Facebook-based video contests were all the rage back in 2012. Companies were running them left and right because it was an easy way to get a ton of likes and shares. Contestants would shoot entries and then they had to beg their friends to vote for them. But before their friend could vote, they first had to like the sponsor’s page.
The fad pretty much came to an end in 2013 for two reasons:
1. Sponsors realized that most of the likes they were getting were worthless. A lot of these contests were won by cheaters who would buy votes from “click farms” in third world countries. So a sponsor would run a contest with a $5,000 grand prize and they would gain maybe 10,000 new likes. But 9,000 of those likes were from fake profiles. So the real likes costs the sponsor about $5 each.
2. Facebook started selling “real” likes. If you run a facebook page for a business, you can pay facebook to promote your page. You set a budget and then facebook runs ads for your company until you reach a pre-determined number of new likes. These likes were supposed to be much more valuable than the fake likes you can buy from click-farmers in India because Facebook swears they don’t buy fake likes.
So sponsors don’t need to spend ten grand on a video contest anymore because they can just buy 10,000 “real” likes from facebook. But Facebook’s customers have realized that something’s rotten in Palo Alto. Many companies are seeing their engagement numbers DROP after they pay Facebook to promote their page. The mystery behind this phenomenon has been solved by Derek Muller of the science video blog, Veritasium. His explanation is simple and brilliant. This video is a must-watch for anyone who does any kind of business on Facebook.
Muller’s theory is that Click-Farmers are slowly taking over facebook. In an effort to hide their fake likes, they are basically just liking EVERYTHING. So if a click-farmer sees your ad, they’re going to like your page. But Facebook now limits the number of people who see your posts because they want you to pay to “boost your exposure.” So if only 200 people see your latest post in their news feeds, and if 180 of those people are really just fake profiles, your engagement numbers are going to go down.
This problem might sound small and technical but it sort of threatens Facebook’s entire business model. Why should anyone pay facebook for more exposure if their ads and content are only being “seen” by zombie profiles created by click-farmers in Pakistan, Egypt and Vietnam?