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Does Facebook Face A Google-Like Issue With “Like Farms” and “Like Buying”?

Would You Buy "Likes" For Significant Exposure?

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Facebook may be going through some of the growing pains that Google went through earlier in its life. Google has always had to deal with link farms and link buying, polluting its search results, and has gotten better and better at keeping this under control over the years.

Now that Facebook "liking" is taking the place of linking in many cases, Facebook may have a similar issue on its hands. Like farms and like buying aren’t entirely new concepts, but since Facebook’s developer conference, where it unleashed the open graph and social plugins like "like" buttons all over the web, they have become more of an issue, and will probably continue to do so unless Facebook does something about it.

Would you buy "likes" if you could significantly increase your exposure? Comment here.

Why would you buy likes?

When a user "likes" a piece of content, it shows up in their friends’ news feeds. The more friends they have, the more people that "like" will be exposed to. The more friends a person has, however, and the quality of those friends, may place more value on those "likes" from the perspective of those doing the buying. The problem with this, is that those same factors that increase that value may also affect how Facebook provides its search results, and Facebook is going to want to improve that search experience, particularly as competition with Google (in general) heats up.

Farming Likes

A couple months ago, AllFacebook had a pair of articles taking a deep look into the gaming of Facebook search results and the rise of the like farm. The topic has been brought up again this week by Nick Saint at Silicon Alley Insider.

"Basically, these sites are enabling the equivalent of Twitter hash tag jokes on Facebook; people see funny sentences pop up in their streams, and indicate their approval by liking them," writes Saint. "This is the Facebook equivalent of retweeting, since all of your friends are notified that you liked the blurb. Many of these entries have been liked by tens of thousands of users, all of whose friends see the updates, which links to the sites, so this is no doubt generating non-negligible ad revenue despite requiring zero effort on the part of the sites’ creators. The biggest we’ve seen, Likey.net, is already seeing over a million uniques per month."

"Once an update has enough likes, it can spread entirely on Facebook," adds Saint. "But to get the process started, someone has to have gone to the site and submitted it in the first place. It’s hard to say why — unlike on Twitter, the original poster of these updates isn’t referenced or credited in any way. And the sites look and feel extremely spammy. At least one of them has already been flagged as an attack site by Google, though it’s not clear whether the site is itself malicious, or merely the target of third-party attacks."

Like farms stand to have implications on Facebook’s search functionality, and Facebook’s share of the search market stands to grow along with the proliferation of Facebook itself – not necessarily to Google-like proportions, but for certain kinds of searches – and with Pages becoming more heavily marketed (not to mention the potential of Places), people will search for businesses on Facebook. 

"While users are mostly searching Facebook for their friends currently, users will begin to search for more generic topics as Facebook slowly changes user behavior," wrote AllFacebook’s Nick O’Neill back in June. "Right now, showing up for the phrase ‘discount travel’ won’t necessarily benefit you, however as Facebook improves their search product and users begin to understand that they can search for things other than their friends, ranking high on various keywords will become increasingly important."

"In the meantime, the numerous ‘like farms’ that are spamming Facebook with random quotes and phrases (like Likey.net, LikeItPage, and others) will continue to proliferate until Facebook develops a system that determine which add value and which are just spam generators," added O’Neill.

Like It Page - Like Farm

Back to Like Buying

As far as "like buying" is concerned, it’s a similar situation. This has the potential to hurt the Facebook user experience, and if Facebook were to penalize Pages similar to how Google does, it could make a big impact.

Inc. just ran a story about how Google cost Ryan Abood’s GourmetHandBaskets.com $4 million by penalizing the site for link buying right before the holidays. As Facebook becomes one of the main marketing vehicles of the web, much like Google has been for years (despite the differences in how the two sites operate), it is a situation that his going to have to be looked at and assessed.

Right now, it’s unclear what Facebook’s policies are on things like "like farms" and "like buying". We’ve reached out to the company for comment, and will update when we receive it. The point is that Facebook isn’t just a way for college kids to look at pictures of each other anymore. People are counting on it for business, and how delicate situations like these are handled will be crucial to operations. Unfortunately, Facebook doesn’t have the greatest track record for handling delicate situations. 

Facebook likes and Twitter retweets have replaced links in many instances. That’s not to say that links are dead by any means, but a lot of people will simply retweet a piece of content or "like" it, rather than blog about it and link to it. This "cannibalizes" the link graph from the search perspective, as Rand Fishkin and our own Mike McDonald discussed a while back, and that makes Facebook and Twitter even more important to pay attention to from the marketing perspective – when some of that juice is going away from search engines and into social networks.

Do you agree that these issues are something Facebook is going to have to take into account? Share your thoughts.

