Six Pixels of Separation - The Blog
July 17, 2012 8:50 PM

Buying Friends, Followers And Likes

I got the call yesterday.

A national radio program was doing a segment on brands who buy Facebook likes and followers. They wanted to know if Twist Image buys likes, friends and followers on Facebook, Twitter or any other online social network. The first time the call came in, I was in a client meeting, so when I listened back to the voice message, I had to stop and think: "does my agency buy likes, friends and followers?" I guess when it comes right down to it, we do. We help brands strategize as to what they should be doing in social media (and where to place their energy), we help them build a presence, work with them on content, voice, tone and manner and, in some instances, we do social media advertising to drive attention to these spaces.

That's not the type of "buying friends" these people are talking about.

The sudden interest in this subject comes out of the BBC and a story they ran on July 12th, 2012 titled, Facebook 'likes' and adverts' value doubted. From the article: "The vast majority of Facebook's revenues come from advertising and its performance will be scrutinised when it releases its financial results on 26 July... Earlier this year Facebook revealed that about 5-6% of its 901 million users might be fake - representing up to 54 million profiles... The BBC created a Facebook page for VirtualBagel - a made-up company with no products. The number of 'likes' it attracted from Egypt and the Philippines was out of proportion to other countries targeted such as the US and UK."

The popularity contest.

It turns out (and there's no surprise here) that brands are willing to buy fans, likes and followers (and, while the BBC focused on Facebook, let's face it, it happens in every channel). We're not talking about creating attention that generates a genuine action on behalf of the consumer, we're talking about doing whatever it takes to bump up the numbers. It wasn't that long ago, that brands were also buying things like inbound links and more to bump up web traffic or visits to a blog. Let's face it, if it's possible to game the system (and it's not all that expensive), there's an actual incentive to do this.

The popularity contest is stupid.

So, you bought friends, followers and likes... now what? You have hundreds of thousands of people who have clicked a link for your brand (and who cares if they're from Egypt, the Philippines or any other foreign land), what did you truly gain? You can tell your boss that the brand is popular? You can have more followers than your competitor? It's a losing proposition and there's no value in it. Why? Because it's not how many people follow you. It's how many people share, amplify and act as your ambassador. It's about how many people really (and truly) care.

See, that's the point of social media that no brand wants to face.

Numbers don't mean squat in social media. Numbers mean everything when the people you're connected to do something about it. So, your brand reached 100,000 followers. How many of them have muted you on their wall? How many of them, like, share and recommend you to others? How many of them are following you because that's the channel they use to complain about you? How many of the active fans do you actually connect to, follow and engage with? Don't kid yourself into thinking that this is obvious. It's not. Just look at the BBC story and start doing some snooping around of your own and you know what you'll discover?

Brands are chasing numbers not value.

Here's the dirty little secret: buy all the fans, friends, followers and likes that you want. Once they click on your link, you're dead to them. These consumers (who are not even real consumers) don't see you, share you or care about you. So, what did those numbers get you? Do you feel good when you put your head down on the pillow at night? Don't. Because, if you're just buying likes and not actually finding true fans, the only thing more fraudulent than buying fake fans is the way you're governing your own career.

Sorry to be harsh. But fake is fake and, in social media, there's nothing lower.

By Mitch Joel


Comments Comments Feed
  • Posted by Ian
    Mitch Joel

    Thank you for writing this. It's important for professionals in our industry to say these things out loud. It helps when leaders in the online marketing space like you, say these things. Thank you.

  • Posted by Ethan Beute
    Mitch Joel

    Great post.

    If someone wants to buy followers or fans and someone's there to sell them, I'm all for it. There's no real value there, of course - which you describe very well in this post.

    Say what you will about Klout - even in its early form it does a decent job cutting through these false follows and likes.

  • Posted by blessing mpofu
    Mitch Joel

    Some strong & noteworthy points. The true measure of your efforts in building the follower base would be (ultimately) the number of people who vouch for your product or brand and actually own your brand enough to be its face out of their own volition.

