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Facebook Fraud

Veritasium · Youtube · 1708 HN points · 49 HN comments
HN Theater has aggregated all Hacker News stories and comments that mention Veritasium's video "Facebook Fraud".
Youtube Summary
Evidence Facebook's revenue is based on fake likes.
My first vid on the problem with Facebook:
I know first-hand that Facebook's advertising model is deeply flawed. When I paid to promote my page I gained 80,000 followers in developing countries who didn't care about Veritasium (but I wasn't aware of this at the time). They drove my reach and engagement numbers down, basically rendering the page useless. I am not the only one who has experienced this. Rory Cellan-Jones had the same luck with Virtual Bagel:

The US Department of State spent $630,000 to acquire 2 million page likes and then realized only 2% were engaged.

I thought I would demonstrate that the same thing is still happening now by creating Virtual Cat ( I was surprised to discover something worse - false likes are coming from everywhere, including Canada, the US, the UK, and Australia. So even those carefully targeting their campaigns are likely being duped into spending real money on fake followers. Then when they try to reach their followers they have to pay again.

And it's possible to be a victim of fake likes without even advertising. Pages that end up on Facebook's "International Suggested Pages" are also easy targets for click-farms seeking to diversify their likes.

Thanks to Henry, Grey, and Nessy for feedback on earlier drafts of this video.
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Hacker News Stories and Comments

All the comments and stories posted to Hacker News that reference this video.
> and now we are getting these accusations thrown at platforms etc.

What?! This problem existed for so many years! And it wasn't some niche knowledge but pretty mainstream already in 2014 (Veritassium video "Facebook Fraud" with 6M views):

I think the point is, the problem isn't a problem if it is priced into the product. It's cheap as hell to show ads on a cost per delivery model because the value is low, in part because of bots, in part because people don't click on ads much and in part because it's not clear how useful they are for building brand awareness. If there are more bots than previously suspected, sites will need to charge less to account for that. That's how the market functions, not a sign that it is not functioning.
Jul 13, 2022 · neets on Twitter Sues Elon Musk
Obliterating his reputation? Have you not seen the changes he has forced on twitter? For example after the purchase announcement a bunch of politically correct twitter users lost a sizable number of followers and politically incorrect users gained sizable number of followers.[1] Likely having to do with the bot problem.

Seeing the headlines and social blade stats mentioned in [1] reminded me of veritasium video about facebook fraud (bots).[2] This video demonstrates just how easy it was to buy fake likes on facebook. Doing some basic research shows that buying twitter followers is pretty cheap. After doing some basic analytics the creator finds where the bot accounts are very likely from. Looking at the same engagement statistics of political figures shows some pretty interesting results.

But then things get interesting when you take Dead Internet Theory into account.[3] Elon has made it pretty clear that he views AI as a possible existential threat to humanity and if the majority of the internet is indeed fake accounts managed by a minority manipulating the masses something ought to be done and nobody is talking about it. Elon seem to be trying to fix humanities sense making apparatus.




> Elon seem to be trying to fix humanities sense making apparatus.

Remarkable that this is what you are taking away from this fiasco.

Feb 19, 2021 · 2 points, 0 comments · submitted by lawrenceyan
Feb 19, 2021 · 1 points, 0 comments · submitted by spideymans
You're not the only person. Here's Veritasium reporting on it in 2014:
When I ran a campaign I experienced similar problems. Received likes from very dubious looking Facebook profiles who likes all sorts of random stuff.
May 15, 2019 · 1 points, 0 comments · submitted by trpc
Happy to see Veritasium getting some attention on HN. You may have seen his previous video from 2014, Facebook Fraud:

One of my favorite videos is on his alternate channel, 2veritasum. Survivor Bias:

He's a great presenter, not the normal dumbed down documentaries that are fashionable these days. He actually tries to explain things, not just waffle and make the watcher feel good.

He recently made a full length movie:

... for now.

We just tried to use it to advertise and had exactly this experience:

Pulled the plug. Nothing but worthless traffic, no engagement.

tl;dr on that video: You pay Facebook to promote your page to X number of people. The problem is that paid third-world clickfarms spam likes to everything they can find, not just to things they're paid to like, in order to camouflage themselves. Thus, the majority of likes you get by promoting your page are fake and don't actually represent engaged fans. You're paying for nothing.

(Feel free to correct me)

This sounds more like an issue with your ad targetting than with Facebook.

