I really got my knickers in a knot yesterday when I saw someone promoting himself as some kind of social media superstar. This person claims to have the largest Facebook following for his industry in Atlantic Canada. Well, I *HAD* to go check that out. Sure enough, this page, for a local service in a town with a population of under 15,000 people had over 10,000 likes, just as promised.
WOW, I thought… that’s pretty amazing… every person and their dog in that town has liked this page. What have they been doing to get this kind of support? Then the bricks started to crumble. Here’s what I look for, and what you can look for, too, before you get your knickers in a knot about a competitor who seems to have an amazing following.
Likes vs. Engagement
It’s one thing to have 10,000 likes, but are those 10,000 people actually interested in your product or service? One quick way to see is to check the People Talking About This (PTAT) number. This particular page has a couple hundred PTAT this week (Remember, the PTAT is based on interactions in the last seven days). Ok… that’s plausible. Maybe they really do have 10,000 fans.
Then I clicked on the Likes box to see more information about who the audience is. Remember, this is a small, locally-based business. They cannot perform their service outside of this small Atlantic Canadian town.
What does that say? The most popular city of this audience is in Egypt? Huh. That’s very interesting. To me it’s OBVIOUS that this page has bought likes. People in Egypt cannot use this service (unless they come to Canada). What else do I see in this information?
The Likes are decreasing. That likely means the real fans who are there aren’t interested in the content. They probably only came for a contest. Hmmm… I wonder what happened the week of April 28, their most popular week? Oh. LOOK. AT. THAT! They had a huge contest, that did NOT follow the Facebook Terms of Service rules for promotions, and gave away a big prize that did not specify you had to be in their serviceable area to receive. Well, that explains why the Likes are going downhill… they were only there for the prize… or to help someone win a prize.
I’ll give them credit… they were ingenious with this one. It was a voting contest and in order for your vote to count, you too had to like their page. I don’t know which one of their staff they paid to go through all the “votes” on those pictures and determine how many were legitimate likes and how many were not, but… oh… wait… they probably didn’t. Hmmmm….
Back to Engagement
One more thing I needed to look at before I could be certain this page had bought fans. I scrolled through one of the posts that had a lot of engagement. I picked a seemingly innocuous post that had somehow garnered 48 Likes. I would say about half of those likes came from Egypt. WOW… this office sure has a lot of fans from Egypt. Too bad they will never be able to use the service in small town Canada.
Looking Back in Time(line)
As I dug back a little bit further I noticed them thanking people for reaching a milestone of 5,000 Likes. And just two months later they have 10,000? Yes, it’s possible… I did that for one of my clients, but they were a national retail chain. This page is building their fan base on contest upon contest. Yes, they are FABULOUS prizes–trips, concerts, ipads, ipods, even the occasional procedure/treatment from their own office. But they are bringing fans in because of the prizes, not the service or information.
In all of the posts I looked at, ranging back four months or more, I saw about two posts that were educational, maybe five or six that were promoting a product or service they sell, and the rest were all about contests! And there was the holiday message that got shared over 60 times… all by foreign accounts, mostly not in English.
It’s Not All About the Likes
Sure, it’s cool and fun to say you’re the first in your industry to get 10,000 likes. It’s great to have 400 of those 10,000 people clicking Like on your posts each week. But if those people aren’t actually in a position to pay you for your services it’s all a waste of time. How many $800 smartphones are you willing to give away to get those 10,000 Likes?
And the bigger question for me is, what happens to your reputation when people realize you’ve bought a good portion of those followers? It may seem like a little white lie at the time, but is it really? If you had to lie and cheat on something as “insignificant” as Facebook, how are you treating the bigger, more important facets of your business? Can I trust your products? Your workmanship? Your materials? Your pricing?
So look. This is me. It’s what I do. I wonder how a small, local service can get 10,000 Likes in a town with not much more than that for population. You may think I’m crazy, or obsessed, or have too much time on my hands. I want you to be equipped with the understanding of what you’re seeing on Facebook so you can make your own decisions based on the information you can find, not just on what they tell you. In a day when you can buy 10,000 likes for less than your next smartphone, you need to be just a little bit cynical.