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Debunking the “Facebook Fraud” Viral Video

facebook-fraudAre Facebook Ads a “fraud”?

If you are in the social media marketing niche you’ve seen the video from Veritasium that has circulated titled “Facebook Fraud”.

I’ll share it below but in this post I want to offer up my opinion of this YouTuber’s experience with Facebook Ads.

Personally I think he’s full of sh*t!

Let me explain why..

 

Are Facebook Ads a Fraud?

This is the 2nd video ranting about Facebook this YouTuber has posted and with both of them he’s gotten tons of views and press — and likely made lots of money on YouTube ads…

His first video was called “The Problem with Facebook” and oddly enough was posted to a secondary YouTube account, not his main account.

It got 1.2 million views while whereas the average views of his previous 22 videos saw 78k views.

The Facebook Fraud video has garnered 1.2 million views and just 3 days.

“Facts” Stated in the Video

facebook fraud factsBefore I give you my opinion on the video let me list out the facts he gave in this video

  • Virtual Bagel created in 2012 by Rory Cellan-Jones spent $60 on Facebook Ads and generated 3000 Likes for his fake page. 1600 Likes in the 1st day with a $10 ad spend, predominantly from Egypt, Indonesia and the Philippines — which were regions targeted in his ads.
  • Veritasium page saw rapid growth by using Facebook Ads — no mention of whether or not those ads were targeted to certain regions.
  • 30% of Canadians and Americans that Like the Veritasium page have engaged the past month.
  • 40% of Germans who Like the page are engaged.
  • 60% of Austrians who Like the page are engaged with posts.
  • Less than 1% of the 80,000 page Likes from “3rd world countries” are engaged with the page — he claims these 80k Likes came via Facebook Ads.
  • US State Department paid $630k to acquire 2 million fans but only got 2% engagement.
  • Created a senseless page called “Virtual Cat” for his experiment.
  • Paid $10 to Facebook ads targeting cat lovers in the US, Canada, Australia and the UK — resulting in 39 Likes.
  • All of these Likes were from the countries he targeted — Derek noticed that these profiles had Liked lots of random pages.
  • Derek hypothesesis that click farms are having users click on Ads and Liking other pages in order for the profiles to look real.

UnPacking the Claims

I want to dive a bit into these “facts” — first we’ll look at Virtual Bagel.

Virtual Bagel Experiment

virtual bagel facebook page

The Virtual Bagel page was created in the summer of 2012 — nearly 2 years before this “Fraud” video was made.

The creator spent $10 on Facebook Ads and got 1600 Likes — which is a pretty damn good ad spend IMHO.

Those ads were targeted at the Unites States, the UK, Russia, India, Egypt, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines.

He did narrow the target to people under 45 years of age interested in cookery and consumer electronics.

In addition to the first $10 in ad spend he targeted additional ads just at the US, UK and India and at one point just to users in the UK.

When it was all said and done his page had grown to over 3000 Likes.

The problem I have with all of these stats is no number is given on how many of these 3000 Likes were a direct result from the Ads. There are no screenshots of the Ads Manager, just simply his words.

Were all 3000 a result of ads? Or were some organic and just happenstance? Which is possible today and especially was true in 2012.

I suspect he didn’t share any detailed results of the ads because it wouldn’t have made good press.

See he targeted his first round of ads to people in the countries that tend to not get any engagement — India, Egypt, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines.

My theory is this was done on purpose to try and make Facebook look bad — although this is exactly the users the advertiser targeted!

So yes the Likes came from those countries and they came faster and at a cheaper cost than the US or UK — that’s common sense.

unlike-fan-pageMy 2nd problem is his assumption about users Liking lots of pages.

In his article he points out 1 particular profile that Liked the page that appeared to be a fake account using images from Cristiano Ronaldo — a famous Portugese soccer player.

Perhaps the account was fake, or perhaps this person just loved the soccer player — who knows.

He also points out this profile had Liked over 3000 pages and found that alarming — he and Veritasium conclude that no real person can Like that many pages…

REALLY?!

I beg to differ seeing as I have personally Liked over 4200 pages:

like facebook pages

I’m neither a bot nor someone working at a “click farm” as Derek would suggest and assume.

I just choose to Like every page I come across — partly just for the heck of it but partly to experiment with what it does to my news feed.

So to conclude that people can’t Like lots of random pages is idiotic and not scientific whatsoever.

Veritasium Page’s Engagement Is Bad?

veritasium facebook page

In Derek’s video he claims to have used some free ad money he got from Facebook and by doing so got 80,000 new Likes.

But did you notice something?

Nowhere does he show the breakdown of demographics of the Likes as a result of the ads.

