I had some first hand experience helping with an extremely viral Facebook page recently. Many remarkable observations came out of it. The first one I’d like to share is all about Facebook fake Likes. In the future I’ll come back to some very effective engagement strategies that have broad application (hint: Crowdsourcing). I’m most interested in YOUR experiences and observations. Have you experienced something along these lines? What are your comments about this story?

So the page is/was called FreeTomRandall (FTR). The page went from zero  to 25,000 likes in a week – all organic and eWord-of-Mouth. It was all about a good friend of mine that was falsely accused of #humantrafficking in the context of an orphanage he helped start in the Philippines. Without going into all the details, the salient point is that it seems as if a “rival” conspired with Philippine authorities to create the crisis and get my friend, Tom Randall, thrown into a Manila jail. About three weeks later, Tom was released and all charges were dropped.

Tom Randall, All Charges Dropped,

Tom Randall, All Charges Dropped

Here’s what happened on the Facebook page:

Tom is a sports ministry missionary and has a huge and passionate following literally around the world. So the FTR page quickly went viral inside Facebook, again going from zero to 25,000 organic Likes in a week. At that point, the growth tapered off.

(Meanwhile, the Page was mentioned in more than a few stories about the situation and the outpouring of love for Tom. The page also caught the attention of various government officials, both US and Filipino. The page was also used to mobilize the crowd of supporters via the #FreeTomRandall hashtag. But more on all of that in a future post. It was also a huge source of encouragement to Tom and those in the scene helping him.)

Then something very ‘interesting’ happened.

Without warning and apparently for no reason, Likes started happening again – even faster than before, about 20 per MINUTE. But this time, in looking at a majority of the new profiles, they had no substance to them – very few updates, little to no history, just a pro-pic, a cover pic, a few more photos, and a few recent updates. However, these profiles had THOUSANDS of Page Likes and were predominantly from Turkey (approx 30,000) plus Azerbijan and Georgia, the country. Fortunately, one of our admin’s is a techie and created a bot to eat what we think were many tens of thousands of fake Likes – seriously.

FTR Likes and Sources


Facebook then told us that someone “may have” paid for Likes to the page. We didn’t, but someone else might have?

OK, so at least two issues:

Issue #1: Why would Facebook allow a non-page admin to engage in a campaign to buy Likes for a page

I have my ideas, and it’s Facebook’s prerogative, but what do YOU think about the practice?

Issue #2: The Likes seem to be fake, on a massive scale?

What’s wrong with fake Likes?

a. Your engagement ratios drop. The way I understand it, the lower your engagement ratios, the less Facebook organically promotes your content. So it’s a downward spiral.

But isn’t it worse than that?

b. Facebook has a current infamous 10% Formula for organically showing updates. They only show Page updates in the newsfeeds of , at most, 10% of those who “Liked” the page. So without Sponsoring or paying for the promotion, only 10% or less organic friends of the Page – those truly interested in your Page – will see the page updates.

c. We were also concerned that a massive amount of fake Likes would cause the page to be removed by Facebook.

Going back to b., what happens then if fake Likes are added to the total number? Let’s crunch the numbers. If you have 20,000 organic likes, around a max of 10%, or 2000, might see a Page update. If you add 20,000 Fake Likes, or 2X, now you have 40k. At 10%, that’s now 4000, but half of those could be the Fake Likes. At 5X, or 100k Likes, 10% = 10000. But again divide by 5 and you’re back to 2000. But you’re not really sure who’s really getting the update, are you? That’s a real problem and could lead to a downward spiral for the page.

Going further into the engagement ratios, assuming 10% of the Page’s fans engage in the content, in the first scenario without the Fake Likes, that would mean 200 Likes/Comments/Shares, or 1%. But assuming the same levels of engagement, with 80,000 fake Likes added to the top line and still only 200 Likes/Comments/Shares, I think the math is 0.25%. True? That doesn’t bode well for your Page, both relative to the Facebook formula’s and the human viewers. “Gee they have 100,000 Likes but only about 200 people are engaging with this awesome piece of content. That’s odd.” That’s not the kind of reaction you want.

Where is this track heading? At a minimum, Facebook should prevent a profile from Liking more than a few hundred Pages without any engagement. Twitter does something like that. Secondly, Facebook should also prevent non-page Admin’s from organizing paid campaigns to promote the page.

NetNet, I don’t think you want to pay for Likes. Earned attention is better than Paid – IMHO. Sorry Facebook. Think of a better way to make money.

So with this scenario in mind, if this were to happen to YOUR company Facebook page, what would you DO about it? Let’s have a conversation. Thanks in advance.