Facebook has a ton of fake users and they will sell you fake likes for your posts from them.
The full story:
I do a fair bit of advertising on Facebook, sometimes as much as a couple hundred dollars a month. This is mostly me doing “Boosted Posts”, which are easy to set up and don’t require going through the Ads Manager. Based on past experience, I try to set the targeting to “People who like your page” or “People who like your Page and their friends”. I also make sure that the location is “Living In: United States,” as that’s where most of our customers are. I’ve found previously that if you don’t do those two things, your ad will be shown to people who have no apparent interest in what we’re selling and would have no way of buying from us if they did.
Facebook recently started suggesting that I set up an appointment with one of their advertising specialists to figure out how best to use Facebook ads. They have a signup page where you enter your account info and a phone number, and you can book a time to talk to a real person about Facebook ads.
I did that, and here’s what she suggested:
- Set up a Facebook tracking pixel on my website. You can then create a custom audience for this in the Ads Manager (as opposed to the similarly named Ad Center) to target those people with ads. This was going to be too complicated to complete during the phone call and requires time to collect the data anyway.
- Create a custom audience for people who have visited my business page on Facebook in the past year. This I did during the phone consultation and turns about to be a little over 5000 people.
- Create a custom “lookalike” audience for #2, limiting it to around 1% of the total population and restricting it to USA only. This was supposedly an excellent way to get your message to customers who might not have heard of you. We also set this up during the phone call. This is about 2.1 million people, according to Ads Manager.
Soon after that, I had a sale I wanted to promote, so I thought this would be an excellent time to put the sale message in front of the lookalike audience. So I boosted the post, setting it to end in 2 days and putting $100 behind it.
Pretty soon, the Likes were flooding in. I had over 1000 after the first day. A great success, so I thought.
Usually after a new person likes a post, I try to invite them to like the page as well, so that they get future updates. I also check out their Facebook profile page to see what they’re interested in so that I can make more content related to that topic in the future.
But I started noticing problems with many of these new likes. They tended to have a few things in common in their profile:
- No or almost no public posts.
- The only public posts being an update of the cover photo and profile photo in 2017.
- The profile photos tended not to be headshots: a photo of a cup of coffee, say, or a landscape.
- Between 20-100 friends.
- Friends tended to be in places like India, the Middle East, or Southeast Asia.
- Their gender didn’t match the name or photo about half the time: a “Martha” referred to as “he” by Facebook, for example.
Here’s a very typical example of this kind of profile:
Anyway, I was getting hundreds of these kinds of likes. I can only think this is part of some scheme for selling likes outside of Facebook. So I paused the ad and went back to just promoting to friends of people who already like my page, located in the USA only.
Still, was this money well spent? Sure, I’m getting fake impressions and likes, but maybe the boosted post is getting in front of enough real people to make it worth while. Let’s take a look:
The first line above in the Ads Manager is the Lookalike audience performance. The second line is my typical “Friends of Friends” approach.
Notice that with the Friends of Friends audience, which, though manual inspection, consists of mostly real people, the engagement rate is about 1.7%.
Notice that on the Lookalike audience, I got 1,055 post engagements (likes, clicks) and a reach of 1,524 people. This theoretically means that ⅔ of the people who saw my post decided to engage with it.
I can only conclude ⅔ or more of the Lookalike audience is fake.
Facebook has to know this is going on. They recommended to me this advertising approach. They show my post to random sample of their users, and ⅔ or more of them are not real.
So for now, I’ll skip advertising to the Lookalike audience.