Fascinating Takedown of Facebook Likes

What is the worth of a "like" on Facebook?

It depends on whether the user is really engaged with your content or not.

Most Facebook users with something they are trying to market know not to violate the terms of service and pay a "click farm" to increase their likes on Facebook. 

But did you know that paying Facebook to increase "likes" is also in many cases a fool's errand?

As the video above explains, it is all too often true that.... when you pay Facebook to advertise your page, you actually are hurting your chances of reaching the people who genuinely like your content on Facebook.

Come again? 

It's a bit complicated, but by increasing your numbers of Facebook fans  - through click farms or by following the instructions about "promoted likes" on Facebook (that's right, even if you use the paid "Get More Likes" option offered by Facebook, it doesn't matter) - you actually may simply be increasing the number of fans who are not really engaged - and Facebook will only circulate your posts if a good percentage of the folks who initially see your new posts become engaged...

Here's how it works... Facebook doesn't share every post you make with all your fans. Instead, Facebook shares only those posts that it decides will be of interest. How does Facebook do that? Currently, Facebook will expose each new post to only a fraction of your fans (a December 23rd, 2013 report in Forbes says posts with links to media sites "now reach only about 2-5% of our fans"). Then, Facebook will only spread those posts that actually are creating engagement. 

That's the problem with click farm paid "likes" or what Facebook provides when you pay them to "create an ad to encourage more people to like your Page."

Because of the way Facebook's algorithm works, a new post that circulates to 2-5% of your really engaged 100 core fans has a much better chance of spreading than a new post that spreads to 2-5% of 10,000 fans where only 100 are really engaged.

In essence, you need to make sure your content is engaging AND that your fanbase is really engaged.

If your fanbase includes a lot of disinterested users who don't really like your stuff - your new posts will never spread. (That's what happened to Derek Muller in the video above... He saw his engagement percentage plummet as his page built more likes. And, as noted in Masahable on February 11th, 2014: "Since Facebook's algorithm is built to reward posts that have strong engagement, the phony likes were making his posts look bad.")

It's paradoxical, but Facebook's paid ad option to "Get More Likes" operates like a 21st century con game. Facebook accepts payment to put your ad into a stranger's newsfeed. And the result may be an increase in your likes. But Facebook's algorithm operates to only spread new content that gets likes. And the likes that Facebook has provided based on your paid ad may not have any real interest in your content. So you need to pay Facebook again to get more likes for your next post...

In short, the current system of buying Facebook likes often doesn't work because, even though your number of fans may increase, paying for those likes dilutes your fanbase to include users who may not (often don't?) really care about your content. Because of the way Facebook's sharing algorithm works, your content actually is less likely to reach truly engaged fans when it first circulates to an audience that doesn't really care.

In the New World of social media marketing you need to understand how messages spread. And, for now, Facebook is perfectly happy to collect money from users who foolishly think the number of fans on its own is an important metric. 

Now you know. 

Increasing your fans may actually hurt you if your ability to achieve viral spread on Facebook is crippled. And, because of the way Facebook's algorithm currently works, when you add disinterested viewers, that's exactly the risk you're taking.

So you can choose to pay for Facebook "likes"  - and impress your mom with the number of people who've liked your page - but your subsequent messages may actually have a harder time spreading and your engagement metrics will very likely suffer.

As Jeff Selig (CMO at BostonMediaDomain) told Mashable: "Marketing on Facebook is now about curating a following as opposed to just building numbers."

Thanks to Brian Clark for the link.

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