After posting the Veritasium video on fraud in Facebook advertising, I’ve had a while to think about it and I hope I can answer some obvious questions.
Who is scamming people here? Is it Facebook?
I believe not, or at least, not intentionally. It’s a happy coincidence for them. Ditto for the clickfarms, though their activity of paid likes is against the Facebook TOS.
Facebook is working for me. Are you sure this video is right?
So there are two types of advertising you can do here – the paid ads in the sidebar, and paying to promote your posts. The problem is when you do one and then the other.
I’ve no doubt that businesses who have spent years building up their customer base and who have mostly real people liking their page – i.e. the businesses who have not spent anything on sidebar ads – are doing quite well with the promoted posts. The point is that the number of actual people engaged with the business, versus people who are clicking on anything because they’re paid to and they have to disguise their activity, is important, and the Facebook sidebar ads (which Facebook pushes as a method to get traffic and likes for a business’s Facebook page) is apparently producing more of the latter than the former.
There’s plenty of experienced marketers who are capable of making Facebook advertising work well, but many others are just throwing money down a hole because of these circumstances.
How worried should I be?
If you’re spending money on Facebook advertising, then… be a little worried.
Look, as I’ve said before, the only thing that really counts is whether your marketing is getting you sales, or at the very least attention you can turn into sales later. (There’s something to be said for brand awareness, but I’m speaking to small scale self-published authors most of the time, where it’s not relevant.) Likes on your Facebook page should be attention you can turn into sales later, when you promote a post to your followers with a special offer on your books on your website. If that kind of promotion produces almost no clicks to your site and no sales, then something is wrong.
How do I know if it’s worth it?
This is a tough one, but I will say this much – check your organic reach. Look at how many people are seeing and engaging with your posts. Look to see who likes you, and use your best judgment as to whether those people are real or not. If you’ve already got hundreds of likes but your organic reach is awful, and the users look fake, then it’s likely your FB page is already a lost cause, because promoting anything is going to be a waste of money.
The worst part about this is that you can’t clean up this mess once it’s happened. The fake likes can’t be removed. Again, I’m sure experienced marketers have methods of fixing it, but I don’t know of any FB functionality that lets you do it. For authors, all I can say for now is to watch your pages, avoid sidebar advertising, and concentrate on getting your real readers to like and share.