Forget Facebook Likes: It's Time To Return To Fans

Via Mashable, today’s must-watch video is the brilliant Derek Muller from Veritasium, talking about Facebook fraud and how fake Likes destroy your ability to reach your true fans.

If you don’t have the eight minutes and 59 seconds it takes to watch the video -- and, if you’re involved in online marketing, you’ll need to find the time -- here are the key takeaways:

  1. If you pay for Likes at all, through Facebook or anyone else, there’s a good chance many of the Likes will be fake.
  2. If you get fake Likes, they will not engage with your page.
  3. If a big percentage of your Likes don’t engage with your page, Facebook will interpret your content as irrelevant and show it to fewer and fewer people.

One more key takeaway: Muller points out that Facebook is actually disincentivized from addressing the problem, because once your organic reach is restricted, “Facebook makes money twice over -- once to help you acquire new fans, and then again when you try to reach them… [Y]our organic reach may be so restricted by the lack of engagement that your only option is to pay to promote the post.”



Part of the problem is that we’re applying the rules of advertising when we should be applying the rules of relationships. But those two things sit on a continuum, and it isn’t always readily apparent when we’re crossing into dangerous territory.

It is outstandingly obvious, for example, that paying people to say nice things about your government is a bad idea. It is also obvious that if you are trying to sell a product or service, people need a way to find out about you, and advertising is one accepted way to do so.

But when you advertise to get Likes instead of to sell, the net effect is the opposite of what’s intended. By way of example, Muller refers to a campaign by the U.S. State Department, which in 2012 spent $630,000 to buy 2 million Likes and then realized only 2% of them were engaged.

The bottom line is this: if you are measuring success in number of Likes, you are fooling yourself.

We need a total shift in how we measure success, and Facebook itself has given us the clues to understanding what that should look like. Remember when there was no such thing as a Like? If you’re looking for a successful and cost-effective Facebook strategy in 2014, you need to focus on fans.

In his epic rant about "1,000 True Fans," Kevin Kelly says, “A True Fan is defined as someone who will purchase anything and everything you produce. They will drive 200 miles to see you sing. They will buy the super deluxe re-issued hi-res box set of your stuff even though they have the low-res version. They have a Google Alert set for your name. They bookmark the eBay page where your out-of-print editions show up. They come to your openings. They have you sign their copies. They buy the t-shirt, and the mug, and the hat. They can't wait till you issue your next work. They are true fans.”

It is, of course, dramatically harder to build a fan than to get a like. But that’s the point. Building a business isn’t easy. Creating a product or service that people love isn’t easy. Sharing it with people in a way that touches their hearts and resonates with their self-identities isn’t easy. But it is the right way to do it, and it is the only way you will retain any kind of autonomy over your relationship with your community. When people love who you are and what you do, Facebook can’t control you anymore.

Viewers of the TV show “Hustle” will be familiar with the saying, “You can’t con an honest man, because an honest man doesn’t want something for nothing.” Paying for Likes might not be something for nothing, but it is still the easy way out. Take the road less-traveled instead. It will make all the difference.

7 comments about "Forget Facebook Likes: It's Time To Return To Fans".
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  1. Mike Einstein from the Brothers Einstein, February 14, 2014 at 12:12 p.m.

    In hindsight, it would appear John Wanamaker didn't realize how good he had it!

  2. Esther Dyson from EDventure, February 14, 2014 at 12:31 p.m.

    Kevin forgot just one thing: And they tattoo your logo on their calf or forearm.

  3. Mike Einstein from the Brothers Einstein, February 14, 2014 at 12:39 p.m.

    BTW, Has anyone else here figured the cost per thousand the State Department incurred to buy those 40,000 qualified likes? I come up with $15,750 per thousand! Good for Facebook. It certainly beats the ten-cents per thousand they're getting for mere impressions!

  4. Jerry Shereshewsky from GrownUpMarketing, February 14, 2014 at 2:14 p.m.

    Kaila is almost right. She's missing the, to me, most important factor: ambassadorial impact. It's not so much what your 'fan' says and does but how much impact that fan has on his/her friends and circle of influence. "Likes" became popular because they were theoretically easy to measure. A simple single number. "Hey, I have 5 million fans" is like the amplifiers in Spinal Tap; they go to "eleben" and "eleben is better than ten". Direct marketers have long known that 'birds of a feather flock together'. The fan is more closely connected to other fans who are, for the moment, invisible to you. You need to not only know your fans (and separate them out of the morass of 'likes" but identify, get to know and engage with your fans fans.

  5. Cece Forrester from tbd, February 14, 2014 at 5:34 p.m.

    Back in the day my cohort was totally dedicated to the Beatles, bought all the records, went to their movies, and snapped up every kind of memorabilia (bubblegum cards etc.).

    The Beatles were well-timed and well-promoted, but it didn't take that much pushing for the brand to catch on. The like was genuine. The Beatles brand represented a really good, totally fresh product line that filled a profound personal and cultural need that we (either the the teen consumers or the Don Drapers) hadn't known was there, and that continued to develop in new and unexpected ways.

    All this happened without the Internet, let alone Facebook. Of course TV kicked it off with a bang, then the other media responded to the demand. The fan base was teen girls (nearly all of them without exception, as far as I could tell) who talked about the band in person every day. After school we would hit the record store to buy the latest single, and at night there was Top 40 radio. American Bandstand aired on Saturdays.

  6. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, February 14, 2014 at 6:08 p.m.

    fbeast is a dirge of the world.

  7. Cece Forrester from tbd, February 16, 2014 at 10:07 a.m.

    P.S., how could I forget the magazines! Not only did Life Magazine (a weekly that nearly every American household subscribed to) regularly run pictures of the Beatles and their doings, often on the cover, but teen monthlies, I think "16" was foremost, supplied everything else a girl might want to know about them--besides bringing other bands featuring cute guys to our attention.

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