How and Why Buying Facebook “Likes” Can Backfire

If you’re reading this, then I’ve got to make a few assumptions here at the outset.

First, I’m going to assume that you have some interest in Facebook and its now quintessential feature, the “like.”

Second, I’m going to assume that you are at least somewhat intrigued by the idea of increasing Facebook likes, and the means in which one might go about doing so.

Third, I’m going to assume that you have wondered about how certain pages seem to have a disproportionate number of likes to other similar pages.

And fourth, I’m going to assume that you want an assurance that the folks who may have obtained likes in an underhanded or illegitimate way will have their comeuppance, and that you will be there to see it all come crashing down.

OK, maybe that last part seemed a bit vindictive, but it’s a sentiment that people have shared with me before. I’ve even felt it myself sometimes.

Something’s not quite right…

Maybe you’ve already experienced this from a user’s perspective.

For example: you want to choose a place downtown for lunch today, so you check Facebook to see what’s available in the downtown area. You find two cafés with similar prices for similar food items. Both are in the downtown area and relatively near to one another. Both have appetizing pictures and plenty of recent, relevant posts. But there’s a clear difference that you quickly notice on these Facebook pages. Café A has 179 likes, while Café B has 2,056 likes.

facebook like

photo credit: smemon via flickr cc

The decision is pretty easy now.

Or is it?

Is your B.S. detector going off a bit? Do you wonder how so many more people could actually “like” Café B’s page, while all other factors between the two pages seem equal? Could it be that this page actually bought these likes in some way?

It’s possible.

How it can be done

Even though it is against Facebook’s Terms of Use, you can technically still try this tactic. However, Facebook does have a spam detection system to try to identify likes obtained this way. In an effort to circumvent this detection system, those Facebook users who are paid to “like” a particular page will also “like” several other random pages in an effort to mask their tactics. This is a low cost approach for the “liker” and even makes some sense because, after all, how much time and effort does it take to “like” a page?

So let’s say that you decide that it’s worth the investment to purchase a couple thousand likes to get every edge that you can on your competition. You pay the fee, navigate to your page, sit back, and watch the likes come rolling in. After a few hours or maybe even a few days, your transaction is complete.

Congratulations! You are now the proud owner of a Facebook page with a bajillion likes, some of which are even relevant!

The problem

I’m going to make another assumption. I’m going to assume that you started your Facebook page with a specific goal in mind to communicate with your audience. But now your true audience is diluted with hundreds or thousands of irrelevant users. Let’s say that truly 10% of your audience cares about your page, and the other 90% just looks good when someone sees your total “likes.”

Do you know how Facebook’s algorithm works? It bases the eventual audience that will be reached by a post by examining how much engagement the post has with the first few users who see it. If 90% of your users don’t actually care about your post, then they will not engage with the post early on, dooming it to be hidden from the rest of your audience so that they can watch more cat videos.

If Facebook is a channel that you have targeted to engage your audience and grow your influence, it’s exceedingly important that the audience actually cares about the content that you produce and distribute on that channel.

A better strategy

Whether you want to buy likes, promote your posts through Facebook, or run contests on your page, you will be best served by cultivating an audience that finds you and your content relevant. Trust that your good content will be liked and shared, and that those who want to engage with you further will do so naturally.

You can take steroids and diet pills, or you can hit the gym regularly and eat a healthy diet. Despite the temptation of the quick fix that buying likes can offer, it’s not worth it in the long run. Produce good content. People will like it. Don’t you?