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Warning: Facebook's Promoted Posts Fall Flat

A few weeks ago I was lucky enough to appear on Inside Edition to discuss social media.  Well - more specifically I was there to discuss the scandal associated with the newly revealed fact that Boo the Dog's owner  is a Facebook employee.

Boo the Dog Facebook's promoted posts
Facebook's promoted posts

While this may not scream scandal at first blush - you should know that Boo the Dog has a Facebook page with millions of fans. So when Boo, the World’s Cutest Dog, Calls a Facebook Employee “Mom” the world wants to know the potentially scandalous implications - Did she leverage insider tactics to glean so many "likes" on her dog's Facebook page?  Could this be an inside job?  You get the drift.  Of course there was minimal scandal, lots of hype and all sorts of social media silliness.  Truism: cute dogs will always help to glean the attention in any story.

So there I was  - on national television commenting on the cutest dog in the world.  It was a great appearance for Silverback Social and frankly - it was fun.  I was excited to share the segment with the Silverback Social community. So I posted the link to the segment on our Facebook page.   In doing so I thought I would give this special appearance a bit of a push - so for the first time I decided to spend some extra money and promote the segment via Facebook's new promoted posts.  For those of you that aren't familiar with Promoted Posts - Facebook defines them as

"an easy way to reach more of the people who like your Page and their friends Visit your page to try promoting a post."

So, before posting the scandalous television appearance I selected the option to "Get more people to see this post." The idea here is that for the first time Facebook is allowing you to promote your content to an audience outside of just your current Facebook page likes.  I was excited. I selected "People who like your page and their friends."  I hit save and went about my business for the day.

Facebook promoted posts
Facebook promoted posts

The results were shocking.  Over the course of two days 510 people liked the post, 51 people shared the post and a myriad of people left comments - I was thrilled. That is until I took a closer look at who was doing the sharing, liking and commenting.  Approximately 90% of the comments were not in English - and those that did post in English some were posted in broken English - or no language at all "pgn atu ikh..ada gk" Ugh.   In total - the post reached 17,064 people, had 1,106 page photos views, 510 page post likes, 89 link clicks,  51 page post shares, 4 new page likes, and 33 comments.  ...wait for it - of the 23 people initially "talking about" the post the majority of those posts came from CirebonJawa BaratIndonesia.  INDONESIA!  Needless to say - I was not happy.  I hadn't spend a ton of money on the promotion ($17), but I was let down.  Was Facebook shopping out their promoted posts to Indonesia? Could this be?  I began to think about why this had happened? Why would Facebook promote my post to people in Indonesia? So playing devils' advocate I thought of a few reasons why this may have happened -

Content: Granted - the content of the post had to do with a cute fluffy dog.  So perhaps there's a great audience in Indonesia for such silly posts.  I get it - this wasn't my most polished Fox Business Television appearance - but still ...

Demographics: The assumption here is that Facebook would have an algorithm that promotes the post to the same demographic of the current fans.  While this makes sense - it's also a bit of a problem.  I spent a good amount of money to advertise my Facebook page and grow my following.   So if the demographic of my Facebook fans  represent individuals from Indonesia that means that I have fans that I don't want on my page, and that were outside of the demographic parameters that I had put forth during the advertising campaign.   Looking at my demographics today I can see that Indonesia is in fact, the second most popular country to have liked my page after the USA - but did they like the page organically or while I was paying Facebook for advertising to grow my Facebook page likes?

Listen - I love Facebook - really, I do. I'm just bringing this issue to light because I'm bummed, and frankly baffled.  Why did this happen? Have you had a similar experience? Should I give Facebook's promoted posts another shot? I know that they can work - as is evident from Amy Porterfield's post "The 5 Myths of Facebook Promoted Posts" Did I do something wrong? Any and all feedback is welcomed.


Join The Conversation

  • Jan 23 Posted 3 years ago jasonsharke

    Two years ago I started running ads for my Facebook business page to build a following. I specifically stated Manhattan as a target area. I spent hundreds of dollars getting my "likes" up to 3000+. Every now and then I would look at some of these likes and noticed that the vast majority of them had Spanish names. This didn't worry me too much because there is a sizable Spanish speaking population in New York. Since then, I've spend additional hundreds of dollars running promoted posts. Again, most all of the comments these posts get have been written in Spanish by people with Spanish speaking names. I just though it was "one of those things," until today when curiosity got the better of me and I looked at the analysis data for the last promotion I ran. It says that of all the people who engaged with my post, 99.7% are based in Mexico and only 0.3% are based in the US. Not only that, but under "promoted area" it says "United States, Mexico." I have NEVER, EVER specified Mexico as an area to target my ads OR promotions and yet Facebook has taken it upon themselves to send most of my ads to Mexico anyway. The ONLY geographical location I have ever specified is New York. 

