How New Facebook Ads Could Be Letting in Spam

I’ve written before about the apparent efficiency of the new “optimized” Facebook ads. At one point, I was spending less than a nickel per new Like. Almost too good to be true. Unfortunately, I think they may be…

I’m starting to see more and more that many of my new fans outside of the US like thousands of pages. At first, I didn’t think much of this. You can pile up likes in a hurry, and many of us have been on Facebook for several years. Even Robert Scoble wrote recently about how he had liked his 5,000th page.

But then I looked a little more closely. Here’s an example of someone who could be considered a “Serial Liker.” This person’s most recent activity included liking 18 pages during a 15 minute span.

Suspicious Facebook Liking

This isn’t an exception. As I dug through my recent new fans while advertising, this was very common. These people were liking many pages at a time. Dozens per day.

Why Is This Happening?

So the first question is this: Why does this result when I use the new “optimized” ads? Well, I think I know the answer.

Facebook explains an optimized ad set for a specific Objective (“Like My Page” or “Click”) as follows:

Your ad or sponsored story will automatically show to the people who are most likely to take the action you have selected as your objective.

It shouldn’t be a surprise, then, that I pulled in a bunch of Serial Likers who will seemingly like anything.

What is the Motivation?

Okay, I get why this advertising is attracting these people. But what is their motivation for liking so many pages? For Robert Scoble, it seems to be to help Facebook understand who he is and what he likes for the most customized and targeted experience possible. But I have a hard time believing that’s why these people are doing it.

There’s gotta be a reason. There’s gotta be a benefit to randomly and obsessively liking thousands of pages.

Oh, crap. Then it hit me… SPAM.

You know the spam I’m talking about. You follow a popular page that gets countless spam comments. It’s like they’re just sitting around, waiting to pound the page with spam.

And if you put yourself into the mind of a spammer, part of your strategy would be to like as many pages as possible. Especially popular pages. And then sit at your computer all day long, pasting your spam link into the comments of posts.

Suddenly, I see a major weakness to this new “optimized” advertising. By optimizing our ads for people most likely to Like our Pages, are we unintentionally reaching more people (spammers) that we don’t want?

The Stats

The big test is the activity of my new fans. During a three day period, I brought in 849 new fans, much of which was through advertising. One would assume that since my audience grew about 30% that my engagement would also go up.

So I dug into my Insights to look at my Talking About This per day, making sure to remove New Likes from the equation. The results were telling — and concerning:

Facebook Talking About This Minus New Likes

These new fans are not making an impact on my Page’s engagement. Sure, they aren’t spamming my Page (yet), but it would appear they aren’t providing any value whatsoever.

As they say, you get what you pay for…

This is bothersome. While I didn’t spend much money on this advertising, I now feel dirty. It’s an empty addition. It’s akin to buying Likes. If these people aren’t going to engage, there is no value to their addition to my Page.

In fact, this could be “subtraction by addition.” My percentage of quality engagement is now going down, which could also negatively impact my EdgeRank. I know that I am struggling more and more to reach that 16% threshold, which previously was a piece of cake.

Now What?

Optimized advertising suddenly loses its luster. I want to bring in new Likes, but I want quality Likes. I don’t want new fans who have no interest in my content.

Facebook needs to fix this. We need to be allowed to either advertise the old (“not optimized”) way or add layers of targeting so that our ads don’t show to people who have liked X pages during the past day, week or month. I have no interest in these people, and you shouldn’t either.

Your Turn

Have you seen similar results in your recent advertising on Facebook? Share your experiences and thoughts below!

  • Alfred van Kuik

    I started ads not having an idea how it was before ‘the new facebook ads’. We’ve only been at it for just over a week, and did also notice a big increase in likes. But just like you, I noticed a huge amount of serial likers. I think at least 90% of them were Italian too… Now, we have a car-related page, and Italians love cars, so that didn’t worry me much. Most of these people didn’t seem right though. Weird long names, insanely low or high amounts of friends, no information filled in, but thousands of pages liked…

    And no engagement so far except for the people that already liked us before… It does give our page a little bit more credibility maybe, but when these people are indeed spammers, that will soon ruin it.

    It’s odd, that’s for sure!

    • Jon Loomer

      Thanks for sharing, Alfred! While it may look good having more likes, it’s not good over the long haul to have a page with so many unengaged fans. Good luck!

  • Judith Kingsbury

    Hi Jon, for the first week of doing post ads: Shares and likes are very high on promoted posts, but total likes are up just 1.27% overall. I notice also that likes for unpromoted posts are down from the previous average, from about 20% to about 16%. Shares are about the same on unpromoted posts. On the other hand, FB referrals to the site are up 60% and ebook sales are also up by about 50%.

    • Jon Loomer

      Thanks for the info, Judith! Based on this data, it would seem that you are bringing in some new, quality fans. Did you run the new ads with Objectives?

      • Judith Kingsbury

        I didn’t! Wasn’t even aware you could do that. My thought about the apparent lack of spammers is that vegetarian is a highly targeted niche and I don’t get a lot of spammers generally. And vegetarians are likely to have friends who are veg oriented. It’s the dip in visibility for the unpromoted posts that has me wringing my hands.

        • Jon Loomer

          Well, if spammers are behaving the way I think they are, they simply click every ad to like a page that they see. When they do that, Facebook will always target them with optimized ads. So, their interests in vegetarianism wouldn’t matter.

          Interesting info on your unpromoted posts. Keep an eye on that, and I’ll do the same!

  • Micah Houghton

    Apologies but I’m just waking up….So, are you saying this new “optimized advertising” is basically Facebooks way of telling spammers, “Hey come spam THIS guy”?

    • Jon Loomer

      Hi, Micah. No, I don’t think the type of advertising impacts the activities of spammers. I think they are clicking on ads regardless. But it would seem that by Facebook targeting people who regularly click on ads, we are now actively going after those people with our advertising.

  • Dion

    How did you deal with this? Did you remove some of these ‘likes’ to prevent a drop in EdgeRank? What do you suggest as a solution until facebook fixes this?

    • Jon Loomer

      I haven’t done anything yet, Dion. The problem is that it’s a pretty painful process to remove these people. I am going to wait and see what happens for now. If the addition of dead wait cripples my page (I don’t think it will), then I need to look at taking other measures (like spending hours in a day to individually remove suspicious accounts).

      • Dion

        We’ve come across the same issue (albeit, not as grand, only about 100 or so as it just started) and don’t want to spend the time weeding through and removing suspicious accounts. I’m curious as to how detrimental this dead weight actually is?

        Did you change any setting for your ad? (ie: show to people who are more likely to click vs like?)

        Love the articles, keep them coming!

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  • Chris Richards

    I encountered a similar phenomenon after buying ads in countries outside the US. Our Like count shot up, but engagement did not follow. Now, there haven’t been any spam comments…but I was beginning to notice that most of the new likes were from people who had 1,000+ likes already!

    • Jon Loomer

      Hey, Chris. Spam is just a theory, and I haven’t yet seen significant spam on my Page. I just don’t understand the motivation otherwise to randomly and obsessively follow thousands of Facebook Pages.

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  • Stephen

    Interesting Article & I enjoy your podcasts. One thing that I’m yet to hear discussed by anyone (stelzner, etc.) is the possibility that Facebook is possibly setting up dummy people or using genuine ones to do this themselves to build revenue.
    Google ads, etc could easily do exactly the same thing.