Nowadays, Social Media is everywhere. We use it for communication, for news and for fun. Facebook in particular, has become the biggest social network with around 1 billion users and it is usually the first social network with which people start their social media experience. People use it for photo sharing, news consumption, games, personal expression and much more. It has even become a tool for business. Big and small companies are using it to promote their products and services. Naturally, every company wants to have bigger audience. As a consequence Facebook advertising has skyrocketed. But are Facebook ads of any use?
To answer this, we must start from the genesis of Facebook. Facebook has changed a lot from its original form. In the beginning, it was simply a way to connect with schoolmates, then it became a tool for friendships and photo sharing. But it continued to evolve until it became what is today – a hub for people’s digital lives. Along with this evolution it increased its user base and the amount of posts, shares, likes and comments that are created every day.
Facebook’s algorithms also changed. Initially, when a person posted something on his Facebook page it was visible to all of his friends. Well, nowadays this is not the case. Now Facebook strives to show only the most relevant content. What it considers relevant, is content with high engagement rates. And engagement rates are calculated on the basis of the amount of likes/comments/shares. In other words, the more people like a post, the more it will be shown. According to Facebook this maintains people’s news feeds clean and interesting. This doesn’t sound so bad but consider this. What happens if you have a brand new Facebook business page? You invite your friends and your customers to like it. But those people are already aware of your products/services and you want new followers. So you may think that posting really interesting content would do the job. Ok, but the content that you post may not even reach your current Facebook fans. As we mentioned above, in order for your page’s posts to show on your fans feeds people should engage with it. The more people engage with it, the more it will be shown. Long story short, your Facebook fans may not even see your posts unless they have specified in their news feed, that they want to see all page posts, not only top content or created an interest list. And we are not even speaking about people who are not fans of the page. So you end up in Catch 22. In order for your content to reach current and potential fans it has to increase its likes/shares. But how would that happen if it does not show to enough people?
Enter Facebook Ads
With Facebook ads you have lots of options but in this article we will look at the page likes option and the post engagements option.
Let’s begin with the page likes option. In short, you pay, they show your ad, people like your ad, they like your page and they buy something from you. Well for a short period of time this may have been the case but nowadays it isn’t. You see, Facebook does want you to get as much page likes as possible for your budget. This is why Facebook’s algorithms work in such a way, that they show your ads to people who are most likely to press the like button. This is not a bad thing, until you realize that Facebook is full of people who would like everything, without even being interested in it. We call them “compulsive likers”. A large percentage of those “compulsive likers” are fake profiles from the so called click farms.
Click farms are entities whose goal is to create fake Facebook profiles, use those profiles to “like” stuff on Facebook and get payed for those likes. People on the other hand, pay those click farms to get cheap Facebook likes. Facebook rules are against this but Facebook still has difficulty identifying those fake profiles. Estimates point that between 70 to 130 million accounts may be fake. In addition, fake profiles operators would like everything, even if they are not payed to do so. This is done in order to mask themselves and not get recognized by Facebook. And as we mentioned, Facebook shows ads to profiles who are more likely to like an ad. In that way, Facebook may even end up showing an ad to a fake profile.
This means that those precious page likes that you get from your ads may come from people that do not exist. And numerous experiments have shown that this is indeed the case. You can learn more about these experiments from the video below, from the “Veritasium” YouTube channel.
Our experience from Facebook ads points to the same conclusions. We run a Facebook "Page like" ad campaign for a company focusing on the British market. In the ad set for the campaign we included everything available as a setting: location, age, sex, and interests. In the end, we got around 1000 likes for around 150 Euro. All of the profiles matched the above mentioned criteria. However, after a month we realized that out of those 1000 people only about 2% were really engaged followers and were interested in the products of that Facebook page. This meant that 980 of those likes came from people who are not interested at all in that page. From our own research we discovered that those people are “compulsive likers”. We cannot know for sure whether these are fake profiles from click farms but the engagement rates point to that conclusion.
In another campaign we used a sponsored post. The post was very specific and liking it suggested, that the person liking it, would be interested in the future content of the page. We got around 70 post likes + 1 share for a total of 0,11 Euro per engagement. (Strangely, Facebook counted 74 like+ 1 share as 101 engagements) Out of those, 74 people who liked our post only 3 liked the page. So it turns out that there are lots of people who would like a post but do not want to like the page. Even if that particular post suggests that they would be interested in the content of the page. It doesn’t make any sense and frankly it is a waste of money.
So what should we do to promote a new Facebook page?
- Use Facebook ads to jumpstart but don’t use them on regular basis. You may run a small budget campaign for page likes, just to get an initial number of likes (100, 500), that would show up on the page just as statement that people like your page. But do not expect those page likes to transform into an engaged audience or that they would lead to conversions.
- Boost only really engaging posts and for a short period of time.
- Organize contests, games or giveaways.
- Try to offer fun and/or educational content.
- Invest more in other forms of online advertising that would lead to conversions (Adwords, You Tube video). This may not increase the number of Facebook fans but it may lead to more conversions.
- Use to “lead to webpage” option for Facebook ads.
For pages that already have fans
- Use custom audiences for Facebook Ads. Custom audiences allows you to target users that have subscribed for a newsletter or are using your app. In the past it was possible to even target fans of competitors post but that option is not available anymore.
- Target ads only to friends of people who have liked your page. You can find this feature in the Facebook ad set. This is one way to decrease the number of fake likes but would only work for pages with 1000+ fans.
- Invest in quality content.