First step: only target users in countries that you care about and (sadly) do not target Indonesia, India, Pakistan or anywhere in Africa as these are mostly where the fake profiles are.

Did you watch the video that the parent shared? From the sounds of it, targeting didn't seem to help at all. The video stated that they seem to think that clickfarmers will like -anything- so that a sudden surge of likes from a specific region on a specific page seems less fishy.
That is what we found. Targeting didn't matter.

YMMV of course but we did not find Facebook ads effective at anything but reaching click farms.

I disagree that any specific advice will help an individual marketer...I think the biggest issue is that the economics of acquisition on social (factoring in internet marketing budgets and customer LTV) doesn't work well for brands that aren't already operating at significant scale. Otherwise, Teespring would be a billion dollar company by now ;)

My guess is that social marketing works ok for brands that have a strong competitive position AND healthy margins.

Healthy margins and product appeal moreso than competitive position.

Teesprings product offering is far too broad to benefit specific targeting which really just leads to low user intent, which leads to huge acquisition costs. No one gets excited for tshirts.

Products outside of these hugely saturated markets do amazingly well if you know what you're doing.

for a fantastic expose of how facebook is riddled with fraud and bots, check out veritasium's two videos:

facebook fraud

the problem with facebook

Feb 12, 2017 · 2 points, 0 comments · submitted by deafcalculus
Probably this:
I thought they had dealt with that since. Guess they have no real incentive to do so.
That video doesn't seem particularly relevant to the question; it talks about fake likes, but makes the point that those fake users don't engage with the content at all.
It's from 2014. Fake likes could also do fake comments now, it's also a metric used for engagement.
"Facebook fraud" is a video anyone who considers paid ads MUST watch:
exactly, Veritasium covers this in meticulous detail in his two videos on facebook fraud:

> Is that for real? Is everyone else's experience with Facebook advertising similar?

Yeah. It's called "Facebook Fraud". See a real live experiment someone did, to figure out the true reach and ROI on Facebook Advertizing. => I too did a similar experiment using a pre-paid Visa card (for 50$) so that FB doesn't keep charging my Credit Card and/or lets it get stolen from bad security practices. My results were similar to the guy in the Youtube Video.

Facebook's likes and "reach" are mostly automated or from in-house click-farms in South-east asia (think India, Vietnam, Phillipines etc)

A potential solution for facebook (if they were inclined) might be to not charge for likes from accounts less than N days old or from accounts with > M total page likes. At least this would make it harder for click farms to get around... or, ya know, try and model click-farm accounts which seems pretty tractable.
> A potential solution for Facebook

Sorry, but Facebook is not looking for a solution. I should've made it clearer in my response, that the like and click farms are managed by Facebook themselves.

They (the Ads Team) moved the click-farms and fake likes in-house after discovering other shady companies that were doing this. Then I think they realized how lucrative it was to their share price and quarterly revenues bottom-line so they went with it.

That's a pretty extreme claim. Is there any evidence?
Yes. See my other comments and evidence (the most I could provide without getting in trouble). I worked at the Ads Team as a Contractor.
Just because you get a lot of clicks from Asia, it doesn't mean that they have click farms there. Don't know if you've been to Southeast Asia, but there are a lot of people and most of them use Facebook. If they see the ad they might click it because they're interested, even though they cannot buy the product because they're in the wrong country. Still doesn't mean that FB fakes clicks, it just means they target them badly.

And even if the accounts are fake, they were likely created to sell followers/likes, not to click ads. Clicking on things just shows activity.

I'm sorry I can't really get into a discussion with you (or anyone else) without getting into serious NDA violations.
Why the heck would FB run their own click farms? They own the database... They could generate clicks at will. This is the dumbest conspiracy theory I've seen in a while.
Running a click farm instead of editing the database would be the sensible thing to do when trying to keep the operation secret. That way, people inside FB would not know about the fraud.
Technically, it wasn't FB, it was Jared doing it secretly, until he was caught by Richard. They tried to keep it secret, but Dinesh and Gilfoyle eventually realized where the uptick in users came from. Dinesh _did_ then offer Richard a program to do just that, edit the databases directly...

Man, I can't wait for Silicon Valley to come back next season lol

That video is well worth a watch, but to summarise it: the channel owner's users are predominantly first-world and engage with his channel to some degree. He purchased FB advertising to promote his channel, and got a huge amount of traffic 'from' third-world locations that didn't engage (leave comments, etc) and that came from content-free FB accounts that liked hundreds to thousands of FB pages with no particular pattern.

