Time to abandon Facebook fan pages? Maybe.

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You’ve been told since the inception of Facebook pages that you need FANS. The measure of success, or so it had seemed, was having a fan page with thousands or hundreds of thousands of likes. After all, it meant people liked your business and wanted to see all those status updates you were posting on behalf of your business fan pages.

In late 2013, Facebook made major changes to it’s fan page posting algorithms that decreased the amount of fans who see posts made from a fan page. Page owners now found that many of their posts were never actually reaching a large portion of their fans. And worse, Facebook was holding the rest of the fans at ransom by suggesting that a page owner pay so that more of their own fans could see their posts.

So what’s the point of getting fans if most of them won’t ever see what you’re posting?

And how do you tell if your fans are even real? Many page owners, particularly those who do selling on their pages, try to get as many fans as possible. Without trying to target any specific person that might want to buy their product, they used online services like Fiverr to get thousands or even hundreds of thousands of fans to market to, and to make their page look particularly popular.

Video bloggers Veritasium have posted a video that has gone somewhat viral in the SEO and marketing communities that has exposed serious fraud in the whole Facebook likes system. With experiments done by themselves and the BBC, they have found that a good number of likes on your page probably are bogus accounts, created by so called “click farms” that are used to pump fake likes on Facebook pages to increase their like count.

The problem? Many of those accounts ALSO target random pages, based on ads that their click farmers see when logging into the fake accounts. In an effort to disguise their paid clicks, they often click random other pages in order to create a more “robust” like profile. By liking only certain pages, Facebook would easy begin to see a footprint and cancel those accounts. But by spreading out likes to various pages, the Facebook accounts appear (at least to Facebook) as legitimate.

In their experiments, Veritasium created fake fan pages and did some manual reviews on the users that had liked their pages, only to find these “users” were liking thousands of pages, even things that most people wouldn’t. As they found out, some users were liking pages dedicated to mouthwash! Sure, many mouthwash companies put out great products…but who’s really going to publicly like something so mundane and part of everyday life? Well, maybe some like a company because they’re giving out coupons for likes…but really, who’s advertising their likes for mouthwash? Apologies to anyone out there with a mouthwash fan page…

So what’s the rub? Likes are still good, right? We already discussed that page updates are only going to a portion of fans that like a page, so already a good portion of real people aren’t seeing your updates. When your page starts getting filled with bots, those bot accounts are now sucking up spots in your reach (amount of people seeing your updates), meaning less and less REAL people will ever see what you post.

Bummer. And the thing is, this is GOOD for Facebook. Or at least it’s wallet. See, people who want to get a promotion out to their fans will have to pay to increase their reach. That’s paying for real people and spam accounts to see your stuff. Facebook has no real financial interest in culling the herd because it makes them tons of money.

Don’t get rid of your Facebook page as of yet. It still has some value in the real people you do have on your page. But be careful in trying to attract likes. Fake accounts will continue to like your page, bringing down the number of real people that get your updates. What will continue to bring real people is good content that have people clicking into your page on a regular basis, not just what pops up in a news feed.

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