Facebook is cracking down on something they deem harmful to the integrity of their site, and your fans may be in danger.
You may have experienced a small dip in the total likes on your Facebook page in the last couple of days and yes, it does mean that people are fleeing your page. Why have you suddenly become so unpopular? You haven't really - the fans fleeing from your page aren't actually real fans.
In fact, they're part of a subset Facebook likes to refer to as likes "gained by means that violate our terms." To you and me, that means fake or fraudulent likes.
Late last month, Facebook announced a site-wide purge of fake likes - ones derived from malware, fake accounts, compromised accounts, duplicate accounts, and bulk purchases.
Have you seen a drop in your page's total likes since Facebook began the purge? Do you think that Facebook is doing the right thing by upping their efforts to weed out the fakes? Would you be more likely to advertise on Facebook if you knew that the likes you may receive would be legit? Let us know in the comments.
“A Like that doesn’t come from someone truly interested in connecting with a Page benefits no one. Real identity, for both users and brands on Facebook, is important to not only Facebook’s mission of helping the world share, but also the need for people and customers to authentically connect to the Pages they care about. When a Page and fan connect on Facebook, we want to ensure that connection involves a real person interested in hearing from a specific Page and engaging with that brand’s content.
Facebook was built on the principle of real identity and we want this same authenticity to extend to Pages," said the company in a security note in August.
Here's the daily data for the top 30 Facebook pages, provided by PageData. Notice anything?
Weekly growth is still up for most pages, but daily growth is in the red for most of them. TechCrunch confirmed with Facebook that the fake like purge officially began on Wednesday.
When Facebook announced the fake like initiative, they said that it would only result in less than 1% of total likes disappearing. That looks to be the case with all of Facebook's top 30 pages. For instance, Texas HoldEm Poker only lost about 0.15% of their likes in the day, and that's by far the biggest chunk taken from any top page.
That's an example of one of the most-liked pages on the entire network. What does this like purge mean for your business?
Facebook says that it will help brand pages by giving them a more accurate depiction of their popularity:
"These improvements to our site integrity systems benefit both users and brands alike. Users will continue to connect to the Pages and Profiles they authentically want to subscribe to, and Pages will have a more accurate measurement of fan count and demographics. This improvement will allow Pages to produce ever more relevant and interesting content, and brands will see an increase in the true engagement around their content."
Although most pages have only seen a small dip in their like totals (if any), some have reported more substantial losses, even up to 18% of their total likes. For that business, every advertising dollar they've spent in the past was going out to both real and fake users. If Facebook can't convince page owners that buying ads on the network is going to produce real, genuine likes, then they have a major problem with this form of revenue going forward.
I assume that Facebook knows this and that it serves as at least part of the impetus behind this war on fake likes.
Page owners have a gripe as well. Take for instance this commenter who described their frustrations:
We’re cringing because businesses pay for advertising and so it appears we were advertising to both real and fake accounts and paying for every one of those clicks. I assumed ALL of my fans were real people. This is terrible on so many levels; facebook decides to clean up now and those of us who paid for advertising are down on the number of fans and now we discover that we had already been cheated out the money and the potential clients/customers (fans) we paid (at more than $1-2 ppc) for. I’m not down 10s of thousands like other pages, but I lost hundreds of my fans. To lose my time, and money from my advertising budget for this makes me feel cheated, both by facebook and by the faKebooks.
Although the fake like purge is better now than never, it could leave some advertisers with a bad taste in their mouths.
This update to their security systems will go far to improve integrity, as eradicating fake likes from fraudulent accounts is a nice fall cleaning for the network. It will be nice for page owners to know that the vast majority of their likes come from real people (who can be impressed upon). And the fact that this is an overall "increase in [Facebook's] automated efforts," rather than a manual one-time cleanup, is comforting.
But getting rid of the fake likes is simply treating the symptom. The problem remains that it's incredibly easy to create a fake account on Facebook (or multiple fake accounts) and inflate a page's like total. And it would be really hard for Facebook to create a gated system that would be tough enough to keep fake profiles out but not so tough that it prevents legitimate users from signing up.
Maybe if Facebook can treat the symptom, and focus on purging fake likes, that will be enough. What do you think? Let us know in the comments.