Couldn't be more obviously a scam if it was twirling a waxed moustache.

"Couldn't be more obviously a scam if it was twirling a waxed moustache." I am absolutely going to use this at the earliest possible situation!
I've had this experience as well. I'd love an opportunity to chat with someone who runs these click farms for a living, so I can understand their motivations a little more clearly.

I can't wrap my head around why someone would run a bot farm to click on my FB ads. It's not like AdSense, where they're getting a cut. I've read a theory it's to hide the bot accounts from Facebook's bot-detectors. But if people like in your experience can easily ID the obviously fake accounts, FB can (using the same criteria you mentioned).

I get FB has moral hazard to allow bot clicks, because they get paid. But if they're so sophisticated as to require fake engagement on ads (which is why I care -- I'm getting charged!), wouldn't they also be monitoring the simple heuristic you provided?

This could be explained by Facebook requiring bots to make them money to not get banned, but I don't think there's sufficient evidence for such a conspiracy just yet.

In the end, all I care about is how much I put into FB ads, and how much directly attributable revenue that generates. The fraud might hide otherwise profitable campaigns (ones that don't break even), but frequently this isn't the primary concern. (My concerns are usually, "does this part of Lake Facebook have any fish I can catch?", followed by the step 2 of optimizing the campaign to get a positive ROI.

The click farms are a bit more sophisticated than that. Follows and likes are priced based on the level of human intervention: simple bots are cheap but less persistent since they are easy to distinguish from organic traffic. Fake accounts created manually are much harder to detect.
Like someone below said bots are more complicated than just clicking on what brings them money.

In order to be not detected as bots, they need to behave like humans. Hence, they like and visit websites that they have no special interest in. Think of it this way: 50% of what they click is just something random, other 50% is what their masters programmed them to do.

This really doesn't have to do anything with Facebook. There are companies in Russia and India that sell likes, follows, etc. These bots then have to fake their identity and as a result they like stuff that you pay for as Facebook advertiser. I am sure Facebook does something to mitigate this and block the bots but it's a never-ending game for them and those who sell fake like/follows/etc.

I'm guessing he meant to link to this one about paid promotions leading to mostly fake likes and views from click farms:

> When I paid to promote my page I gained 80,000 followers in developing countries who didn't care about Veritasium (but I wasn't aware of this at the time). They drove my reach and engagement numbers down, basically rendering the page useless.

> I thought I would demonstrate that the same thing is still happening now by creating Virtual Cat ( I was surprised to discover something worse - false likes are coming from everywhere, including Canada, the US, the UK, and Australia. So even those carefully targeting their campaigns are likely being duped into spending real money on fake followers. Then when they try to reach their followers they have to pay again.

> I'm guessing he meant to link to this one about paid promotions

Yes, this one also. If anyone thinks this is a 'Conspiracy theory', you can confirm or refute it yourself for less than 50$, the way I did and the way the BBC reporter in this above video did.

After I left the Ad Team, and horrified at what I saw as widespread fraud, I registered a throwaway domain, put some viral videos from youtube, injected google analytics on the site / blog, bought a pre-paid visa card for 50$ (so facebook doesn't keep auto charging my card) and 'promoted' my blog posts shared on a Facebook page I set up.

Just like the BBC author, I noticed most of my 'Likes' on the FB page were from Indonesia, Pakistan, and many from Vietnam. And I checked some of the profiles, and they either appeared down right fake (i.e. no activity other than liking a 1000+ FB pages, or they weren't active since like 2011 or 12.

Worse still, for the pages I did promote - i.e. blog posts shared on FB wall for 5$ / day, I barely got 10 click-throughs to the actual post, but the Ad analytics said I "reached 600 / 700 something" viewers.

WTF does that mean??? ( I know what it means, that they "displayed" it in their feed) But how does this help any one, think small businesses, grow their brand or business??)

Facebook Scam:

Most of views, if not all, are from click farms. Stop wasting your money.

Assuming that click fraud is pervasive across all advertisers, the fact that it exists should have no bearing on your ROI as an advertiser.

FBX is a RTB ad exchange. If only 10% of clicks are real, you simply bid 10% less than you would otherwise. You'll get the same ROI.

