Planning Facebook Ads? It’s more difficult than you had thought

#adverts #click farms #facebook ads

I remember scheduling my first Facebook ad 3 years back. It was the time I was getting started with Facebook Adverts.

My first Facebook ad was not a typical Page Like campaign but a Post Boost ad. Apart from choosing some traits of the target audience, I selected a few major Indian cities with our target audience base.

For a starter, with a budget of mere $5, the results were splendid. It generated thousands of reach. Around 50-60 people liked my post. Plus, I also sent page like invites to people who had liked our posts. Most of responded with a page like. Naturally, it made me happy.

Surprisingly, almost none of the new fans shared or commented on our Facebook posts. I found that hardly 2-3 profiles had clicked on our post.

But so what? At least they were reading our posts and contributing to the traffic. That’s why they liked the post, didn’t they?

Unfortunately, they hadn’t. Google Analytics data suggested otherwise.

I explored more and found that I was not alone. Almost everyone who ever invested in Facebook ads and tracked engagement has faced it too.

Some other difficult Facebook ad stories

An IG report suggested that the US Department of State spent $630,000 to acquire 2 million page likes in return of only 2% engagement.

Beckham’s most Facebook followers came from Cairo. It did make me wonder if football is more popular in Egypt than in Brazil.

The founder of YouTube channel Veritasium also faced the same problem. He paid thousands of dollars to get 80,000 followers on Facebook from developing countries only to get zero engagement from them.

Beckham's Facebook Likes

Similarly, He chose the United States, the UK, Russia, India, Egypt, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines as his target audience. Within minutes since scheduling ads, people stared liking his page. In 24 hours, Virtual Bagel had 1,600 likes for just $10.

As in my case, most of his likes came from particular regions: Egypt, Indonesia and the Philippines. None from US or UK. Cairo turned out to be the city which most liked him. He tracked some profiles and found that one of the follower had liked over 3,000 pages.

Engagement? None!

cialis pricetesco. virtual bagel facebook page

If that didn’t sink in, you would be surprised to know that the Apple’s most Facebook followers came from Dhaka, Bangladesh! Not Washington DC. Not Mumbai. Not Paris. Not London. Not Tokyo. And not even Beijing. I guess Apple is most popular in Dhaka!

apple facebook likes

Why? No! It’s not because of wrong targeting

A typical conclusion one can draw from this: my targeting was not right. And the others were wrong as well. But there’s more to the story.

Of over 10 cities I had selected for the campaign, at least 90% of the responses were coming from New Delhi.

When Virtual Bagel founder focused only on US and UK, he got only 17 likes in 4 days!

Like Rory Cellan-Jones, I also decided to look into some of the profiles who had liked my Facebook page. As I set my eyes deeper into their profiles, it was obvious to conclude that one of them would turn into a paid customer in another lifetime.

They had liked hundreds and thousands of brands which were in competition.

Who would like Ariel, Surf Excel, and Tide at the same time unless he’s doing some social media marketing research?

I still didn’t have the answer’until I heard about click farms.

What is a click farm?

According to Wikipedia:

A click farm is a form of click fraud, where a large group of low-paid workers are hired to click on paid advertising links for the click fraudster (click farm master or click farmer). The workers click the links, surf the target website for a period of time, and possibly sign up for newsletters prior to clicking another link.

Kind of sums up all, doesn’t it?

Counting likes is not what counts

-Suhaas Kaul, Founder of Plovist and Strategist at Urban Ladder


These people who’re liking your page are low-wage workers who’re actually getting paid to click the like button.

Suhaas Kaul: Counting Likes Doesn't Count

Click farms are mostly centred around developing nations which mostly include South Asian countries. India, the Philippines, and Bangladesh are the major hosts of click farms. On an average, workers are paid one USD for liking around a thousand pages.

click farms

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Facebook ads are promoted to people who are often fake. More so, if you’re dealing in sub-continent and developing nations. For instance, mos to my followers came from New Delhi.

Although there are companies who are solely operating on a click farm model, Facebook likes itself are reaching people who can almost be called human bots

The problem goes beyond click farms

If you study Facebook page like policies, they make it clear that they DO NOT offer money to people to like pages. At the same time, Facebook realize that it is happening.

So to tackle it, in 2014, Facebook deleted an estimated 83 million fake accounts which accounted for approximately 11.2% of the 1.3 billion total accounts on Facebook.

The effects were amazing.

Lady Gaga lost 65,505 fans and Facebook itself lost 124,919 page likes. Similarly, Dell lost 2.87% of its likes. The effect was seen across all the celebrities and popular Facebook profiles.

With changing circumstances, organisms evolve. Why would these fake profilers not? After all, they are human. They know how to adapt.

Many fake profilers are now maintaining their Facebook account like a normal user. They talk with friends, like pages, and sometimes, to make it look genuine, also interact with the content.

This makes it difficult for the Facebook to tag a profile as fake or unnatural.

According to a Veritasium video, the number of fake Facebook profiles are way more than Facebook anticipates. And somehow, the click farms are thriving.

As long as Facebook doesn’t come up with a solution to track and remove fake profiles, your Facebook ads in India risk getting caught in the web of click farms.


While with a few hundred rupees you might be able to get thousands of likes, you need to analyze consistently if they are coming from the real people, let alone the target audience. This is the reason when planning Facebook ads, particularly in India, you have to be cautious.

You need to gauge if clicks are distributed across various regions and if the new fans are engaging with the content or not.

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