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!