This is true. However, Facebook & Google deal mainly with 'dumb money', eg, ad money not analyzed or checked. Fraud doesn't affect people that know how to calculate ROI from a CPC campaign -- fraud affects "Coke" trying to run a large spend near the end of the quarter. Thus when these large companies ignore fraud or view inflation -- it does steal from ad companies that could have offered a real ROI and it steals from the client.
And as long as there are dumb clients out there spending vast sums of money indiscriminately without demanding to see results, there will be very little motivation to fix anything. Those clients are mentally still stuck in the TV age, where measuring results is hard and hoping for the best is the mindset.
It gets even funnier. Because of dumb money - the costs per CPI goes up. Thus startups can never tell why fb ads have little to no return. AND fb and google are incentivized to make the system less transparent.
Lol what? Facebook and Google promised to solve the measurement problem and uhh... they haven't.

As far as I can tell the entire ad industry is just all the various parties either fudging numbers or blatantly lying to each other. So long as no one calls anyone else out, they all walk away with a happy sum.

The thing is that ad ROI is super hard to measure for branding campaigns. Coca-Cola can't tell exactly what their Facebook ROI is and a lot of the people who buy ads for those types of companies have incentives to overrate the ROI of these ads, too (because thats basically the rating of their work).
Interesting, I suppose I never thought about it from the perspective of an advertiser who is not direct response driven. That is, there may actually be players in the exchange who are buying eyeballs -- not conversions.
Of course. You can't click on a billboard and those have existed forever.
Your math doesn't work out. If 10% are real, you'd need to bid 90% less. And that also totally ignores that you are bidding against others and wont get clicks for 90% less.
I've got to throw in my two cents, I recently ran an ad campaign that was extremely successful with very low cost per not only click, but cost per conversion/acquisition. Keep in mind this ad campaign only dealt with people located and posting in the US but even if some of the "clicks" were fake it still was the cheapest and by far most effective campaign that I've ever ran.

I was constantly updating and monitoring my campaign just like an Adwords campaign which you should. These aren't "set and forget" hope you get customers. Monitor your return, if results are poor move your ad dollars elsewhere.

That reminds me, did they ever address the Click Farm problem that was essentially rendering likes and views worthless for many advertisers?

Or the rampant Freebooting?

It's hard to imagine them doing so, because up until a certain point (advertisers leaving, which we ain't there yet) it's not in their interest.

It brings me back to something I complained about on these boards years ago. I was working with a fairly small social gaming company about 10 years ago, during which time Facebook was boasting about "300m, 400m, 500m users!". Meanwhile, we were learning that almost half the users in our game were "fake" accounts. It was a major issue, but wasn't in the interests of Facebook to disclose during their hyper-growth. In fact, they made a point to state that fake accounts was not an problem.

Clearly Facebook will use the metrics when they are convenient, despite their invalidity.

Thanks for mentioning this. It bothers me immensely that they report 1.79 billion MAU. Is that discounted for social game mining accounts / spam bots? If not, that seems like a material issue in their reporting.
I had to learn the hard way that any number the development team gave the marketing group would be used in a way we would come to regret. It's a big part of my cynicism about the industry.

People remember numbers but lose the context. Especially people whose bonuses depend on misunderstanding them.

It is not just advertising. It is the click farms that facebook has deployed. If you have not spent money to advertise on facebook then please do not down vote.

Update 1:

Sources (Sorry, I missed them earlier) -

1. Self experience.


> It is the click farms that facebook has deployed.

Please provide a source when making a claim like this.

Also relevant - Veritasium: Facebook Fraud [1]

The attitudes of this company and its founder are becoming more and more irritating. The other day he started getting more political about immigration and open boarders [1]. I get it, he's a globalist proposing his own self-interests. But it doesn't take a genius to see his hypocricy, living in a gated fortress with private security, being shuttled around various places occupied exclusively with the 1%.

I predict that Facebook is pretty fucked in about a decade from now. I already see the demographics tipping - all the younger girls I've dated prefer Snapchat, and use FB only as a force of habit, and even that's waning. People closer to my age group don't want to post anything that could possibly damage their real identity's reputation in anyone's eyes: goodbye interesting content. Older people who used the internet before 2000 really do see the value in anonymity and alternate identities and don't see it as "a lack of integrity" [2]. And let's not forget about clickfarms [3].

It's not going to die like MySpace, but it's not going to be anything special, either.

