to culture.
When someone likes your Facebook business page, you sometimes get a notice. Depending on their privacy settings, you can cyber stalk them (just a little, harmlessly) to see whether they might match your criteria.
Of my 38 likes, Facebook told me the names of 14 of them.
Of these 14 names, four of them had privacy settings that blocked some or all of my research. Based on reading the remaining 10 pages, I could see that four of them (40%) were what I would consider my dream customer.
What about the other 60 percent?
- One most likely lived in a city I hadn’t specified.
- One was devoted entirely to pornography (no, that wasn’t my ad).
- One had liked a lot of things with the word “respect” in it.
- One was devoted to hatred of the police (but he lived in the right city).
- One had such varied interests, I could only see that they had liked 2,100 things.
And this is where I became suspicious. Looking again at all of my new potential customers, I saw that the one who “liked” the fewest business pages liked 350 pages, the one who liked the most liked almost 3,600 pages, and the average “like count” was over 1,800. For comparison, in my own social circle, the average “like count” is something below 100.
The Ugly Truth
Imagine that you and each of these business pages are all posting on Facebook at the same rate. That means the “like” you paid for has a 0.05% chance of seeing your content. Once they see it,
- There’s some percent chance they click it,
- Some other percent chance they click towards making a purchase,
- Some other percent chance they actually make a purchase.
At about $1 per like, I could imagine having to spend over $50,000 (to get over 50,000 likes) before I could reliably turn a single post into a paid customer.
I think the ugly truth, therefore, is that Facebook lets you pay for Facebook likes by farming out your ad to users who will like anything. Facebook surely knows who these people are. The use of promiscuous likers, in the advertising context, means that the likes for which you pay are even less valuable than you think.
In the end, I decided to cancel paying for likes. It doesn’t make sense unless you have a marketing department with dollars to burn.