Recently on my New Tricks Facebook Page I noticed a trend of young men from third world countries liking our company’s page.
That didn’t seem right. I know our target market: Mainly small to medium sized businesses in Atlanta and around the US who follow our blog and want to work with a small team that “gets” them and is there for them with a website and online marketing plan to specifically reach their target customers and meet their goals.
When I finally made time to dig further, I found that these Facebook Likes were not real!
The mystery to me was how did this happen on my page? I can assure you I am not one of those people who buy Facebook Page likes. Facebook does not allow it and I know that having fake followers is a big problem for having real engagement on your page.
If you don’t follow us already, please like our Facebook page for real!
What happens is their clicks dilute the value of our authentic followers and hinder our ability to reach potential customers. Here’s how: Facebook uses an algorithm to show your posts to a random batch of your fans. So for every one of those fake fans that gets your posts in their feed, a real fan doesn’t see it.
And the posts that are shown to the Fake Liker page gets zero traction. Fake Likers never click on your links, visit your website or buy your products. They decrease your Facebook engagement score and since Facebook’s data thinks real people aren’t engaging with your site so their algorithm downgrades your site, making it even harder for your real fans to see your posts.
Having a lot of followers for some people on Facebook pages and other social media accounts can be a vanity thing for some people, but it is not just about vanity for businesses. Those like and follow numbers offer a business valuable social proof and credibility. According to the Guardian, “31 percent of people will check ratings and reviews, including likes and Twitter followers, before they choose to buy something.” Fake likes can be a real temptation for people who are not that into Social Media because they promise an easy way out to look better online.
What I discovered on my Facebook page was a bumper crop of likes from click farms. You probably have seen offers from companies promising you a huge number of likes for a ridiculous fee. They are known for hiring people in developing countries for a pittance, who spend their days “liking” hundreds of thousands of Facebook pages.
That’s not the half of it. Apparently, you can hire these scammers to click on your competitors’ Google Ads. The fake clicks drain your competitor’s budget, and when that campaign ends, you can grab the ad for that keyword at a significantly lower price. Amazing what some people will do for an edge.
Click Farms. That was what was going on. I still did not know why. This explained why when I dug deeper on the New Tricks page and clicked on some of their profiles I saw that these people’s feeds were full of spam ads and photos that had been uploaded multiple times and why I had a bevy of foreign men who seemed to like playing candy crush be liking my page.
I was on a roll and started clicking on weird profile images in addition to the men from Bangladesh, Pakistan and the Philippines, which are known hot beds of click farm activity. To my horror, there were fake likes from all sorts of people, men and women, from all over everywhere, including the the UK and the US. Check this profile out from the UK. This is not my target market.
Just How did this happen?
Legal likes come from various sources. You get eyeballs on your page organically when someone visits and likes it. Or you can go through Facebook and attract more traffic by boosting your posts, promoting your Facebook Page or running Facebook Ads.
I have used all three methods from time to time on the New Tricks page, so what was up with the fake likes? The culprit was timing. I had boosted posts and promoted the New Tricks page several years ago, when click farms began to proliferate. Facebook took note that even it was sending out ads to countries with this proliferation of click farms, and decided to do something about fake likes and the mess of low quality engagement.
Facebook began offering ways to set the target audience for boosts and promotions, but this didn’t start until after my New Tricks’ boosts and promotions.
My conclusion from this detective work was supported by another discovery. Unlike my New Tricks page, the list of likes for Urban Oasis looked entirely in line with the types of people who are guests. I had boosted and promoted Urban Oasis after 2014 when the new Facebook changes were in place.
Flushing Out the Fakers
Unfortunately, there’s no easy way to find the fakers and bulk delete them. You first have to look at all your followers. You can get a look at them broadly through Facebook Insights, and individually through Facebook Settings.
For the broad look at your followers, go to your page while logged in and select Insights from the choices above the cover photo. In the left column titled Overview, select People and then select Your Fans. You will see where they are from and other information such as gender and languages spoken.
If you have a lot of fans from countries you know are not in your target market, take a closer look at the individuals who have liked your page. Select Settings, and on the left side of the page under General, choose People and Other Pages. You will see a list of all of the people who like your page.
Now for the bad news. Deleting them is a one at a time kind of thing. If you have thousands you may want to start over with a new page. Deleting fake likers was so daunting that I actually was glad I had fewer than 1,300 followers.
Once you dig in, you probably will have no problem finding the ones that look out of place. No profile pic is one clue. Or their age, sex or appearance may signal a major deviation from the typical person who is interested in your product or service. Here are more examples of fakers:
And another one.
When one arouses your suspicions, click on their name and check their profile. Their feeds will be very wrong. You will find a lot of Candy Crush type posts, multiple uploads of the same image, bland pages with nothing much or even photos of people giving you the finger! If you are in doubt, check their Liked Pages—you will see that they have liked thousands of odd pages, including yours.
The final step is to locate the fake liker on your list of People and Other Pages, click the down arrow on the right and choose Remove from Page Likes. Rinse and repeat! One at a blasted time, I have removed over 300 of these fakers, one at a blasted time.
And I’m not finished yet. This is a pictogram of the countries of origin among my followers.
I ran this chart to check my progress after removing 394 fakers. This pictogram shows that 150 remaining followers are from countries that I would deem suspicious. At the end of this purge, I will probably have about 800 real fans down from 1,295. Whew! No wonder my Facebook engagement has not been great.
The Damage from Fake Social Media Followers
Once you know how to spot a fake, you can see how businesses are built on fakes and hurt by them. For example, I know an amazing artist, designer and photographer who posts to Instagram herself, where more than 9,000 people like her work.
With that many followers she should have much higher engagement in the form of likes and comments.
This artist posts a great image and gets only 43 likes. That would be decent response for someone with 1,000 followers, but barely registers for someone with 9,000 followers. Now check out the comments. None are real. The comments are all from accounts soliciting her to purchase more followers. When an account has bought followers in the past, it will get more solicitations like these.
This makes me wonder if the publicist she hired to get her designs into magazines bought these likes or did she. Does she even know they are not real?
Having fake followers casts doubt on a company’s authenticity. Instead of feeling great about doing business with a popular and seemingly trusted business, you end up feeling weird and mistrustful, which then hurts businesses in the long run, if not before.
So here’s the bottom line. The thing to keep in mind is the true purpose of likes. As Facebook says, your business will reap far more from its Page if you seek to achieve specific business objectives, like driving in-store sales or app downloads.
Authentic page likes offer value because they make your ads more effective and efficient, provide you with insights into who cares about your business and give your business credibility. However, having likes is not an end unto itself. Fake ones actually can hurt you.
What this underscores for me is the importance of having active social media accounts for your business where you engage with your audience online by sharing information and interacting with them. Suiting up, showing up and doing good means you are more likely to notice who among your followers isn’t who they say they are. By regularly connecting to your real audience, you know better who to boost and promote to, just as Facebook intends by these great little marketing tools.
Just be careful because it is easy to just hit a button and get the default settings, and not get the audience that you want. No one needs the fakers on Facebook or in real life!