  • Posted by LJ Jones
    Mitch Joel

    Reminds me of buying links for SEO. A bad practice. It may not happen any time soon, but it seems like buying friends will bring problems, just like buying links. And most links you buy are worthless, just like buying friends.

  • Posted by Jon Loomer
    Mitch Joel

    I agree with you, but the BBC report is actually about people who simply bought Facebook advertising that resulted in likes from fake profiles. So while there are certainly rogue services out there that allow you to "buy likes," that was not the intention of the advertising campaign. They were looking to bring in relevant fans.

    The report has merit. I run extremely targeted advertising, yet I also began seeing some results that were too good to be true. It happens, in particular, when running Facebook's new "optimized" advertising. Facebook shows your ad to people most likely to click it (though they should still remain within the target the advertiser sets). More often than not, that means lots and lots of likes, but many from fake profiles.

    Facebook needs to clean this up. I don't want fake likes. I want real ones. I'll pay more to make sure my ads are shown to actual people. But Facebook first needs to do a better job of preventing the fake profiles from existing in the first place.

    This is a whole different (or somewhat related) topic, but I still don't understand the motivation behind creating fake profiles that then click like on advertising. What's the point? Is it just to harm the value of advertising and ultimately Facebook?

    • Posted by Bill Laidlaw
      Mitch Joel

      A very dark possibility Jon is that an agency being compensated on client spend might be able to create advert click volume via some automated process from these fake accounts. You can be absolutely sure this is happening with less reputable firms using FB, Bing and Google ad programs.

    • Posted by Sharon
      Mitch Joel

      I also paid into Facebook ads and also suspected fake fans after a few months, the page now has 86k FAKE ppl and it's disheartening. And yes, Facebook needs to clean up it's act. And we wonder why they do it...well, how else could they pull the money out of our pockets but set up the perfect racket...first pay for bloated numbers, then pay for promoted posts, best way for them to control the numbers and gives us a false sense that they work.

  • I came across a discussion on LinkedIn that was based around a similar topic and I definitely agree that social media is not about your overall reach and numbers but rather the engagements and relationship that you make from it.

    It really is a simple quality over quantity issue.

  • Quality over quantity. It boils down to that

    1,000 likes might look good, but if 999 of them never check out your page, what really is achieved?

    Likening it to a popularity contest is spot on

    Matthew (Turndog Millionaire)

  • Posted by Jean
    Mitch Joel

    Couldn't agree more. The fact that many agencies promoting a brand by mean of contest through likes and determining the winner by counting the most liked content is another flaw. To make it simple, those fake accounts might come in handy for case like this.

  • Posted by Wilson
    Wilson

    Very Nice Article. I have met many people who sell likes and followers but they all are fake and send through bots and softwares. Likes do not represent the actual size of community

  • Mitch Joel

    Lately I've been getting a lot of new Twitter followers, offering "5,000 unique followers in 24 hours!" Ugh...

    Joel, this was certainly a refreshing article to read this morning. Thanks.

    Christian

  • Posted by Miriam Berger
    Mitch Joel

    Brilliant post. Being a consultant who started out by looking at freelancing sites, it amazed me how many posts there were about getting 1,000's of likes! As someone who "gets" what marketing is and isn't, I didn't truly get the point of paying someone to achieve so many likes, followers etc as I knew that it would be quantity but not quality.
    Thanks for writing this.

  • Mitch Joel

    I think that those people buy these false likes (even from fake followers) because they believe they can trick new consummers in believing they got a nice, product. It's like creating false consummer's comments on a feedback blog.

  • Posted by Alexis Campbell
    Mitch Joel

    Spot on, Mr. Joel. I rarely "like" anything on Facebook and if I do, it's because I value it, or it was recommended by a valued friend and I think I might be interested.

    In my relatively short time on social media (primarily Facebook), I've come to value the authenticity that comes with connecting with people, pages, groups and sometimes products that I truly value.,

    Fake (purchased) "likes" or anything of the sort simply debases the currency and is worth considerably less than what was paid - zero, in fact.

