The true value of Facebook Likes is somewhat of a mystery to brands, with growing speculation as to the number of Likes that are submitted by bots, fake and duplicate accounts. In response to these concerns, Facebook recently announced that they will be removing anything that it deems to be a 'Fake Like'. A blog post by Facebook on 31st August, stated: "Facebook was built on the principle of real identity and we want this same authenticity to extend to Pages."
The same blog post by Facebook Security begins by saying: "A Like that doesn't come from someone truly interested in connecting with a Page benefits no one." This official statement, as obvious as it may seem, is long overdue. Brands have become increasingly sceptical about the true worth of their Likes, and Facebook was left with no choice but to publically act.
Advertisers have always represented Facebook's largest revenue stream, and the social media network presents Page Likes as a valuable currency to investors. One BBC correspondent put it like this though: "What marketing or demographic value does Facebook see in the fact that an 11-year-old girl, who is on Facebook, 'likes' American Express? She doesn't even know what it is, and is 10 years from being able to have an American Express card, at the least." Increasing cynicism like this towards the true value of this currency is bad for business, and hugely detrimental to Facebook's credibility as a paid advertising platform.
According to the blog post, "newly improved automated efforts will remove those Likes gained by malware, compromised accounts, deceived users, or purchased bulk Likes." While such Likes only represent, on average, 1% of Likes on any given page, there will be a huge sense of intrigue as to which pages are most affected by the removal of Likes acquired through these means.
You only have to type the phrase "buy Facebook Likes" into your search engine to get a sense of the size and value of the underground market for buying and selling Likes on Facebook. Take one of the most popular fan pages on Facebook, Coca-Cola. I'm not for a minute suggesting that they have bought any of their Likes, simply using them as a basis for comparison. Considering they now have just over 50m Likes, 1% equates to some 500,000 fake Likes. At a market value of roughly £100 per 5,000 Likes, those fake Facebook Likes would cost them over £10,000. Not a bad little earner for one of the many companies that offer such a service.
This announcement was an unavoidable no-win-scenario for Facebook, and the true impact to advertising revenue will only be seen after brands have had time to digest just how many of their Likes are truly genuine - it may be a rude awakening for some. Retaining targeted fans with a genuine interest in your product or service is indeed valuable from a marketing perspective; but equally, nobody would enjoy seeing their number of Facebook Likes drastically reduce overnight. While 1% is the average according to Facebook, some pages are likely to be affected a great deal more than others. Will those companies invest in legitimate paid advertising, and will unaffected companies feel that the integrity of Facebook's advertising platform has been irreparably damaged? Only time will tell.