[1] -

[2] -

[3] -

Yes, I can easily see Facebook declining as far as a general social network goes, unless something changes. Zuckerberg's attitude about not keeping your public and private life separate really needs to change in this regard -- one of the big reasons I hear people avoid Facebook is the lack of privacy. Kind of fitting that Snapchat is the new rising star.

Having said that, right now, Facebook still seems to be one of the dominant tools for business to consumer communication. (In particular, many small businesses survive with an online presence of a minimal web page and a Facebook site for day-to-day updates.) You never know, but unless something rises to challenge that angle of Facebook, I don't see them going away anytime soon.

like fraud and click fraud are two separate issues. like fraud is highly pervasive, there's tons of evidence on it.


click fraud less so. i've run marketing campaigns and you do see some clicks missing in google analytics, but it's not as bad as the like fraud.

Facebook is the biggest scam for most businesses.

1) They've pulled bait and switch when they decided to charge to reach users that have already liked your page. Most of those users liked your page because you've posted a link to FB on your site.

2) Click fraud is rampant [1]

3) They make money on copyrighted videos + ripping off YouTube content creators [2]



You are wrong on #1. The biggest con was Facebook selling those "likes" to your competitors.

#2 addressed elsewhere

#3 YouTube started through copyright violations and continues to benefit from copyrighted content today (if the rightsholders do not try to enforce.)

If the rights holders do not want to enforce take-downs on their content (eg because they're getting promotional value from it or otherwise), then it's not in any way wrong to benefit from said copyrighted content. In fact it's smart and appropriate to use copyrighted content in that case.

Just because something is copyrighted doesn't mean it's inherently or by default illegal or improper to use without permission - it means it may be.

You could repeat the exact same sentences for Facebook usage of videos as well.

Both FB and YT are benefiting from copyrighted content used illegally. The copyright owners don't have time to search and hunt down every last one of thousands of copies of their videos posted. Even when they do, the new ones just pop up a week later and people uploading are getting smarter with various tricks that prevent automatic detection.

Just want to say that it is default illegal to infringe copyright. It is a civil offence in most countries, but it is still illegal. You can be sued and "But you never complained" is not a valid defence. This is true of any country that signed the Berne convention. In many countries if you infringe copyright for profit, it becomes a criminal offence and you can actually go to jail.

I am not a lawyer. This is not legal advice. Read the copyright law in your area. You will undoubtedly be very surprised at how wrong you are.

People do not blindly spend on advertising. For most people there will always be alternatives and they will compare the eventual conversion.

Online advertising is remarkably free market sort of business where fraud does not last longer.

To say Facebook is the biggest scam is too extreme. Click fraud exists on every single platform. Pay a hundred mechanical turk and they can click for you all day long.
I guess it depends on the industry but from my own personal experience, fraud is non-existent if your targeting decently specific (i.e. specific interests).
Facebook makes it really easy to track your cost per conversion (e.g. subscribe, signup or sale), and if you report revenue data back to them you can track and optimize for revenue.

The only excuse for loosing money on FB in the long-term is unsuccessful experimentation and that shouldn't be huge quantities.

Big spenders do a lot of due diligence to make sure that the money they spend is actually giving them a positive return. It's not like businesses just throw millions down the drain and hope it gives them results. Facebook is working great for them and it is not a scam otherwise businesses wouldn't be spending billions on advertising there every quarter.
Or, as pointed out in a comment above, everybody is lying to everybody and the only loser is the customer. The customer may still find advertising to be a net win, but they have no clue to what degree it is such.
Facebook has a history of fraud in their other services. Veritasium fell victim to FB's scams as a publisher a couple years ago[1].

    I know first-hand that Facebook's advertising model is deeply flawed. When I paid to
    promote my page I gained 80,000 followers in developing countries who didn't care about
    Veritasium (but I wasn't aware of this at the time). They drove my reach and engagement
    numbers down, basically rendering the page useless.
They also have a history of encouraging video fraud[2][3].




How many people do you know that have ever purchased anything from a Facebook ad or clicked on one other than by accident?

Ads are increasingly about product placement, brand presence and being top of mind. Especially when you can be sure that 80% of your clickthroughs on Facebook are from some bot network that Facebook doesn't bother to crack down on because it adds to their userbase metric, which is what the derive such a high valuation from. [1]

I'm sure coke, nestle, and other branded basic commodities (food, drink, clothing) would love a way to show ads to this low-income segment.


