have you heard of virtual bagel? their facebookpage has over 4,000 likes. they use the page to promote their brilliantbusiness model 'we send you bagels via the internet -- just download and enjoy.' it sounds like a joke, and it is, sort of.this page was set up by bbc technology correspondent rory cellan-jones in 2012. he wanted to find out what is the worth ofa like on a facebook page, so he bought some likes for virtual bagel. now there are twoways to buy 'likes', the legitimate way and the illegitimate way. the illegitimate way is to go to a websitelike boostlikes.com purchase some likes. you
can get 1000 for $70. sites like these use clickfarms in developingcountries like india, the philippines, nepal, sri lanka, egypt, indonesia and bangladesh. here employees are routinely paid just 1 dollarper thousand clicks of the like button. so facebook explicitly forbids buying likesthis way. instead they offer the 'legitimate' way topay for likes by advertising your page. prominently displayed is a link to "get more likes" withthe promise: "connect with more of the people who matter to you." and this is how virtual bagel got its 4000likes. rory cellan-jones paid 100 dollars
to facebook and the likes rolled in. he targetedhis ad to the uk and the united states, but also to countries like egypt, indonesia andthe philippines. now where do you think virtual bagel was most popular? i'll give you a hint,it wasn't the us or the uk. but within a day he had over 1600 likes mostly from developingcountries. now what was more problematic was the peoplewho followed virtual bagel looked suspicious. for example there was one cairo-based followerwhose name was ahmed ronaldo. his profile consisted almost exclusively ofpictures of cristiano ronaldo and he liked 3,000 pages. cellan-jones also observed that his new throngof fans was particularly disengaged, just
as you'd imagine those from a click-farm wouldbe. but he hadn't hired a click-farm, he had paid for facebook ads. this story was reported in july 2012. in august,facebook reported it had identified and deleted 83 million fake accounts (that was 9% of thetotal at the time). this resulted in noticeable drops for popular singers and celebrities. so did they delete all of the fake likes?nope, not even close. i know because most of the likes on my facebook page are not genuine. in may 2012, i received a number of emailsfrom facebook offering me $50 worth of free promotion of my page, which at the time hadonly 2,000 likes.
my youtube channel had twenty times that followingso i thought surely this free 'paid' promotion could help me reach more of the people whomattered to me. and immediately i could see results. within just a few days my likes hadtripled, and they kept on growing, thousands per day. and after a few months i had about 70,000facebook likes, which matched my youtube subscribers at the time. now what was weird was my postson facebook didn't seem to be getting any more engagement than when i had 2,000. ifanything, they were getting less engagement. i didn't understand why at the time, but ihave since realized it's because most of those likes i was gaining through facebook ads werenot from people who were genuinely interested
in veritasium. how do i know? well becausefake likes behave very differently from real followers. have a look at this graph of the engagementof my facebook followers. here i'm plotting countries as bubbles, so this is canada andthe size represents the number of likes i've received from that country. so this is theunited states, it's a nice big bubble. now i'm ranking these countries on the horizontalaxis based on what percentage of those likes have engaged with my page this month. so asyou can see roughly 30% canadians and americans have engaged with my page, but they're notas active as the germans where over 40% of my likes have engaged, and they are not asactive as the austrians a small but passionate
group of veritasium fans at nearly 60% these are all of the other western countries.so you can see that it's common for between 25% and 35% of my page likes to engage withmy page every month. now here is egypt, where less than 1% of mylikes have engaged with my page. now this is india, the philippines, pakistan, bangladesh,indonesia, nepal, and sri lanka. that's a big followings, but no engagement.together all of these countries make up 80,000 likes, that's roughly 75% of the total likesi had before the last video. and these are the profiles that followed me when i usedfacebook advertising. and they are worse than useless. here's why:
when you make a post, facebook distributesit to a small fraction of the people who like your page just to gauge their reaction.if they engage with it by liking, commenting, and sharing then facebook distributes thepost to more of your likes and even their friends.now if you somehow accumulate fake likes, facebook's initial distribution goes out tofewer real fans, and therefore it receives less engagement, and so consequently you reacha smaller number of people. that's how a rising number of fans can result in a drop in engagement. and from this facebook makes money twice over-- once to help you acquire new fans, and then again when you try to reach them. i meanyour organic reach may be so restricted by
the lack of engagement, that your only optionis to pay to promote the post. what's worse, there is no way to delete fakelikes in bulk -- all you can do is target posts around them. and i should re-iterate i never bought fakelikes. i used facebook's legitimate advertising, but the results are as if i had paid for fakelikes from a clickfarm. now you might think the solution to all thisis just to exclude countries with click-farms from your ad campaigns. but unfortunatelythe problem goes much deeper. meet virtual cat, a virtual pet like noneother. its page is committed to supplying only theworst, most annoying drivel you can imagine.
only an idiot would like this page. and that'snot just my opinion, that's actually what it says in the page description. and i should know because i wrote it. i createdthis page yesterday and i then paid $10 to advertise the page through facebook targetedonly to cat-lovers in the united states, canada, australia and the uk. now i expected thatbecause i had excluded all of the big click-farm countries and because the page is so terriblethat i basically wouldn't get any likes. but within 20 minutes i had blown through my wholebudget and i got 39 likes. so who are these people liking a blank page and costing me25 cents a piece? all of the profiles were all from the placesi had targeted, mostly the us, but there was
something strange about them. all of thesepeople liked a lot of things, like hundreds and thousands things. and a lot of the things they liked were oddtoo. like in one account this person liked t-mobile, at&t and verizon. they liked jeepand lexus and mercedes and volvo and volkswagon. they like everything. other accounts i saw,they liked kitchen scrubbers and they liked mouthwash. who reports that on their facebookpage? it just baffles me. so the real mystery to me is why someone,somewhere would click on ads they didn't care about without making money from them. i meani don't think these likes came from bots - they are too easy to identify and eliminate. andi also don't think for a second facebook would
pay click-farms to click on those ads to generaterevenue for them, so it really seems like a mystery. and then, in this article i found what i thinkis the most reasonable hypothesis. click-farms click the ads for free. in orderto avoid detection by facebook's fraud algorithms, they like pages other than the ones they'vebeen paid for to seem more genuine. i mean you can imagine 1000 likes on a particularpage coming from one geographic area in a short period of time would seem suspicious.but buried in a torrent of other 'like' activity? they would be impossible to identify. so workers at these click-farms will literallyclick anything. i mean where do you think
facebook's security page is most popular?dhaka, bangladesh. what about google? dhaka. what about soccer star david beckham? it'sactually cairo, but you take my point. so wherever you're targeting, advertisingyour page on facebook is a waste of money. i wish facebook would remove the fake likesfrom my page and all the others. but that would mean admitting that they have generatedsignificant ad revenue from clicks that weren't genuine, which then suppressed the reach ofpages who had low engagement, forcing those pages to pay again to reach inauthentic fans.so the truth is facebook benefits by maintaining this status quo because the reality is nobodylikes this many things.