[LINK] Facebook 'likes' and adverts' value doubted
stephen at melbpc.org.au
stephen at melbpc.org.au
Mon Jul 16 04:22:09 AEST 2012
Facebook 'likes' and adverts' value doubted
By Rory Cellan-Jones. Technology correspondent, BBC News
A BBC investigation suggests companies are wasting large sums of money on
adverts to gain "likes" from Facebook members who have no real interest
in their products.
It also appears many account holders who click on the links have lied
about their personal details.
A security expert has said some of the profiles appeared to be "fakes"
run by computer programs to spread spam.
Facebook said it had "not seen evidence of a significant problem".
"Likes" are highly valued by many leading brands' marketing departments.
Once a user has clicked on a link the company it belongs to can then post
content on their news feed, send them messages and alert their friends to
Facebook makes money by charging companies a fee to show adverts designed
to attract new "likes".
Some companies have attracted millions of "likes".
But the BBC has been contacted by one marketing consultant who has warned
clients to be wary of their value, and carried out an experiment that
backed up his concerns.
The vast majority of Facebook's revenues come from advertising and its
performance will be scrutinised when it releases its financial results on
26 July - the first such report since its flotation.
Earlier this year Facebook revealed that about 5-6% of its 901 million
users might be fake - representing up to 54 million profiles.
Graham Cluley of the security firm Sophos said this was a major problem.
"Spammers and malware authors can mass-produce false Facebook profiles to
help them spread dangerous links and spam, and trick people into
befriending them," he said.
"We know some of these accounts are run by computer software with one
person puppeteering thousands of profiles from a single desk handing out
commands such as: 'like' as many pages as you can to create a large
"I'm sure Facebook is trying to shut these down but it can be difficult
to distinguish fake accounts from real ones."
A spokesman for the social network said: "We don't see evidence of
a 'wave of likes' coming from fake users or 'obsessive clickers'."
But Mr Cluley said it was in the firm's interest to downplay the problem.
"They're making money every time a business's advert leads to a phoney
Facebook fan," he said.
Michael Tinmouth, a social media marketing consultant, ran Facebook
advertising campaigns for a number of small businesses, including a
luxury goods firm and an executive coach.
At first, his clients were pleased with the results. But they became
concerned after looking at who had clicked on the adverts.
While they had been targeting Facebook users around the world, all
their "likes" appeared to be coming from countries such as the
Philippines and Egypt.
"They were 13 to 17 years old, the profile names were highly suspicious,
and when we dug deeper a number of these profiles were liking 3,000,
4,000, even 5,000 pages," he said.
Mr Tinmouth pointed out a number of profiles which had names and details
that appeared to be made up.
One, going by the name Agung Pratama Sevenfoldism, showed his date of
birth as 1997 and said he had been a manager at Chevron in 2010.
Mr Tinmouth said this seemed "unlikely".
An experiment by the BBC appears to have confirmed this was not a one-off
The BBC created a Facebook page for VirtualBagel - a made-up company with
The number of "likes" it attracted from Egypt and the Philippines was out
of proportion to other countries targeted such as the US and UK.
One Cairo-based fan called himself Ahmed Ronaldo and claimed to work at
Mr Tinmouth asked Facebook to investigate the issue of questionable
profiles after one of his clients refused to pay for his adverts on the
basis they had not reached "real people".
The company told him that the majority were authentic, and refused to
meet him to discuss a refund.
Facebook told the BBC that Mr Tinmouth appeared to have sent out
scattergun advertising to a global audience without specifying a target
"We would never recommend that anyone conduct business in this way," a
The BBC also spoke to a social marketing executive at one of the UK's
biggest companies who said he was increasingly sceptical about the value
of advertising on the social network.
"Any kind of investment in Facebook advertising has brought us very
little return on sales," he said.
The executive, who did not want to be named, added that his company had
found it could increase engagement with customers via the social network
without buying adverts.
"The fans you get from advertising may not be genuine, and if they are
genuine are they people who will engage with your brand?" he asked.
"The answer, more and more, appears to be no."
Facebook played down the issue of fake profiles.
"We've not seen evidence of a significant problem," said a spokesman.
"Neither has it been raised by the many advertisers who are enjoying
positive results from using Facebook.
"All of these companies have access to Facebook's analytics which allow
them to see the identities of people who have liked their pages, yet this
has not been flagged as an issue.
"A very small percentage of users do open accounts using pseudonyms but
this is against our rules and we use automated systems as well as user
reports to help us detect them."
More information about the Link