The other day someone told me about these 2 videos by the science Vlogger Derek Muller where he asks, “What is the value of a Facebook like?” The answer, which I've known for awhile, is basically… next to nothing.
Muller, who goes by the handle Veritasium on Youtube, posted a video entitled Facebook Fraud on February 10th. As I write this the 9 minute video currently has about 1,460,000 views.
Muller spent money on Facebook advertising to try to boost his Likes on his Veritasium Facebook page. The result? He got tons of fake Likes using Facebook advertising from countries like Indonesia, Egypt, and Bangladesh which are “click farm” countries. This means he got the same result paying for Facebook advertising as he would have gotten if he had gone to a third party provider and bought Facebook likes. He pointed out that he has 80,000 likes on the Veritasium Facebook page from the countries mentioned but those accounts add up to a paltry 1% engagement. Since he currently has over 100,000 likes this means that 80% of his page is useless.
He also created a stupid and useless Facebook page called Virtual Cat which was supposed to only show the most annoying and mindless drivel. Using Facebook Advertising he STILL got likes. Checkout the video below.
Evidence Facebook's revenue is based on fake likes. I know first-hand that Facebook's advertising model is deeply flawed. When I paid to promote my page I gained 80,000 followers in developing countries who didn't care about Veritasium (but I wasn't aware of this at the time). They drove my reach and engagement numbers down, basically rendering the page useless. I am not the only one who has experienced this. Rory Cellan-Jones had the same luck with Virtual Bagel: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-…
The US Department of State spent $630,000 to acquire 2 million page likes and then realized only 2% were engaged. http://wapo.st/1glcyZo
I thought I would demonstrate that the same thing is still happening now by creating Virtual Cat (http://www.facebook.com/MyVirtualCat). I was surprised to discover something worse – false likes are coming from everywhere, including Canada, the US, the UK, and Australia. So even those carefully targeting their campaigns are likely being duped into spending real money on fake followers. Then when they try to reach their followers they have to pay again.
And it's possible to be a victim of fake likes without even advertising. Pages that end up on Facebook's “International Suggested Pages” are also easy targets for click-farms seeking to diversify their likes. http://tnw.co/NsflrC
Later in the video he says, “Wherever you are targeting, advertising your page on Facebook is a waste of money.” Not something social media consultants want to hear but from my experiences I've found this to be true. When I used to work for a website that had 1+ million visitors a day and 150,000 likes on the site's Facebook page, you want to know how many people clicked through to the website each day when a post was sharex? A few thousand, if we were lucky mostly less. The site got more referral traffic from RSS feeds than Facebook click-through's. They did not pay for likes or use bots to my understanding.
Another interesting video Muller posted last month on January 14th is “The Problem with Facebook” on his 2Veritasium channel. He points out that it is hard to figure out what the value is of Facebook interactions compared to a platform like Youtube where it is much more clear what a view means. He argues that the values of Facebook are out-of-whack as well.
The Problem With Facebook
Facebook is a complex ecosystem of individuals, creators, brands and advertisers, but I don't think it serves any of these groups particularly well because its top priority is to make money. Now, I don't think making money is a bad thing, in fact I hope to make some myself. The problem is the only way Facebook has found to make money is by treating all entities on the site as advertisers and charging them to share their content.
This business plan backfires because 1) not all entities ARE advertisers and 2) it was the content from these people, specifically friends, family, and creators that made the site worth visiting in the first place. Now the incentives are misaligned:
– individuals want to see great content, but they are now seeing more paid content and organically shared content which appeals to the lowest common denominator (babies, weddings, and banal memes)
– creators want to reach fans but their posts are being throttled to force them to pay to be seen
– brands and advertisers have to pay once to advertise their page on Facebook, and then pay again to reach the people who have already liked their page. Plus Facebook is not a place where people generally go to buy things.
Almost every single publication that covers tech or social media has written articles or editorials about Vertasium's Facebook videos. (Specifically the Facebook Fraud one.) It has sparked quite a lot of discussion about whether Facebook has lost control and raised into question whether it is a sinking giant.
Maybe since I deleted my Facebook Account of course I don't expect many others to do that. The reality is I didn't feel like I got value out of using the service personally or for my businesses. The other problem with Facebook is the demographics are changing. You might remember that I asked the question on this blog “Is Facebook for Old People” since that seems to be the main demographic on there nowadays, much to the dismay of Facebook executives.
What's always been surprising to me is that the even those who are supposedly engaged with social media will just share things without even really taking the time to look at them. For instance Dave Kerpen shared my review of his book Likeable Social Media, even though it was a less than stellar review. This has led me to the conclusion that a Forums are better than Social Media.
I hope you watch Derek's videos and let me know what you think of them. Is Facebook Fraud a real issue and does Facebook have real problems they have not addressed? Will you continue to use the platform for your personal use, your business, or your brand? Let me know as I'd love to hear feedback.
[Image Source – From Videos]