Sheena is a click farmer

image of The RamonesIn case you missed it, there’s been plenty of great articles and posts recently asking a very simple question about Facebook: How many Facebook accounts are bullshit due to fraud from click farms? A well-made video kicked off the recent spate of stories on the topic. Here’s a run down of what’s been in the news:


Veritasium on YouTube: Facebook Fraud 

Washington Post: This blogger paid Facebook to promote his page. He got 80,000 bogus Likes instead

Salon: Facebook’s black market problem revealed

USA Today: Want fans? Hire a social media ‘click farm’

This of course leads to the natural follow-up question that any marketer should ask: So how much bullshit am I paying for when I buy an ad on Facebook?

I really loved the “Facebook Fraud” video (the first link above, by real-life science geek Derek Muller). However, there are some very big caveats to his video which need to be mentioned. Muller starts off mentioning an experiment run by a BBC reporter back in 2012. The reporter set out to determine what a “Like” was worth by building a Facebook account for something called “Virtual Bagel.” Then, he used Facebook’s ad platform to buy $100 worth of “Likes” … in countries where known click farms come from (gee – wonder if that affected results?).

The lesson here is fairly obvious. If you don’t target your ads (which is fairly easy to do on Facebook ad manager settings) I would imagine that of course you are attracting a lot of bottom-feeders. That’s lesson number one (and keep track because there will be a quiz). Facebook in 2012 since then said it deleted millions of “fake” accounts from click farms — something Muller follows up on by reproducing (more or less) the “Virtual Bagel” experiment.

What he discovered, however, is that nearly all of those new likes he got from a recent experiment were not engaging with his page. So … nothing seems to be solved, and may indeed be getting worse (according to Muller). In fact, it gets more nefarious. Many of these new accounts didn’t appear to come from known “click farm” countries. They seemed to be coming from the US. But there was something odd about these Likes … these accounts “Liked” way too many things to seem natural — and the things these “people” liked were odd.

My own experiment

Recently, I conducted some testing of Facebook (and other) ads for a client. I’m not going to divulge the results, but I will say this. Of the recent Likes we gathered, I decided to look at a representative sample to see if I could find accounts that screamed “click farm” — clearly.

I did not find a torrent of fake accounts. Not by a long shot. You see, I took the trouble to carefully target the ads.

However, I certainly found between 10% and 20% that were suspicious. A few fairly screamed click farm — which seemed to represent about 12% of the total (I looked at a sample of my new Likes — not all of them). Either way you cut it, paying for obvious fraud is not acceptable.

One of the new Likes my client gathered was from a person I’ll only identify as “Sheena.” Because there is a small chance — very, small — that I’m wrong, I won’t identify the account completely. But let me tell you a bit about “Sheena”…

Sheena certainly likes a lot of things. And yet, the only thing on her profile is that this blonde-haired twenty-something is female. Good to know! Oh, and according to her timeline … she changed her cover photo. There are no other posts to see.

Oh, and she sure likes a lot of things. To be specific … 33,000 things. Just to put that number in perspective, if you “liked” five things a day, for every single day of the year, rain or shine, come hell or high water, it would take you 18 years to hit that number. Or let’s say 20 things a day, for every single day of the year for 4 and a half years … Possible, but not plausible.

And it’s not just that Sheena likes so many things (and she’s so young and … blonde … too!) This little OCD like-monkey has quite the unusual taste in what she “likes.” It seems, for instance, that she “Likes” 10,000 restaurants. Which is quite the feat. I’m sure I’ll get to know “Sheena” better when we all see her on a future episode of “My 600-pound life” on the The Learning Channel. And it’s not just that she likes so many restaurants … she even likes every location of a franchise! Isn’t that neat-0!

She also “Likes” the Chicago Blackhawks AND the Montreal Canadiens. If you know hockey, you know how ridiculous that last sentence is. That’s like saying you’re a vegetarian who just LOVES to pick out their own baby cow to kill to make veal patties.

The sad reality is, I don’t really know if Sheena is a click farmer or not. I do know her account fairly screams it. My concern is that … I can’t tell. And that should worry Facebook a lot that people putting money on the table can’t really tell what’s fake and what’s real.

(And yeah, I supposed I should have named the blog “Is Sheena a click farmer?” … but “Sheena is a click farmer” sounds too close to “Sheena is a Punk Rocker” by the Ramones. And I like the Ramones. Suck it Robin Thicke)

I will say this: if you don’t target and test, you are opening yourself up to manipulation by fraudsters. Maybe that’s the price of playing this game. Nonetheless, I doubt there are very many businesses that contain an asterisk in their billing statements that reads “*Your results may vary. Sometimes you’ll be paying for a lot of fraud.”


