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Friday, 13 July 2012 11:03

Facebook advertising could be a waste of money

Written by Peter Scott

Fake likes, fake accounts, real money, welcome to Fakebook

Facebook has seen its fair share of trouble in recent months and following the social network’s disappointing IPO, many analysts have started voicing concerns about the real value of Facebook ad services.

An investigation carried out by the BBC seems prove their point. The Beeb concluded that companies are wasting vast sums of money on adverts aimed at getting likes from Facebook members who don’t care about their products and services. In addition, many account holders who clicked ad links lied about their personal details. Worse, a security expert claims some of the profiles are fakes set up to spread spam.

Some companies have already attracted millions of “likes” and they were more than willing to use Facebook to grow their brand. However, the true value of Facebook “likes” is now being questioned.

It is estimated that 5 to 6 percent of Facebook accounts are fakes, which means more than 50 million fake accounts could be active on the social network and in addition to fake “likes” they can be used to spread dangerous links and spam.

Security expert Graham Cluley told the BBC that Facebook is trying to shut down the fake accounts, but it can be difficult to identify them. In addition, he reckons it’s in Facebook’s interest to downplay the problem.

"They're making money every time a business's advert leads to a phoney Facebook fan," he said.

Marketing consultant Michael Tinmouth ran Facebook campaigns for several small businesses and claims it did not take his clients long to start voicing their concerns. The companies started getting large numbers of “likes” from accounts set up in the Philippines and Egypt, many belonging to teens aged 13 to 17.

The BBC decided to put his claims to the test and created a made-up company profile, dubbed VirtualBagel. Unsurprisingly the fake company attracted an unusually high number of likes from Egypt and the Phillipines, and we are not sure bagels are big in either country.

After Tinmouth pinpointed the issue he asked Facebook to refund one of his clients. The company refused to do so, claiming that the majority of likes were authentic.

Another social marketing executive who preferred to stay unnamed backed Tinmouth’s conclusions.

"Any kind of investment in Facebook advertising has brought us very little return on sales," he said.

More here.

Peter Scott

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