  • Posted by Grant
    Mitch Joel

    Great article! Thanks for putting it out there. This is an epidemic. I can't believe we've arrived at this point in society so quickly. It's a schoolyard, sandbox mentality. Many big brands are inflating their popularity by buying friends, followers, likes, etc, and setting the pace. As a result, it created a trickle down to smaller brands and made an acceptable practice and necessary way to get an edge on the next guy.

    I agree with Anand above that it's quality of engagement over quantity. Unfortunately, quality takes effort and the masses only see quantity. It's easy to buy fake friends but it's much harder to engage.

    When you bend reality (ie: looking more popular or more successful than you really are), it's not sustainable. Then again, what am I talking about? Maybe it is sustainable if you simply redefine what "sustainable" means. Isn't that what happened with ROI?

  • Posted by Romona Foster
    Mitch Joel

    Wow! I almost got talked into doing this, but like you said, I probably would not have been able to sleep. Thanks Mitch for confirming my thoughts!

  • Posted by Davey
    Mitch Joel

    I'm thinking they need to implement a permission system that weeds out the bots. Similar to an opt-in for email marketing. That way legitimate businesses can protect there marketing spend on Facebook and only have targeted prospects or those genuinely interested in a brand become a part of the their community.

  • Posted by Richard Pachter
    Mitch Joel

    Had a boss once who gave me a hard time because our Facebook and Twitter growth was "organic."
    I was shocked.
    Would it have been preferable to buy fans and followers?
    But some managers are so numbers-driven, they value quantity over quality.

  • Posted by Pierre Cassuto
    Mitch Joel

    Thank you for this article, which I empathize with, even as an advertising professional, therefore prone to evil tendencies.

    In your opinion, what would be the correct metric to assess the positive impact of community engagement via Facebook or Twitter, In respect to the costs incurred by being there? (via internal department or agency)

    The qualitative approach feels appropriate on a customer by customer basis but how does a business assess ROI at a brand level?

    It feels that many brands engage on social media out of a fear of missing-out or being ridiculed for not being there (peer-pressure?).

    Really what this questions also boils down to I guess is what should a brand chase after and how should it measure its efforts?

  • Posted by Kent
    Mitch Joel

    This is so true. A lot of so called social media marketers (especially who do FB, Twitter marketing) buy fans and followers. I spotted a lot of FB pages buying fans and they proud of the numbers.

    It actually spoiling the brand rather than helping.

  • Posted by Raina
    Mitch Joel

    Tucked in are lists of family friendly books subjects, recipes, and games to
    extend learning. If you are looking for a
    new opportunity in the nursing field, consider a career as a travel nurse Travel nursing allows you to gain professional experience fast.
    Possible dimension arrangements: 11 to 12
    feet in width, 15 to 16 feet in length (165 to 192 sf).

  • Posted by Donnie
    Mitch Joel

    Because of the advancement of filming technology taking picture has become very easy, but taking
    a good picture is still out of bound for many. The foremost coverage that these plans
    offer is against the death and disablement of an insured
    due to an accident. Food sources are chicken, fish, veal, certain
    cereals and liver.

  • Posted by sharmila
    Mitch Joel

    Great information on this site.I got the very best information from your site.your information is very best and very useful I really liked this great information for us.I really appreciated this awesome information.thanks for sharing all this great information.

  • Posted by Ramon
    Mitch Joel

    Once you have found a few whose work astounds you then meet them.
    Birthday Cakes and Wedding Cakes are the most
    customary gifts that are send on birthdays and weddings.
    info ''The Complete Online Planner for LDS Wedding Receptions'.

  • s Ϲountry Kіtchen, sɦarimg a plate of chicken-fried bacon, and thе dish, contrary
    too ppular opinion, did NOT run away wіth thee spoon, but
    rather tɦe ѕpork. Preheat a griddle and also pan to simply aboνe
    medium wɑrm. Yoսr children сan have many different tүpes of snacks
    that are easil available and readily accessible for yοur entire family.

