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Facebook Ad Fraud (and what you can do about it)

Have you seen the recent video from Derek Muller on Facebook ‘fraud’? If you’re an advertiser it’s definitely worth a watch, but brace yourself for the revelation (that we’d all suspected for quite some time) that a number of your Facebook Likes may be fake, generated by click farms, seriously damaging your social reach and ultimately your ROI.

Muller buys 1,000 Likes for $70 from a ‘click farm’ site – 1,000 totally un-engaged fake fans, who like thousands of other pages and will never come back to engage with your brand after that initial like. The obvious negative effect of these fans is obvious.

But then the plot thickens when Muller buys a series of ‘legitimate’ Likes – through Facebook’s advertising platform. Despite being targeted and creating custom adverts, an alarming number of likes are still coming from seemingly fake profiles. Muller’s theory is that click farmers are also liking legitimate Facebook adverts to confuse and obscure all the fake ads they’re paid to like!

This is hugely detrimental to brands and marketers trying to reach their genuine target audience who want to be engaged. We already know that Facebook have cranked their algorithms up so high, that each post only reaches a small fraction of the brand audience. Based on those fans’ initial engagement with the post, Facebook determines post quality and what percentage of the brand’s full fan base to show that post too. BUT if a majority of the fans seeing a post are fake, then of-course they wont engage, and therefore the post will suffer from low organic circulation and Facebook won’t show it to a larger proportion of their target market.

So what the hell can we do about it?

1. We need to stop focusing on counting the ‘Likes’ and instead focus on engagement. Is it worth actually culling our Facebook pages, so we have a core-engaged demographic who are genuinely engaging on our content, resulting in a post’s increased reach? Quoted from ‘Kicking the Likes addiction might be tough within organizations that have had them at the top of the scorecard for so long, but their emphasis has come at the expense of performance. Brands owe it to themselves, and smart agencies owe it to their clients to lead them beyond likes.’

2. Build relationships with core advocates. It’s now more important than ever to find, build and foster relationships with your top brand advocates within your communities. Cultivate and build deeper relationships with your ambassadors; Give them a reason to like, comment, share and engage week on week. Keep these guys at your centre.

3. Create highly targeted, contextualized adverts that draw the genuine fans needed for ROI. Facebook adverts can still work, but only if you’re extremely smart with what you’re buying. Real fans have real friends, and they’re your best filter and biggest opportunity.

(Even though Facebook are retiring sponsored stories in April, they are including ‘social context’ or the actions of friends in every single other ad format)

Assuming you’re engaging your core fan base (as mentioned above), and focusing primarily on engagement, then you should be able to cut through the crap to reach the real friends of your real fan base. A hard task, but definitely possible.

It’s easy to get disheartened and you may feel tempted to pull the plug on Facebook who are charging more and more to reach fans you have already paid for! You may have spent weeks and months and years trying to engage your fan-base and Facebook is making it harder and harder for you to genuinely connect with your audience. (Can you feel our anger?!!) BUT don’t give up. Your brand community may be one of the most valuable marketing assets you have.

Remember your fans are connected to you in a way that was never before possible. There’s definitely a whole lot of noise and chaos and fraud and pitfalls; Facebook is undeniably money-grabbing and hugely frustrating, but see beyond that – There’s unparalleled potential. By focusing on authentic human need, focusing on the people who make your brand and by working to avoid these pot-holes,  you will still be able to reach people who genuinely want to know about you and your business.

After all, things worth having, never come easy!