Photo credit:By Plismo (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Making your customer the star: Using interviews for content marketing Part 3

Photo Credit: edenpictures via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: edenpictures via Compfight cc

In this final installment of my series of posts about using customer interviews or profiles (see part 1 and part 2), I’ll discuss using this content to maximum effect.

There’s no shortage of ways to use this content in your content marketing efforts.

Post it and tie to social media

The first step is to get the customer article up on your site as a searchable piece of content – either as a blog post or a stand-alone article page. By all means be sure (even if not using a blog with easy social plug-ins) to include plenty of social links to the article.

You should also encourage the interview subject or the subject’s company to make full use of these links and their own social networks. I recall doing one article that resulted in a fairly big count of social endorsements – all started when then subject of the interview used his Twitter and LinkedIn account to promote the article. A little self-promotion can go a long way. This is important too: Always include a picture of the subject whether it is blog or article post.

If posting as an article rather than a blog post, make sure the content sits on its own page – don’t “paste” it into a page of other existing copy. A new subdirectory on your site (/customer profiles/ for example) is also recommended if you’re doing a series.

The next step is to redistribute the posted article via all of your company’s social media outlets. Profiles tend to do especially well on Facebook, perhaps because of the more-personal format. Don’t just paste the link, either, on outlets like LinkedIn or Facebook — say something interesting about the profile subject in the update box before linking to it.


Another key step is to distribute the profile by incorporating into existing email campaigns. There are many ways to do this:

  • For companies with existing blogs, there’s a good chance they also have an auto-generated RSS-based email promoting the most recent articles.
  • For companies that don’t have a blog promoted by email (and why don’t you?), use an existing company email to promote the interview. However, this actually is not my favorite option because adding a type of content to an existing email often means it’s an afterthought – and sometimes not highlighted well enough.
  • I fully recommend doing a single-purpose email to your company list promoting the interview. If you are committed to doing more interviews, this really justifies setting up a new email campaign promoting solely the interviews alone.

More onsite uses

None of this, of course, precludes you company from promoting these interviews/stories throughout your site in many other ways. Here are just a few ideas:

  • Have a page listing your clients? Create a sidebar promoting the profile or profiles that link to the article or blog post.
  • Have a rotating box of feature content on your home page (an increasingly popular design)? Post the interviews there too.
  • Have an FAQ about your services or product? Here too adding a sidebar promoting the article will help give what’s usually fairly sterile information some personality.

Sales collateral

And finally, if you’ve really been energetic and committed to producing several of these customer interviews/profiles, you can put all of them into a well-designed PDF to use as an additional piece of sales collateral to be given or emailed to new prospects. This is not direct “word of mouth” endorsement of course, but it is akin to it – and it adds personality and color to collateral (which can be dry and impersonal).

You may find, however, that there are some intangible benefits to profiling a customer. It does act as a kind of endorsement, so expect the interview subjects company to make a lot of hay of the interview/profile. That’s all to the positive side of the ledger.

However, this does make it important when you’re choosing a profile/interview subject to be sure you are choosing someone your company does, basically, endorse.

In any event, you’ll find a lot of upside to this idea – and by adding a touch of “color” and humanity to your content marketing, you help position your company better in the eyes of potential customers.

Facebook for business: Getting beyond the hype to what matters

If you’ve read my blog before, you’re probably aware that I think the best blog on social media and marketing is Jay Baer’s Convince and Convert. Lately Jay has been on a tear on the subject of Facebook and the over-hyping of what “Like” actually does for brands. He wrote a trilogy on the topic, and they are totally worth the time and effort to read:

Still, I wanted to summarize a few salient points that stuck with me.

  1. First, Baer noted in this post that there’s a little too much of the tail wagging the dog when it comes to understanding what a “Like” actually means. In other words — people don’t “Like” a brand out of the blue, it comes AFTER they’re already familiar with and like the brand in the real world. So … anyone thinking Facebook is the start of the chain of events that leads to a “Like” usually has it wrong.
  2. Baer emphasizes that counting “Likes” is kind of nonsensical. It’s just a click folks. It’s nowhere near the commitment someone shows when they even sign up for a newsletter. (And effective, click-getting, response-generating emails are somehow forgotten in all the “Like” hype.)
  3. Think long and hard before doing Facebook customization. The vast majority of interaction/comments to updates are from News Feed — not Wall postings. Think about that. Nobody goes around visiting Facebook pages after they “Like” them … it’s all about the News Feed on their “Home” page.

So Baer is of course a big-brand kind of guy, and I’d just like to add from what I’ve seen with successful small and mid-size Facebook users, this is good news. It means you’re still getting a heck of a lot of bang from your buck just from status updates. Of course, how to do that right is another story …