How active are those users that like your page? Are you sure it is worth it. Veritasium(A YouTube channel) bought ads, it worked but the users never interacted with any of the content be produced anywhere. Veritasium : Facebook Fraud

I am not sure this answers your question, but it might be something to consider.

Veritaseum did a nice analysis and summary of this exact situation.
It appears their interest lies in:

(a) having a competitive advantage in raw, large-scaled _metrics_ that Google does not have (see also: Facebook's emotion and behavioral studies[0])

(b) Being able to monetize their advertising platform better. They are well aware that their current numbers are blown up by fake likes, and clickfarms [1]

At least this is just my take. I'm sure there are also other interests behind the scenes.



facebook as a platform and business is hollow, but very few realize it. this is similar to Enron, Madoff, the financial crisis, Groupon, etc. history has shown that 99.99999% of people totally miss these business models that are built on a MASSIVELY fraudulent or hollow foundation.

When the music stops thousands and thousands of gallons of pixels will be spilt trying to explain how nobody saw their collapse coming and why they are not to blame.

Here are two videos that succinctly introduce the reality of facebook's mirage:

Jul 08, 2015 · pen2l on Facebook’s Piracy Problem
Did you watch his video where he explains his views himself? I find it pretty convincing:

Interestingly, a lot of people are getting very frustrated with Facebook for other reasons as well. Famously, there's Veritasium's video:

I can really appreciate what they're feeling. With piracy as we have traditionally known it, at least usually the pirate is not directly profiting from his act of piracy. With freebooting, Facebook is literally profiting from other people's work. It's directly diverting money flow from the creator (who REALLY NEED THE MONEY) to Facebook. I think it's plainly ridiculous this is happening, and obviously Facebook will turn a blind eye to it because it's making them money. This is one of the reasons why I encourage whitehat security researchers to turn a little gray when it comes to Facebook and do things to bring them down, it'll be for the greater good to bring the behemoth down.

for those interested in this topic these two excellent videos from veritasium corroborate this article and go beyond to explain the stark implications for facebook's business model:

facebook fraud:

the problem with facebook:

> From January 2013 to February 2014, a global team of researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Software Systems, Microsoft’s and AT&T’s research labs, as well as Boston and Northeastern Universities, conducted an experiment designed to determine just how often advertising campaigns resulted in likes from fake profiles. The researchers ran ten Facebook advertising campaigns, and when they analyzed the likes resulting from those campaigns, they found that 1,867 of the 2,767 likes—or about 67 percent—appeared to be illegitimate. After being informed of these suspicions, Facebook corroborated much of the team’s work by erasing 1,730 of the likes. Sympathetic researchers from a study run by the online marketing website Search Engine Journal have suggested that targeted Facebook advertisements can yield suspicious likes at a rate above 50 percent. In the fall of 2014, Professor Emiliano De Cristofaro of the University College of London presented research which found that even a page explicitly labeled as fake gained followers—the vast majority presumably bots.

> The bot buildup can even affect companies that aren’t advertising with Facebook, but are just passively hoping their pages gain real fans. In 2014, Harvard University’s Facebook fans were most engaged in Dhaka, Bangladesh. (They stated that they did not pay for likes.) A 2012 article in The New York Times suggested that as much as 70 percent of President Obama’s 19 million Twitter followers were fake. (His campaign denied buying followers.) Less prominent pages from across the world—from those belonging to the English metal band Red Seas Fire to international bloggers—have been spontaneously overwhelmed by bots that are attempting to mask their illicit activity by glomming on to real social media profiles.

Fake accounts would like Harvard and Obama to appear as real Americans.
perhaps this is why FB has been de-emphasizing the importance of likes to advertisers.
The Veritasium videos are excellent explanations of the dynamics of the click/fan fraud and perverse incentives for Facebook.
for those who haven't seen these two relevant veritasium videos:

Since this seems to just be a braindump, I might as well add Veritasium's comments on the matter:

I found them pretty interesting listening from a content-distribution and -consumption side of things, rather than from a social-network perspective.

Reminds me of this video [] on the bogus Facebook engagement you pay for:
The advertising doesn't really help you, though. You're forced to pay for advertising which ends up targeted at people who don't engage with your brand.

Check this out:

Unless something has dramatically changed since that video was created 9 months ago, the situation is pretty grim.

