back to top

Facebook - the search for those elusive likes

October, 2012

With one billion active users, nobody can deny that Facebook is a popular social network. But if you are the administrator of a company page, how do you encourage those users to visit and like it? Maxim’s Rachel Knight looks into advertising on the site.

I've had the same conversation numerous times with a wide range of people. ‘How do you get people to like your company page on Facebook?’. We all tend to agree that it's not an easy task. After inviting, or possibly begging, everyone you know to like it, where do you go from there?

The answer that has come up time and time again is advertising – not a huge investment but just a little something to get the ball rolling. If a page has more likes when you first visit it, perhaps you are more inclined to think it's worth sticking around? It adds an air of legitimacy. At least, that’s what I used to think.

Communications community

I want Maxim’s Facebook page to be a community where the media is discussed, where people can go to see the latest amusing headline and, occasionally, because we'd be naive not to want to drive traffic to our own website, a link to our latest news.

Creating that community has been a lot harder than I expected it to be. Finding interesting content isn't too difficult (I hope it isn’t too similar to the Condescending Corporate Brand Page which is certainly worth a look) but in nine months we had gained just over one hundred likes – hardly groundbreaking. A lot of those likes are from other brand pages, which, for some unfathomable reason, Facebook doesn’t register on the page’s like counter.

I still have some doubts about the benefit of maintaining a Facebook page for business but I know it is good for SEO and, over time, I have learned to love the layout of the timeline. It enables me to display the history of Maxim, to make each post visually attractive and conversations can be viewed far more easily than on a Twitter thread or in a closed LinkedIn group. However, even posting content that goes viral, in one case seen by 9,000 people, hasn’t resulted in new likes.

I decided to take the plunge – firstly to see if a Facebook advert could increase likes and secondly because social media is a constant learning curve. I need to be able to advise our clients on their own pages so I wanted to learn more about advertising.

Not one to abuse my company credit card, I plumped for a lifetime budget of £12 over a seven day period. I've since tried recreating the campaign, only to be told the budget is too low so I'm not sure why it was allowed the first time.

As with all of the admin on Facebook, it wasn't particularly easy to do. Numerous options allowed to me target what I thought would be the right audience; those living in the UK, aged 20 plus and interested in media, communications and news. After selecting these options, Facebook told me I was targeting around 8,500 people which seemed like a reasonable number.

Within an hour we had our first new like. Bearing in mind that these had been few and far between to date, I was quite excited. That is, until I clicked on the profile. It looked genuine enough but rather alarmingly, the person in question had liked some 5,000 pages. Surely even the most prolific of Facebookers doesn't have time to read all of those posts in their timeline?

Over the next 24 hours another 20 people liked the page and I made a point of looking at each of their profiles. Some looked more genuine than others but for the most part, I had my doubts. Names such as Jonny Jinx Norris, Tommy Dean Copplestone and Peter-Harry Brown cropped up. Almost all of them liked thousands of brand pages – in one case 22,000 – and although to an outsider our page was now appearing to be more popular, I knew those likes were essentially worthless.

That’s part of the issue here. Anyone visiting a Facebook page can see the number of likes but not who they are. That's why brands are persuaded to buy likes in an effort to increase the popularity of their page, something I have always avoided. As with all social media, I believe in quality over quantity.

A visitor can, however, view a graph that shows the history of the page in terms of number of likes so if there's a sudden spike, the likelihood is that likes were purchased or an advert was created. You can also view the city where most of the people talking about the page are from and the most popular age group.

Was Facebook in some way trying to convince me that my advert was working and that it was money well spent? That's certainly what it felt like – unless there really are people out there who are genuinely interested in thousands of brands.

The results of advertising

Over the seven day period the Maxim page gained an additional 56 likes. Not one of those people commented on a post, shared or liked it. I read recently that as the popularity of a page increases the engagement decreases – perhaps these profiles are one of the reasons why?

Our total weekly reach is up by 581% so if I had to draft a report on whether Facebook advertising was successful, that figure would suggest it would be positive. It has certainly increased the number of likes we have received but are any of those likes valuable? You can draw your own conclusions but in my opinion, I think it’s doubtful.

There are plenty of variables including the advert itself, target audience and the amount you spend. In order to get a true picture of whether or not advertising is worthwhile I would need to carry out many more campaigns. However, having dipped a toe in the water, I won’t be rushing to jump in just yet.


After posting this article on Twitter, Andy Ross of ...Happen offered the following insight.

A good and well-reasoned piece. Your suspicions regarding the legitimacy of some of the likes are well founded and can be explained by those three magic words 'Search Engine Optimisation'.

Whilst the individual likers cannot be seen, think of the behaviour you are seeing as a 'link farm'. A user that 'likes' your page will entice you to look at their profile and hope to perhaps send you on to other pages and like them. BUT – they are not really interested in converting you as a person, they are just interested in search engines seeing any links you create as an endorsement.

They create a spider which trawls Facebook as a logged in user and follows the ad links, liking any page they find. This is just bait to try to hook advertisers keen to quantify their investment. Once the spider has been created, it can easily be converted to be any logged in user, looping through thousands of accounts and focussing on generating inbound links to 100s of pages in a farm.

All of the above is purely to generate links for search engines to follow as they trawl Facebook, every link followed to one of the optimiser’s target pages being perceived as a potential 'endorsement'. This practice is not considered unethical, but the benefit will not be a long term one.

This is an evolution of an age old link-spamming practice – whereby a website will spam a site with links in, hoping to pop above the radar in the 'referrer' stats for the site. This then causes the administrator for said site to follow the link and hey-presto they have generated a new visit to the target site.

Rachel Knight - Director

Rachel Knight

Maxim / Director

posted in: advice, marketing, social media,

we'd love to work with you

get in touch