    I cannot describe how angry I feel. I have paid literally thousands of dollars to Facebook to run ads in a country that I never specified and is useless to my business. Has anyone ever had any success in getting advertising money refunded from Facebook? I just have a feeling that this is going to be like my dealings with Google, when any problem or inquiry has been met with some generic canned response. 

  • Aug 23 Posted 3 years ago Keefe John

    i did that....same thing......all my likes were spanish names.......after 15,000 impressions.....ALL the likes

    were spanish last names.....the population in my area is 3%spaish

  • Nov 28 Posted 4 years ago bobroche

    I own a gym in upstate NY and recently promoted a few posts from my Facebook page. The total reach for my page last week was 20,000, which I thought was great. When I checked the demographics and location of this reach I found that 76% were outside the US.  There were 4,524 from Egypt alone. There were only 4,249 in the US. Obviously, 76% of my ad money was wasted. Fortunately, it only amounted to about $75.  When I checked the demographics and location of people who liked my page I noted that of my 1,350 likes, 126 were from Egypt. Prior to 9/1/12 (which is about when I started promoting posts) I had 4 likes from Egypt. Another anomaly I noticed was during a 3-day period last week I gained 53 new likes. I typically average less than 2 new fans a day. When I scrolled through the list of recent likes I found that Mohamed was the most popular first and last name. Ahmed was second.

    When I clicked on the profiles of the people that liked my page it was obvious that these were fake profiles designed to look like real people. The profiles liked 150 to 3,000 pages. I did go in to edit the country restrictions on my page to United States only. This should ensure that my posts won’t be shown outside the country and the money I am spending will be for views in the US. At the risk of being accused of racial profiling, I deleted all recent likes of people named Mohamed or Ahmed. 

    After searching several other Facebook pages I noticed a few that had similar issues. I know you can buy likes if you want, although I don’t know why you would want to since all of these likes are from overseas and fake.  The percentage of people liking my page and engaging with the page is important to me. These fake likes drive that percentage down, because these fake profiles won’t engage with my posts.

    I don’t know exactly why this is happening. I did read a recent blog post that theorized that the people selling the fake likes had these profiles liking other pages also. That would make it harder to track the pages that are buying the likes. I do know that this stuff didn’t start happening until I began promoting posts. There must be some relationship there. Or maybe people in Egypt really love my gym and I should open a new one in Cairo.


  • Oct 18 Posted 4 years ago herpderp

    You do realize that you can target promoted (and regular) posts by location, gender, language, etc? Problem solved.

  • Oct 5 Posted 4 years ago carlybeetsch

    I have had the same experience with promoting posts. I wonder if targeting the post, then promoting it would garner the same results. has anyone experimented with this tactic?

  • AnaLuciaNovak's picture
    Oct 4 Posted 4 years ago AnaLuciaNovak

    You are not alone! I thought I was going crazy when I noticed a sudden increase of fans from Indonesia, as I use the promoted feature to promote my blog posts. 


    I wish that Facebook would allow us to choose cities or states (as with the Ads) so that I can reach my fans that are located in the SF area! Not Indonesia 

  • Oct 4 Posted 4 years ago robleathern600

    The default post promotion doesn't allow limiting it by country which is a pain - and something Facebook should fix. however you can run ads campaigns with that limitation and promoted posts for pages are just that (as you can see in if you are running one. 


    I think it is also important to point out which page you are promoting in a story like this. The experience with 802 fans of the Silverback Social page is probably not relevant to large enterprises or even mid-sized pages.


    However as this points out, if your page fans are not your target audience then either change your fan acquisition strategy (eg use Custom Audiences or use ads tools for post promotion to be more sprcific. Sorry for iPhone typos!

  • Oct 4 Posted 4 years ago RhondaHurwitz

    Loved reading this case study.  

    I recall that Amy Porterfield advocates promoting specific posts to current fans ... which always made sense to me as a way to get around Edgerank in specific situations.  

    Wondering if the "friends of fans" led to the undesired result in the first place?  Unfortunately, now you have those less targeted non-US fans as part of your fan base.

    Good reminder of the law of unintended consequences.  Glad it only cost you $17 bucks.

  • Chris Dessi's picture
    Oct 4 Posted 4 years ago Chris Dessi

    Cool - thanks for sharing! 

  • Chris Dessi's picture
    Oct 4 Posted 4 years ago Chris Dessi

    That trade seems like a bum deal to me ... :-) 

  • Jennifer MacDonald's picture
    Oct 4 Posted 4 years ago Engage121

    Chris sorry for the confusion I am only talking about sponosored post ads. That is the only Facebook advertising I do. Sponsored stories have achieved great results for me. I just recieved 3 leads yesterday from an sponsored post ad from a new video we launched about our application.