If he did get 80,000 Likes from a $50 Facebook Ad spend he should be launching a product and teaching others — as many internet marketers would love to do this.

But he doesn’t share that at all — and this is a problem to me.

He says he continued to grow over several months as a result of these ads — without offering any look into how he targeted these ads.

facebook theoryWithout this information his “findings” are simply theory.

He then details the engagement rate on his page’s posts by country.

Just to recap this is the engagement the last month he’s getting:

  • 30% of Canadians and Americans who Like the page
  • 40% of Germans who Like the page
  • 60% of Austrians who Like the page
  • Less than 1% of the 80,000 page Likes from “3rd world countries” are engaged with the page

Hold on for a second!

He’s getting 30% engagement from his Canadian and US fans?! And he’s bitching about it?

That’s pretty good in my book — most page owners would love that kind of percentage.

He does not however reveal how many of his Likes are from those countries, my assumption is 25% based on a statement he makes later.

Instead he focuses on the lack of engagement from the 80k Likes in countries like Egypt, India, Philippines, Pakistan and etc.

Depicted in this graph with all of the large bubbles on the left hand side representing this non-engaged countries:

engagement of likes

These 80k fans result in less than 1% of the engagement on the page and account for “75% of my Likes as of recording my last video” — the Problem with Facebook video.

His page has grown quite a bit sense then and is now over 142k Likes, which will make his engagement stats not as controversial.

I’m not surprised that these 80k fans aren’t engaging in his posts.

If they are real people he’ll need to target them by language and timezone — which I’m doubtful he attempted.

But we can’t fully blame Facebook ads for this growth.

How are we to know if he or someone else bought fake fans for his page?

It would be very easy for me to go to Fiverr right now and buy a bunch of Likes for any page on Facebook — and these would be from “fake” accounts or at least from accounts that will never engage.

I can’t fully put the blame on Facebook or Facebook ads for these 80k Likes — as we have no way of knowing they came from ads unless he shows us the results in his Ads Manager.

Virtual Cat Page

 my virtual cat

Derek created the Virtual Cat page as a joke to test his theory about fake Likes on Facebook.

As you can see his page has grown to 4500 Likes now due to the popularity of his video about the page.

In his video he says he spent $10 on a Promoted Page ad targeted at the US, UK, Canada and Australia and as a result got 39 Likes.

He targeted people who had “cats” as an interest and didn’t get a ton of Likes but the results are not bad by any means.

He doesn’t mention this in the video but I have found out from his Facebook posts that he spent another $15 that ended up with a total Like count of 262 for the $25 spent.

Again when using targeted ads you’ll pay more for Likes so I see no issues with his ad spend as it relates to the number of Likes.

He states that all of the Likes he got from the Ads were from the countries he targeted — I don’t see the gripe do you?

But he then goes into the rant that many of the profiles that Liked the page had Liked 1000s of page and had Liked competitor pages such as Jeep, Lexus, Mercedes and Vovlo.

As well as Liking other non-sense pages — which he finds alarming and disturbing.

His hypothesis then is that these profiles must be fake and are a part of a Like farm that is liking not only pages they are paid to Like but also Liking pages on ads — in order to seem more genuine.

He gives this as an example of a profile Like pages around the globe to prove his point:

like farms

But this example is flawed and does not relate to his Virtual Cat page at all.

He’s giving an example of a profile being in Egypt or Liking pages — although all of the Likes on his page were from the areas he targeted, the US, UK, Canada and Australia.

So how does this explain the 262 Likes on his page?

It doesn’t at all — it’s simply a diversion he created on the video to distract and make you assume it’s factual when in fact it’s not at all.

Had he shown the profiles of the initial 39 people that Liked his page and found they were fake that would be one thing, but he didn’t. As all of those Likes are from areas he targeted and maybe a few had liked a ton of pages.

Again I refer to myself seeing as I have Liked over 4200 pages.

He’s also pointing to a study in 2013 from Social Bakers that shows the average Facebook user has only Liked 40 pages and the average US user 70 pages.

number of Facebook Page Likes

But I can disprove this just by looking at the Page Like count of some of my friends:

  • Andrea Vahl – 1073
  • Mari Smith – 1531
  • Jon Loomer – 379
  • Chris Brogan – 266
  • Mike Gingerich – 2452
  • Ravi Shukle – 1689
  • Emeric Ernoult – 890
  • Scott Stratten – 672
  • Josh Parkinson – 829
  • Robert Scoble – 5379
  • Me – 4238

These are all real people — not bots or people working for “Like Farms”.

Yes they are all people in or around the social media space but I show you this to prove that you don’t have to get paid to Like alot of random pages.