  • Posted by Carson
    Mitch Joel

    Wrap the bungee cord around the roof and barrel, attaching it
    to itself. Folks with diabetic issues or pregnant
    women, don't need to bother with salmon. The Bradley Smoker is not painted rather its exterior is completely covered with insulated powder steel.

  • Posted by Devin
    Mitch Joel

    Pineaρpleѕ aге an excellent food to eat when workiոg towаrds a weigҺt loss goal.
    Ther are lots of variߋus other causes of hеadaches ոaturally,
    however dehydration is a commoո one. Surgical ρrocedures also pose
    possible safety threats.

  • Posted by quecedor
    Mitch Joel

    Everyone loves what you guys are up too.
    This kind of clever work and reporting! Keep up the amazing works guys I've you
    guys to my personal blogroll.

  • Posted by quecedor
    Mitch Joel

    Everyone loves what you guys are up too.
    This kind of clever work and reporting! Keep up the amazing works guys I've you
    guys to my personal blogroll.

  • Posted by Janessa
    Mitch Joel

    s Countrʏ Kitchen, sҺaгing a plate of chicken-fried
    baϲon, and the dish, contrarуy tο popular opinion, ԁid NOTгun
    away with the spоon, but rаther the spork. If you ssee that the Leidenfrost impact is happeոiոg, make a note
    off your burner settings so that sooner or later you can start right off and heat the griddle ρrecisely.
    Ever since, I սse lemon, lime or orange, whuatever I have handy, alhough I think lemon ѡorks the best.

  • Posted by spew1968.com
    Mitch Joel

    It's tempting bսt know that anоther relaationship iss ոot going to help uոtil yօu ɡet
    ovber tҺis оne. A үoung child, stricken with a
    horrible, faatal disease, wishes fߋr eνeryone tο pass thе email alobg to friends, relatives, ѡork buddies, distant acquaintances,
    etϲ. I kbow fоr me, ρart oof the challenge wɑs controlling tɦe gadgets.

  • Posted by Danielle
    Mitch Joel

    I'll right away snatch your rss feed as I can nott find your e-mail subscription hyperlink or newsletter service.
    Do you have any? Please let me recognise in order that I could subscribe.
    Thanks.

  • Posted by Alyssa
    Mitch Joel

    These jars are classic & will maake ʏour countertops stand
    outt іn aո instant. You may probably feel yoս don’t neeԀ to record whɑt yօu eat аnd drink, ƅut the truth іs thаt
    ѵery few of us are truly conscious oof Һow
    muсh, hoա oftеn aոd eхactly աhat ѡe eat. Ҭhе Goߋd And The Bad Of Running N Scale Locomotives Oո A Model
    Train Layput - Ӏn cooking, ɦowever, scaless ɑre alѕo important.

  • Posted by sexdating
    Mitch Joel

    Via Christelijke sexdatingsies kom je iin contact met
    mensen vaan gelijke gezindte. Worrdt sexdate dat geaccepteerd,
    dan kan u dde betaling protessteren bbij dee uitgever van
    de kaart. De meeste telefoons hebhben tegenwoordig eenn camera en
    als je er al veel mannen voorgegaaan in het volgen van dee cursus
    actief vewrder met het maken van je mobiedle telefoon (instellingen).
    Misschien vind ik dar een beetje op.

  • Posted by sexdating
    Mitch Joel

    Via Christelijke sexdatingsies kom je iin contact met
    mensen vaan gelijke gezindte. Worrdt sexdate dat geaccepteerd,
    dan kan u dde betaling protessteren bbij dee uitgever van
    de kaart. De meeste telefoons hebhben tegenwoordig eenn camera en
    als je er al veel mannen voorgegaaan in het volgen van dee cursus
    actief vewrder met het maken van je mobiedle telefoon (instellingen).
    Misschien vind ik dar een beetje op.

TrackBacks

TrackBack URL: http://www.twistimage.com/movabletype/mt-tb.cgi/2932