How real are Facebook ads and likes?
A BBC study agrees with GM: Facebook ads don't work, and thousands of 'Likes' are bogus.
By Vincent Trivett
In May, it came out that General Motors (GM) was abandoning paid advertisements on Facebook (FB), but will continue to use the site to connect with customers. Last year, the auto maker spent $40 million marketing on Facebook, and only $10 million went directly to the social network.
The BBC caught up with a marketing consultant who thinks that there is reason to doubt a great number of Facebook connections, especially the "Likes" that are generated by fake accounts. Though it might seem nice to have thousands of fans on Facebook, you must consider that a company's Facebook presence doesn't seem to have much of a connection to actual sales, and that Facebook makes money every time the "Like" button is pressed, it isn't all good.
A bogus company called Virtual Bagel was set up by the BBC. Within hours of setting up a company that has no products at all and buying $10 worth of advertising targeted at the UK and US market, the brand took off, mostly in Egypt, Indonesia, and the Philippines.
Why did so many people, so far away, get into this non-existent company? Because they were fake. And very obviously so. One fan in Cairo that goes by the name of Ahmed Ronaldo, and works for the Real Madrid soccer club, is a nice case in point. The fellow does bear a striking resemblance to his alleged co-worker, Christiano Ronaldo.
"Spammers and malware authors can mass-produce false Facebook profiles to help them spread dangerous links and spam, and trick people into befriending them," said Michael Tinmouth, a marketing consultant that is skeptical of the value of Facebook "Likes" for his clients.
"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 community."
"I'm sure Facebook is trying to shut these down but it can be difficult to distinguish fake accounts from real ones."
Facebook responded by saying that it doesn't see a significant problem.
"Looking at the test case you flagged – the person has, for some reason, taken a scatter-gun approach to distributing their ads, sending them to multiple countries with little or no demographic targeting," the company said.
Facebook's ads make it famously easy to target the right demographic. If you want to market a product to Dungeons & Dragons fans over 40 that live in Pennsylvania, you got it. Facebook estimates that about 5%-6% of its 901 million profiles are fakes and against the terms of service.
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