Does Facebook Face A Google-Like Issue With “Like Farms” and “Like Buying”?
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  • Rob

    I bought some ‘likes’ (or fans as they still get called) last month. At $0.07 it has worked out very well since i made back the money 2 weeks after purchasing them. I don’t think its much of an issue because people will only become a fan of your page if they want to and if your purchasing guaranteed likes you can’t go wrong.

    • Guest

      I don’t quite get it…how do you make money off buying likes?

      • http://twitter.com/MemphisMarly Marly

        As is characteristic of social media, there’s no way to measure if you make money from buying likes. Of course, you could estimate by measuring traffic that originated from Facebook, etc. When you more users are clicking through from Facebook, did your sales increase? Did you gain subscribers? (If not, your site may be irrelevant to your likers.)

        I wouldn’t worry too much about Rob’s comment. That site is clearly spamming. Not a very respectable form of marketing — do you really want your campaign in those hands?

        Buying likes is shady business. Why not create targeted Facebook ads or generate traffic by providing useful, shareable content?

        Or use your real social circle to generate buzz on your virtual network. Ask friends who might be interested in your product. Tell them why you thought that they might be interested and ask them to invite a few of their friends who might be interested. For example, if you sell dance shoes, send them to your friends who also dance. Send them to that friend looking for a dazzling Halloween costume! Get creative, but explain why. Be useful, and you will be shareable.

        Tip: Always trust unknown business domains that end with a “z.” ;)

  • http://michaelduanemooring.com/ Mikeumus

    I think buying likes fans ect… is misleading to the Facebook user, but may be effective marketing. It will be interesting to see how this new product will mature over time.

    Peace and Love,
    Mikeumus

  • http://christianityetc.org Bob

    This issue is clearly connected to the challenge that the users and creators of social formats encounter in their efforts to distinguish between what is “popular” and what is really helpful. Buying what is “popular” may never enable one to have what is really helpful, because some “medicine” just doesn’t “taste good” and some exercise programs are just too strenuous.

  • http://chickmelion.blogspot.com Guest

    In teresting enough when I tried to post this (Using the share option) I was blocked from doing so:

    You are trying to post content on Facebook that has been marked as abusive. You may request to have this block lifted from Facebook by contacting us below

    ….. YUP!…OK!!!

    • Chris Crum

      Hmm. I’m not having any problems with it.

      • Chris Crum

        Others are having trouble sharing it now, and trying a second time it is also blocking me now too. Don’t know if this is just a glitch or what. Strange that it would let me share it after it blocked you, then block me. …feel free to “like” it. That appears to still work.

  • http://www.NorthernVaLandscaping.com Linkman

    Almost every day, I see a NEW issue surrounding Facebook and a complete dismantling of privacy.

    Yesterday. it was geo-located photos, showing the world you are in ITALY for two weeks!

    People losing job offers because of what is posted on it. On and on. People getting their houses robbed because your “friends” told the world you were on VACATION. Swift move, bowels.

    In spite of the privacy outcries, Facebook is desperate to find a way to trade on YOUR profile, folks. They will whore you out in a second, and their owner has basically said as much publicly. Facebook data is his to play with was his attitude. He’s had to backpedal from that ever since.

    The Facebook geek is becoming a reality. That is, the person who spends endless time sorting out new features, games, you name it, etc. So what. A large group becomes a small group. IMO, Facebook is already a complicated knot of confusion. I can’t stand it.

    Anyone remember Digg? It deteriorated into a Digg nerd-fest. Same thing will happen in FB.

    Google understands user simplicity. Like it or not, the big G will roll over Facebook in no time, for that very reason.

  • http://www.techndu.com JohnRobbins

    I am the manager of Marketing and Lead Generation processes for the company I work for.

    If I could buy likes that were relevant to the crowd that I want to reach with a particular product or service or information and the price was good. I would buy them.

    But!!!….Knowing the SM realm as well as I do, I’m sure no one person or group of persons can provide the same likes I can produce for myself. Especially at a price that makes good economic sense.

    OH…..There will be those out there that will offer the world to you and promise success with their “HIGH QUALITY” Likers list for only 29.95 for 1000 likers. Well!!!we all know that’s a bunch of *&#@!.

    But it’s coming. And all of us also know that building a “real” SM community of likers and followers is a 40 hour a week job for one person. So how can you buy that for 29.95? You Can’t! But there are those that are coming that will say you can.

    Do you to sell quality SMO to your customers? Then your going to have to do the work and earn it for them and charge accordingly. And their going to have to pay what it’s worth.

    JohnRobbins

  • supergurl

    I don’t care for the ‘ like ‘ option of Facebook. I find that often the user is required to ‘ like’ a page before even having access to it. I find this to be a privacy issue – after clicking on ‘ like’ suddenly this is entered on the Feed. What happens when the user decides they don’t like the page after all? At that point, I unlike it. If Facebook producers had a soul, they would allow users to size up the page first.

