We all want Facebook likes. What we’d love even more is to organically grow our Facebook page through great quality content that everyone shares and comments on. We’d have millions of loyal fans awaiting every single post we created, many of whom would go and buy things from our site and in store.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t quite work like that.
In fact, Facebook is continually squeezing the organic reach out of business pages and forcing brands to pay for exposure. It should also come as no surprise that smaller brands find it much harder to grow a Facebook fanbase than established brands. Anyone who had tried to build a Facebook following from scratch will know how hard it is. Even if you’re posting great content around the clock, generating a significant amount of like takes time, effort and creativity.
But established brands have hundreds of thousands of likes, I can’t just sit here with 217 – no one will take my business seriously!
Many business pages, large brands included, resort to buying Facebook likes to make their page appear more robust and trustworthy. It seems a misleading and egotistical approach, but seeing as so many people set stall by fan numbers, it is a common practice. But it is wise?
Buying Facebook likes
“To buy or not to buy?”, that is the question! We need to all be on the same page here so let’s get some things straight:
1. Bought likes are cheap (well within the budget of any business)
2. The ‘liking’ accounts will not be genuine accounts. The number of likes will reduce over time as Facebook shuts down spam accounts. (There are, however, companies such as Boostlikes who claim their ‘likes’ are all real people.)
3. At best, it is obvious to anyone who knows what they’re looking for, that you have bought likes
4. Many brands, including some of the largest in the world, have bought likes – you’re in good company either way
How does it work?
The business model is simple. Websites set up ‘proxies’ and pay ‘FanSlaves’ to like page after page after page. These people earn ‘credits’ (worth around 7p at time of posting) for each page they like. Once they have liked 500 pages, they cash in their credits for £35. The website charges its customers £50 for 500 likes and there’s their profit!
[UPDATE: You can buy likes for around a quarter of this cost in 2017]
Some of these websites claim to achieve targeted likes. Some claim that people will interact with your page. They won’t. In fact, over time, Facebook identifies these spam accounts and shuts them down. After all, even if they are ‘real people’ there’s nothing stopping them unliking your page at any point.
After you buy your ‘likes’, over a period of a few days, the bought likes will begin liking your page (if it happened all at once, Facebook would know what was happening).
Buying Facebook likes: the benefits
What people are trying to achieve through buying likes boils down to one thing; improving brand perception – appearing bigger than they really are. Even though the account’s ‘likes’ have been bought; the sheer number of likes on a page is indicative of a number of factors of the business. If visitors to the page, whether directed by ads or friends, fail to recognise that the likes are bought, they will perceive the following:
– Brand credibility
– You have high levels of brand awareness and loyalty
– Your page posts interesting content (maybe convincing real people to like your page too)
– As a large brand, that people expect to have large fan numbers, buying likes when your page starts up may prove to future audiences that your page is the real deal.
Overall, people stumbling across your page are more likely to ‘like’ it themselves or see you as a trusted brand. If you’re offering something they want, they might even pay your site a visit.
What are the drawbacks of buying likes?
– Bought likes are just numbers – these people (not always people) are not interested in your brand so do not regard any of them as in your target audience.
– It is quite easy to work out the likes are bought – Do they look like the people who would be interested in your products or services? Why does the number of people ‘talking about this’ match the number of people that have liked the page (for a week or so) and then drop to next to nothing in the weeks thereafter?
– If people work out that they are bought, how does this make your business look? Will people care? Will people think this is the only way your business can make itself look professional or popular? The fact is that you could achieve almost the exact opposite of the ‘benefits of buying likes’ because people may feel that they cannot be achieved on merit alone!
– Certain post promotions may be distorted because of the location and nature of your ‘fans’ making targeting posts more difficult
– Cheap though they are, they do cost money; money you could be spending elsewhere
So here’s the important bit:
Should I buy Facebook likes?
Ideally, paying for Facebook likes plays no role in your company’s Facebook strategy. As listed, there are some major drawbacks buying Facebook likes, mainly because in most cases it is plainly obvious, even to the layman, that they’ve been bought. If a Facebook page looks new, i.e. doesn’t have lots of content already, or looks unprofessional because the profile is not optimised or content is poor, having a few thousand likes looks very suspicious. Having looked at the rather strange list of people who have liked the page makes everything worse. On top of all this, if each new post is only getting a handful of likes from the page’s 10,000 fans, the game’s up!
I could launch into a blog post about the importance of quality over quantity, and how the most important thing is to have a collection of engaged and interested fans, who are members of your target market or at least vaguely interested in buying your product or listening to what you have to say. I am not going to launch into the blog post described because I think it speaks for itself.
For most businesses Facebook likes are a means, not an end.
You, therefore, should be crystal clear as to why you are buying fake likes. In general, it will be damaging for your brand rather than help it.
Under what circumstances would buying likes be a good idea?
There are some instances where buying likes would be more feasible. For example, say a well-known car manufacturer decides to set up its first Facebook page. Like everyone else, they begin with zero likes.
If anyone were to stumble across this page now, they probably wouldn’t think it was the real manufacturer’s page! If it had grown to few thousand likes after a couple of months, their page would still look less popular than you’d expect for that particular brand. It is typical for these big brands to buy tens of thousands of likes to get the page looking genuine and they know they’ll be able to grow it with genuine accounts from there.
Here’s the thing:
Big brands are better at getting away with it. The numbers and diversity of followers are easily be assumed genuine. Also, it’s not the end of the world if people realise that they’re bought – they’ve got the budget and it would be embarrassing if it looked like no one liked the brand.
But what about smaller brands?
As a first port of call, you need to get your network to like your page – getting a hundred or so likes should not be a problem. You also need to make sure you’re posting high-quality content and that your profile is optimised (these factors are more useful to you than Facebook like numbers anyway). You should also be able to grow you page organically, even if slowly, by doing this.
Once you’ve perfected your profile and content and accrued some real likes – try a like campaign and see how many likes you generate. You might be surprised at how many real likes you can get for a small investment. Running Facebook competitions is another tactic that can help organically grow your audience, simply for the cost of the prize.
Having a base number of likes can make you look more appealing if someone finds your page. If you’re trying to create a high-end or luxury brand, having only a couple of hundred likes might undermine your brand. Would having more fans suit your brand even if they didn’t comment or like your posts?
One last thing to consider…
If you’ve already built up a good fan base, buying likes (no more than your total ‘real’ likes), can rapidly increase fan numbers without looking too suspicious or obvious. Reducing the risk of people realising you’ve bought likes but effectively doubling how large your engaged online audience appears might be a happy medium for some brands.
Overall, we very rarely recommend buying likes, but in some circumstances, it can work. Hopefully, this blog has given you more insight into the ‘dark arts’ of social media. Find out more about Facebook strategy here and sign up to our newsletter for more hints and tips.