Over the past few days, allegations that many of the Page Likes gained by promoting Facebook brand pages through Facebook advertising are fake have surfaced via a video posted on YouTube. Entitled ‘Facebook Fraud’, the video – posted on the channel Veritasium by Derek Muller – has been shared widely among the PPC and broader marketing communities worldwide, accruing over 1.1 million views at the time of writing. The description of the video states the following:
“I know first-hand that Facebook's advertising model is deeply flawed. When I paid to promote my page I gained 80,000 followers in developing countries who didn't care about Veritasium (but I wasn't aware of this at the time). They drove my reach and engagement numbers down, basically rendering the page useless.”
Given the seriousness of these allegations and how the issues described potentially impacts the Social Media services we provide to our clients, we at QUISMA Sweden feel a response is warranted. More to the point, we disagree with the conclusions presented by Mr. Muller, and the following is a breakdown of why we have taken this position:
- Test Methodology – The test described in the video involves using Facebook advertising to promote a Facebook page set up by Mr. Muller, with the intention being to gain Page Likes that will engage with the material posted on the page. As well as the UK and the USA, countries with a reputation as being hubs for so-called ‘Click Farms’ (where a large group of workers are employed to click on paid advertising in order to manipulate campaign results) such as Egypt and Bangladesh are included in the campaign targeting. The results are then presented as such: that the vast majority of Page Likes generated by the promotion come from these ‘disreputable’ countries, and the level of engagement of these users with the content on the page is very low.
If Mr. Muller had chosen not to target these countries where click farming is more prevalent, one would reasonably expect that the vast proportion of Page Likes would not have come from them.
Furthermore, as ads on Facebook are bought on an auction model, prices on different target groups will vary depending on the amount of advertisers who are targeting the particular group as well as how much the advertisers are willing to pay for the ad impression. In developed countries such as the US and the UK, the competition is high and advertisers are willing to pay more for each ad impression compared to a developing country such as Egypt or Bangladesh. For that reason, the cost of an ad impression is considerably higher in a developed country compared to a developing country.
When an advertiser sets up a campaign with the goal to drive as many Likes as possible, Facebook will deliver ads to the users who are most likely to convert at a low cost. As the ad impressions in developing countries are considerably cheaper, the system will automatically distribute the ads to these users. This will lead higher efficiencies for the advertiser, given that the goal is to drive Likes regardless of where they are located.
- Analysis of Facebook Pages Promoted by QUISMA Sweden – We have conducted analysis of several Facebook pages of our clients that we have promoted at various times in the recent past in a manner identical to that of the test described in the video. The intent – to generate Page Likes from relevant users – was the same as in Mr. Muller’s test. In the case of our clients, however, the primary difference is that we tend to only promote Facebook pages in a single market as opposed to multiple markets at the same time.
Our analysis shows vastly different results to those presented in the video, both in terms of which locations Page Likes are sourced from, and how much those that have liked a page tend to engage with it. Of the four pages reviewed, between 91% and 97% of users came from the primary market, while the proportion of users that had engaged with the page within the last 28 days ranged between 8.2% and 34.5% (significantly higher than the 2% engagement that Mr. Muller claims were engaged with his page following his test).
- General Lack of Transparency – The video involves numerous charts and graphs presented by Mr. Muller to support his various assertions, but none of them are actual in situ screenshots of Facebook ‘Insights’ pages or reports in a Facebook format. Simply put, the data presented cannot be verified, and the way in which it is presented raises questions over its authenticity, and indeed of the motivation for the video itself.
For the above reasons we do not agree with the findings presented in the video. We look forward to the release of an official statement in response from Facebook, which we anticipate will be forthcoming in the near future.