Is Facebook Telling the Truth?

About 3 weeks ago we conducted a simple experiment about content likability on Facebook. The purpose was very simple: to find out whether posts directly related with our Facebook page  or unrelated but fun stuff (funny pictures, interesting art, etc.) generate the highest amount of likes. We also wanted to see what kind of posts actually go beyond the likes and turn into page likes.

In the month of January we didn’t post anything on our Facebook page and we got 4 new page likes. During the first 2 weeks of February, we posted the 8 messages that are not directly related with our website. We only posted on weekdays (except Friday) and we posted at/around 8 pm to make sure there’s no time or day effect on the likability. During the 3rd and 4th weeks of February we posted 8 more messages that are about our mission, presentation tips and some info about our organization. As we expected, the unrelated stuff generated more post likes than the directly related stuff. Unfortunately the total page likes increased by 4 and we could not track whether they were driven by the directly related posts or indirectly related posts.

In the following week (the first week of March) we promoted every single post we posted in February, and everything was systematic. All of the posts had a budget of 1000 Japanese yen (about 10 dollars). The promotions started on the same day (March 5th) and ended pretty much on the same day (March 7th). We choose the promotion type as “promote the post” and the target as “friends and friend of friends.” 2 of the promotions were stopped shortly after the start, perhaps because of the text to image ratio; however all the rest (14 campaigns) successfully finished by generating an additional 448 post likes and 22 page likes. Remember, we got 8 page likes before the campaign and 4 page likes in the month of January when we posted nothing. We spent about $150 dollars and the cost of acquiring a fan was about 8 dollars, even though we spent pretty much nothing to get 500 fans or sometimes gave a $0.10 “umaibo” in our school’s cafeteria and most of the people we approached agreed to like our page…


ps: The text in the highlighted post says “A live demonstration on stage can leave a lasting impression on your audience.”

Anyways, this was just an experiment and the story doesn’t finish here, it actually starts here… While I was getting ready to put together the findings as a report and present them in an academic conference, I noticed that something did not look right. One of the posts, actually the worst post according to the organic likes, had a huge increase in terms of new likes and page views. There were some other red flags including:

Red flag 1: When this ad was originally posted it only got 1 “like” even though it was seen by 137 of our fans (like to exposure ratio was .7%, the lowest among all the 14 posts). After I started the ad campaign the exposure to like ratio shoot up to 3.2% the second highest among the all 14 post (note: the top one was shared by 4 people and commented by 4 people; this post was not shared or commented on by any user). So how come the number of likes increased 3700% and how come the exposure to like ratio increased by 341% while all of the other posts’ exposure to like ratio decreased dramatically. This doesn’t make sense because no matter what we post (unless we insult our fans) our fans are more likely to “like” our messages compared with non-fans.

Red flag 2: Everybody knows that usually emotional messages, pictures of people, funny or interesting content generate likes. This post has neither one. It is very difficult to understand (Neil Armstrong’s footprint is not known in Japan). Also the text is incredibly difficult to read (especially for smart phone users (by the way 80% of our likes are through mobile)). It makes no sense that 37 people who are not our fans and who are nonnative English speakers like this post.

Red Flag 3: Most of our fans are English speaking college students in japan. As we expected, more than 70% of those who liked the other posts, indicated some university affiliation on their profiles and about half of them have profile pictures that show a person in his/her twenties. Strangely only 4 of the 33 people who liked this particular post listed a university in their profiles and absolutely non of them has a profile page that shows a person who looks like a college student.

I have sent 3 messages to Facebook asking about these problems. As the matter of fact, I had to look for a contact info for half an hour and at the end all I got were a few fill-out-forms which were not directly related with ad delivery. Ive filled out 3 different forms and I got 2 confirmations from Facebook 2 weeks ago that they received my request but no one got back to me explaining these red flags and answering my question “can you prove that these people are real and these liking activities actually occurred?

Facebook recently admitted that there are many problems in their reporting. The funny thing was, they admitted the problems with the reporting, but, not the delivery, and they did not provide any solid and clear explanation why it is not the other way around.You can watch a Facebook representative (a system engineer?) here talking about the issue. I had the screenshots of her speech and I am planning to show this video, without the audio, in my nonverbal communication class and ask the students whether they find her believable or not.
Last year Facebook made $4.3 billion in advertising revenue and According to this site “62 of advertisers, and 70 percent of agencies, are either unsure or flat-out do not know how to measure their social marketing ROI.” no comments…

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