That video complains that page likes often come from click farms instead of actual people. If that's the case then posts going to 70k so-called fans are seen by far fewer sets of eyes, whether they're paid or not. You can't have it both ways, and in either case the metrics are far more reliable than TV/radio/print.
Fake non-responsive non-engaging likes to pages and more. See this, it's very true:

I have seen that. That mostly has to do with boost posts though. We only use custom tailored audiences for our ads and it works quite well. Albeit there's a lot of data scrubbing.
It really goes beyond that. Facebook wants to own your audience and that is fundamentally wrong.

Let's say I spend $100K advertising on FB to get people a my FB page or group. In order to now be able to reach them I have to constantly pay FB through boosts and further ads.

Why? Because they've installed a mechanism through which they limit the reach of every single post you make on your page. And, if a percentage of your likes are fake or non-responsive for various reasons (they liked the picture on your ad, couldn't care less about your content) it is very likely your posts will be to a great degree wasted on a useless audience.

In addition to this they have NOT installed a mechanism through which I can engage with my entire audience. I understand that people don't want their timeline spammed. At the same time, they liked the page. If they liked Tesla it is likely they want to hear from Tesla. Facebook provides no mechanism through which you can do this (message your entire audience) unless you pay them for every single point of contact on every single message/post.

This, to me, is fundamentally wrong. They don't own my customers. I do. A fan page or group owner should not have to pay FB over and over again to reach his or her audience. It's a scam.

In sharp contrast to this, if I spend the same $100K advertising on Google and get my customers/likes/fans to register on my site I can then build a real relationship with them over time. If they don't like what I am saying they can opt out of the emails they receive. If they do, they keep receiving them. And I don't have to spend tens of thousands of dollars every time I need to communicate with them.

A more concrete example is a product we tested on FB. It was aimed at medical professionals. With custom audiences you'd think you can reach a good number of your prospects. That isn't necessarily true. The heuristics they use can deliver anyone who, for example, likes pages with medical information. I am being simplistic. I think you get the point. Still, a good argument could be made that one could do worst outside FB. In terms of targeting a narrow audience this might mostly be true depending on the approach taken.

Reaching medical professionals on FB is expensive. Likes can easily cost you more than a dollar when all is said and done. And, generally speaking, there isn't a 1 to 1 relationship between ad spend and actions or page likes. So, you spend $100K to reach medical professionals and you might get 1,000 to 5,000 legitimate likes. In other words, you could actually spend a very real $20 to $100 per prospect. And then you have to spend money again every single time you need to reach them. We all know that a marketing message must be received multiple times before action is produced. You could very easily spend another $10 per prospect before you get a conversion. That's why I say this is a huge scam. If I spent $20 to $100 per effective member to a page or group, from that point forward they should be my members, prospects or customers, not Facebook's. And extorting money out of me in order to reach all of them with every post is just plain wrong.

The same scenario plays out far better if you avoid FB, use Google and other channels to reach your desired audience and bring people to your own environment for engagement. We've tested this with various audiences and also had plenty of prior experience before advertising on FB. We can consistently produce better results out of direct engagement with an email list as small as 200 people than by spending almost any amount of money on FB.

This is why I don't understand when I see TV ads where companies are subverting their brands to FB by telling people to go to their FB page rather than their own landing pages. They spend millions of dollars creating and airing these ads and then they have to go back and shovel more money at FB to reach the very people they spent so much money to target. That's just insane. More people doesn't mean better results.

In the end I think it is about a basic business formula: Is there a more cost-effective and higher-converting approach to reaching customers and building relationships with them than using FB ads? At the moment my answer to that question is: Yes. Absolutely. I could be wrong but my experiences so far tell me otherwise.

Oct 31, 2014 · rwinn on Q&A with Mark Zuckerberg
Top comment (for me):

    Hello Zuck, I would like to ask that when our facebook fanpage's reach will be come back? its too frustrating having 100k -likes with only 1k, 2k reach ,& 1m likes with only 10k, 20k reach .. sometimes too low
    Don't destroy our hard work and efforts, we want organic reach back !!! im not the only one who is unhappy with pages post reach . , Hope u are not ignoring my comment . thanks

    (i also wanted to know that is there any source to reach you ? if there is, i want to know..and if establish one... a good idea can come from anywhere..from anyone.. )
I've also experienced this, you're only able to reach 5-10% of your fans without paying. Only way of getting a message out to all your fans is to "boost" your post, which will cost you around 0.015 EUR per like the page has. [1]

And on top of that if you ever used Facebook ads to get likes to your page, a majority of those are fake. [2]

[1] Based on my rough calculations on a couple of pages I run.