Therefore this destroys what seems to be his entire point in the video — that anyone that Liked his random Virtual Cat page must be a fake user.

Sorry Derek but you’re simply WRONG!

Stating such an false statement is dangerous and hurts all of us — especially when others in the Facebook marketing niche begin spewing his video and data.

Other “Facts” That Are Misleading

At the end of the video he points out the most popular city for various pages — namely Facebook Security, Google and David Beckham.

Facebook Security and Google show Dhaka, Bangladesh as the “Most Popular City”:

facebook security likes

And David Beckham as Cairo, Egypt:

david beckham facebook page

I have a couple of problems with his assumptions about this stat.

  1. This stat changes often — currently Facebook Security shows Jakarta, Indonesia and David Beckham shows Bangkok, Thailand.
  2. This stat is not based on the most popular city of those that Like your page — which is what he is making you believe in the video. It’s actually the most popular city currently talking about your page.

Let’s sit on my 2nd point for a second.

The People Talking About This (PTAT) number is a direct reflection of those actually commenting on a page or sharing posts from it.

This means those people are interacting with the page in some form or fashion — Likes, Comments and Shares on posts or posting on the page.

So if we go by Derek’s theory that fake profiles are resulting in all of the Likes on these pages wouldn’t we also assume that these profiles are not interacting with the pages? Seeing as they are fake accounts?

Who cares if Facebook’s Security page is most popular in Dhaka or Jakarta? That doesn’t matter at all and doesn’t prove his point — in fact it disproves it.

Invalid Explanation of the News Feed Algorithm

Towards the end of the video he shows that if your page is full of fake Likes that means Facebook will end up showing your posts to less real people.

fake facebook likes

This is not true at all.

This assumption may have been true when the Edgerank algorithm was in place and only considered “weight, affinity & time decay” but gone are those days.

Now the news feed algorithm is much more robust and specific for each user.

The same can be said about posts from a page.

They are handled differently from posts from friends but people are going to see posts based on the new version of the news feed algorithm.

Which as you may recall focuses on your interactions.

In the past the algorithm (Edgerank) was based on your previous and long term interactions — meaning if you have commented on posts from XYZ biz page in the past then their posts are likely to show up more often, even if that interaction was weeks ago.

With Last Actor Facebook is keeping note of your last 50 interactions so that posts from those you most recently interacted with will show up on the top of your news feed — this will be interesting to see for someone like me who (easily) comments on 100 posts per day!

Nowhere does the new algorithm for pages suggest that if your engagement from fans is low your posts will be shown less to your fans.

This theory is basically saying that if you have 1000 Likes and 900 are fake that the 100 real Likes will see less and less of your posts based on no engagement from the fake fans.

Simply not true.

If those 100 real Likes do not interact then they won’t see the posts — but nothing I can find indicates that the Reach (post visibility) is controlled by overall interaction of fans on a page.

What Should You Do Now?

now what facebookFirst off don’t believe every video you see from a creative YouTube channel!

Second don’t believe every blog post you read — even ours — take time to look into things before believing it’s 100% truth.

Veritasium makes great videos and is a successful educational science channel on YouTube with over 1.2 million subscribers.

They have received tons of awards and I would imagine have made a huge chunk of money from their YouTube channel — although I don’t have a way to verify how much money they make from their channel, but they aren’t doing this for free!

Had this video simply been a dude on his laptop webcam ranting about Facebook Ads no one would have given it a second look.

But because it’s so professionally done and done by an established channel with tons of followers it’s gone “viral”.

In my opinion it’s mainly hype and doesn’t contain any facts we should be concerned about regarding Facebook Ads.

Should You Trust Facebook Ads?

I’d say 100% without a doubt YES!

But, you need to understand what you are doing with Facebook Ads and use them properly.

As mentioned in the Virtual Bagel example from 2012 the author targeted poorly by targeting users in countries that result in little to no engagement.

I love what Jon Loomer says about this:

If you still use Facebook ads as if it’s 2012, you deserve the results you get.

Facebook has done amazing things to Facebook Ads the past 12 months — making it both easy and profitable to run successful Facebook ad campaigns.

facebook targeted likesBut you will need to make sure you target correctly — that’s key.

Running Facebook Ads is partly the reason the Post Planner page is as successful as it is.

And I’d venture to say is the reason many people are successful on Facebook.

Resources to Follow

If you need some solid resources on running Facebook Ads I’d check out these articles:

Also be sure to Subscribe to our Newsletter and blog as I will be diving deeper into Facebook Ads over the coming months to offer more of my opinion on what works and doesn’t work for the small businesses using Facebook.

Lastly I want to know your opinion about this video: Is if Fact or Crap?