  • Chris Dessi's picture
    Oct 4 Posted 4 years ago Chris Dessi

    I agree - the execution of promoted posts seems slapdash at best. 

  • Chris Dessi's picture
    Oct 4 Posted 4 years ago Chris Dessi

    Haha - good point.  Maybe I'll add a post with a pretty girl next time :-) 

  • Chris Dessi's picture
    Oct 4 Posted 4 years ago Chris Dessi

    Thanks so much for the well thought out comment.  Seems like I have some tweaking to do with these promoted posts.  For now - I think I'll just try to glean as much organic traffic as I can.  Bummer. 

  • Oct 4 Posted 4 years ago Michael Quintos

    Use Power Editor to create or modify the ad to only US (or whatever your target is M/F, age) and your results will be much better.  The mobile launch capacity isn't really meant for a ton of edits at all the goal is mass spread and we've had success increasing reach which helps with a "Like" campaign along with great content of course !

  • Chris Dessi's picture
    Oct 4 Posted 4 years ago Chris Dessi


    Hi! I'm very familiar with Engage 121.  You guys do a great job. In fact, I've sent quite a few leads over to your team and have invited your EVP Jack Serpa to join me on panel discussions.  I've even been to your offices in Norwalk. I love your videos too - well done! 

    I'm commenting on promoted posts - not ads. Two very different things.  I used Facebook ads to promote my own, and my clients pages - often ...and have had great success. I only reference them at the end of the post asking the reader to decide if the Indonesia likes came organically or through potentiall misguided ads. Thanks for the comment! 


  • webfeuerJonny's picture
    Oct 4 Posted 4 years ago webfeuerJonny

    Hi Chris,

    have you ever happened to have a look at the promoted post in your ads manager? There you can see what the problem is. First of all facebook creates three ads for one promoted post. One promotes the fans activity to their friends, the second targets only fans, the third shows the post to friends of fans (if you've selected that option in first place). Looking at the rest of the targeting reveals why you've had so many users reacting from outside of USA. Because all three ads are targeted to United States, India, Ireland, Italy, Mexico, Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom, Greece, Australia, Indonesia, Austria, Philippines, Brazil, Poland, Portugal, Hungary, Egypt, Romania, France, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Tunisia or Germany. On top there's no specific language selected.

    Unfortunately the targeting can't be edited, as it says. "This Promotion Can't Be Edited -- This can't be edited because you promoted it from your Page. Find the post on your Page to pause or delete it, or to change your budget."

    This really is a big issue. I hope facebook will let you select more targeting options for these ads in the near future. Otherwise I don't think this product will work.

  • Jennifer MacDonald's picture
    Oct 3 Posted 4 years ago Engage121

    Hi Chris,  I'm really bummed to read that you have not had success with Facebook ads. I've had great success myself and for our clients, one of my clients has received 2 leads from an ad.

    My first thought is you should try targeting your ad to a more niche audience. Such as English (US), age 21+, United States, and make sure to add interests. Interests help fight spammers because they do not have any interests associated with their fake Facebook accounts.

    I just wrote a blog post about my success and I think that you will find it helpful. 

    I would love to jump on a call with you and have a discussion about Facebook ads!

    -Jenny (@jennimacdonald)

  • scalablesocial's picture
    Oct 3 Posted 4 years ago scalablesocial

    I agree this is not too promising, Chris, but I would love to see your results for  a post that didn't involve a universally appealing cute dog :)  I hope you will try again and report back.

  • Oct 3 Posted 4 years ago Scott Borgmier

    And this is further proof of Facebook's non existent plan to monitize their site. No one wants to click an ad, no one wants to like a page because of an ad, I don't want sponsored posts in my newsfeed. They look fake/artificial and almost out of place because they don't match the other posts around it. Facebook needs to cater to the needs of business in an online community. Businesses will pay for that and keep facebook's value high in doing so.

  • ShaneRhyne's picture
    Oct 3 Posted 4 years ago ShaneRhyne

    Some of my early testing with promoted posts met the same results. Lots of spammy comments from Indonesia, especially. Since the organization I was helping was international in scope, I was at first interested to see the response from Indonesia and other nearby locales, but the quality of the interaction is quite low. I have found that targeting the promoted posts to specific geographic locales within the US seems to be a bit more helpful, but obviously takes me out of the international aspect of the potential audience.

    Promoted posts do not have the same segmentation abilities as actual display ads on Facebook, but I suppose that's the trade off we're working with at this point.

  • Oct 3 Posted 4 years ago sivasankar1323

    Nice post but i feel users are not doing promotion for the right post.If we use Facebook editor and promote post targeting is also possible.I feel this link will be useful

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