This recent video has been causing quite a stir in the digital marketing community and on the surface it seems to suggest that there is minimal return on investment for advertising on Facebook.
The video focuses on “Like” buying in its legitimate form, ie advertising, and its illegitimate form, click farms. Its discussion of the effects of watering down your follower base with wasted engagement opportunities should be enough of a warning to any digital marketer who uses Facebook. Of course buying likes is never a good idea: anybody who thinks that this will generate sustainable sales or revenue doesn’t know what they are doing and while it may be tempting to attempt to create authority by claiming to have a certain number of followers on Facebook, it is not going to benefit you in the long term.
Facebook likes are going the same way that links are going for Google: quality trumps quantity. Much like Penguin saw website owners rushing to cut or disavow toxic links that were damaging page rankings, Facebook page managers need to cut the chaff from their legitimate followers. For smaller companies this might be possible, however for any page that has more than a couple of thousand of likes it will be impossible for them to find and remove fake profiles. Facebook has killed off 83 000 000 fake accounts already, and I expect more to be culled in the coming months.
Of course the Virtual Bagel campaign is indeed a warning, but not of the dangers of boosting, but rather the dangers of not being specific enough. The campaign targeted people in the US, UK, Russia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Egypt and the Philippines who were under 45-year-olds interested in cookery and consumer electronics. This is not exactly a specific geo-targeted demographic. Targeted adverts to countries where click farms are a legitimate source of income is never a good idea. Most companies and marketing agencies are still getting great quality engagement with the right audience with targeted boosting.
While we are on the topic of Virtual Bagel’s campaign: While I understand the point that the presenter was trying to make, few marketers would create such a broad advertising campaign, nor would they attempt to boost an entire page. A far better practise is to create several boosts across a range of posts on a page, each with a specific audience in mind. If somebody likes a post and finds your content valid, they are likely to like the page as well in order to get similar content, creating a valuable potential client and thus generating return on investment.
Why do we still use Facebook?
Despite what many people would have you believe, a well run and maintained Facebook page is still one of the most inexpensive methods to reach your audience and build a brand identity. That is what Facebook is for!
Yes, it is possible to drive sales through a Facebook page, but that shouldn’t be your primary reason for having one. Your page should be there to generate engagement and two way dialogue with your followers. Find out what they want to know about, what their interests are and how you can create content specifically for them that will create engagement.
Buying likes does not generate engagement. As with a blog, a Facebook page is only going to generate engagement if you post content that is relevant to your followers. Ideally it will be liked, commented on and shared because it is useful and interesting.
One also has to be realistic about Facebook advertising. Like any form of advertising, there will always be a percentage of your advertizing that is wasted – thinking that each and every advert will reach a potential client is wishful but far from reality. However, thanks to the relative inexpensiveness of Facebook advertising and the ability to target demographics specifically, the waste will be minimal, while impressions will be greater than many traditional means.
Facebook and its advertising program are changing to ensure that only relevant and useful content is reaching your followers. This is good news for good advertisers and bad news for bad advertisers. Much like the link situation that is happening with the Google Penguin release, the advertising focus has shifted towards creating genuine, unique and valuable content.