    I stay on Facebook, because it is an avenue to connect with family in the far reaches of the world. I wish that Facebook were run by different management.

  • http://www.mabuzi.com Kevin

    It seem the more I delve into this field the more I realise how dishonest people can be.
    “LIKE Farms”, what next.
    I have been to business on their Google Reviews only to find the business service shocking. I then went back and looked at the Reviews and realise they are posted by themselves, their mates, “Google Review Farms” and “Link Farms”
    This industry is not regulated and it is the Wild West.

    We will eventually kill reviews off too!

    • http://www.gen-assist.com Dr. Dorothy

      Hi Kevin: I agree with your analysis – it is the Wild West and as in the Wild West people will get hurt. Forewarned is forearmed.

  • http://jimmydoremi.blogspot.com Jimmy Ng

    It’s a matter of time spammers will find a way to get round it and exploit it big time.

  • carouser

    According to Google, if they so much as smell you gaming the system you can pretty much assure yourself that unless you have a cushion of savings you will be filing for bankruptcy real soon

  • http://www.newstartautoloans.com Chris New Start Auto Loans

    If “likes” could increase visits to a web site then people will buy them. Actually, if people will buy damn near anything that promises them more traffic.

  • http://drop-dead-gorgeous.me Nur Sharina

    During the past years people have been buying almost anything. Links for Google PR, Followers for Twitter and now Likes for Facebook. Some may have been successful with it, but for most it is just a bit of a boost for the ego. I will not make a significant change to ones business.

    And I agree, FB got too many issues with privacy, it is discussed all over the world not only among the English speaking internet users. Some countries like those from the European Community even consider new laws to stop FB business practices. In that case buy Likes – if at all – after the new laws are implemented.

  • http://www.itsaworkofheart.com Gigi

    I have heard about the huge Facebook growth and the millions of people on facebook and the huge blocks of time people spend on the FB site. I have also heard that the main reason people are on facebook is to socailize and find friends. What I have heard very little about is the amount of these people who are on FB to play games such as Farmville, Zoo World, etc. The majority of these folks friends are game friends. This means they do not really know each other they become friends to get to the next level in thier game. I am not sure FB would be even one fourth as popular as it is if it were not for these games. In fact, I would bet the majority of these people who spend such large blocks of time on fb would not even sign in once a week if at all were it not for these highly addictive games.

  • http://cheaphotelsandrooms.co.uk Hotels UK

    Well, yes – I would buy “Likes” for my Facebook page if it would give me a significant increase in traffic. In my case traffic is money which means I’m dedicated to increase it – Facebook pages can dramatically increase website traffic, so in my interest it is to keep them exposed to as many people as possible.

  • http://www.harikayorumlar.com harika

    h?mm interesting

  • Sandy

    What do they do w/ the pieces that I report and say that I find “Misleading” or “Offensive”?

  • http://www.careerfield.org Joseph

    Probably if you just get them naturally it will take away any worry about Google. It’s just much harder that way.

  • http://takeshifinance.com/ LyLa

    I still use Facebook to be a virtue market….

  • http://fatproducts.com ICU

    I agree, FB got too abounding issues with privacy, it is discussed all over the apple not alone amid the English speaking internet users. Some countries like those from the European Community alike accede fresh laws to stop FB business practices.

  • http://www.holidayto.net/ www.holidayto.net/

    Its an interesting situation, when one company gets huge traffic , then re-arranges all the ground rules which sometimes crucifies the users for coming on board.

  • http://www.pickmydecor.com Pick My Decor

    Since offering ‘quality’ home decor products is our key objective – if customers don’t like something, then we will rethink offering that product. Since the like buttons have become popular means of communicating between people, it’s important to be honest with them.

  • http://qualityinfoproducts.com GG

    Geez, this is the first time i had heard about this. And I presume that it works well.

  • Andrew

    I came across this when searching for “buying likes on facebook“. Now there is this one company I really dislike. They treat their users who helped them to get where they are like dirt. They are already penalised by the search engines. Their ratings have been going down lately and just today when I decided to look at what they are up to I saw they are now literally buying likes from Facebook users!

    Things keep deteriorating and they are going from one unethical means of keeping users to the next, except for actually adopting some ethics. This is now seriously affecting the credibility of these Facebook likes when these people can use it in such a way and it’s really hurting people in the process. They have to start doing something about it.

  • http://www.websolutions.pro/ Boby

    Build social reputation, via more Facebook likes

    I have real likes on my Facebook page if you want authentic likes then WEBSOLUTIONS.PRO is one of them which provide world wide likes. I am satisfy after bought real likes from there.

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