As a user of Facebook if all of the page's I've liked over the years were able to get my attention whenever they wanted it I would not be a Facebook user
at my company, like many other companies... we've found that advertising on facebook is almost pointless (the paid adverts). the actual engaged customer return you get back is not enough to justify the cost.

Think about it, how many users are on facebook chatting with friends, see an advert, and suddenly say, "gee, i'm going to go buy that!". It doesn't happen often.

Facebook's display ads won't be profitable for every direct response advertiser, but they are incredibly effective.

Have you tried working with third parties like Nanigans or Tellapart to optimize your ads?

> but they are incredibly effective

No they are not. They are only effective for very specific and narrow Brand promoting.

Email marketing, Bing and Google, and Amazon ads are all far, far more effective than Facebook ads are, or ever will be.

You can "Boost" a facebook post, get 100's of thousands of views/impressions and 1000's of likes on it. Yet, maybe a small handful of users actually convert into a sale. That is simply not worth the money nor time. And of the users who have "liked" your ad, very few actually engage again unless you "Boost" another post. There have been countless write-ups about this supposed "Facebook sanctioned click-net" of users who somehow "like" everything yet never actually engage.

Removed quotation sidescrolling:

> Hello Zuck, I would like to ask that when our facebook fanpage's reach will be come back? its too frustrating having 100k -likes with only 1k, 2k reach ,& 1m likes with only 10k, 20k reach .. sometimes too low

> Don't destroy our hard work and efforts, we want organic reach back !!! im not the only one who is unhappy with pages post reach . , Hope u are not ignoring my comment . thanks

> (i also wanted to know that is there any source to reach you ? if there is, i want to know..and if establish one... a good idea can come from anywhere..from anyone.. )

facebook ads are junk and have been proven to be so

before you waste any money, watch these two videos:

If you're not buying likes, then the quality of likes doesn't matter. Many (most?) of the ads on the sidebar aren't for page likes, they're links to businesses/products, like most other ads on the net. ROI is easily measured there -- more revenue generated via sales/signups than the cost of the ad or you cancel it. Facebook ads are profitable for many businesses. They are for mine.
I agreed with you up to the "ROI is easily measured there" part Dan.

I've never used Improvely so I'm not sure how deep down the cross-channel attribution rabbit hole you get with it, but social, and display in general, are far from being solved problems with regards to measuring ROI.

There are of course a few cases where ROI is indeed easily measured. Someone sees a FB ad, clicks it, and converts without any other touch-points in their path to conversion. I think we can all agree FB would get 100% attribution credit in this instance.

But the second you throw in any sort of existing brand awareness generated by other channels, or FB's contribution to said awareness for driving conversions in more last-touch inclined channels, it becomes very murky indeed.

There's a reason all of the 3rd party dynamic attribution vendors like VisualIQ, Convertro and Adometry have been bought up by the big players.

Would love to know your thoughts on solving for this problem though as it is increasingly a large one as the targeting side of the display world continues to eclipse progress of actually measuring the performance of said display efforts at a staggering rate.

Well, you said it yourself. Track everything you possibly can, then get an SQL server and start modeling. Nowadays, you can do basically everything you need in excel. I wouldn't say it's easy by no means, but if you are dedicated you can make it work. Just get a book about MMM and start tinkering with the data.
I would disagree with you. if executed correctly they can generate a really great return. it entirely depends on what you're promoting and how you're promoting it just like any other channel.
People with no marketing or advertising background, spending laughable amounts of money declare that an extremely sophisticated platform is junk.

It's like me saying Boeing's products are junk, because I can't assemble a spaceship.

I know many mobile game devs who say that Facebook is, by far, their most effective advertising.
Yes or just human spammers in low labor cost countries.

> I'd be happy to pay tax money to subsidize internet for low-income households. But I want that on my tax bill, not my cable bill.

But you know it as well as I do that that's not happening. I had to hear it from my grandma, Rush Limbaugh, and about 4 or 5 neighbors on my street about Sandra Fluke having the nerve to suggest contraceptive drugs be included as part of healthcare - can you imagine the kind of outrage you'd see at the idea of people's internet being put on your tax bill? That's never happening, it's not a politically viable solution, full stop. Heck, I know even very smart and educated people who like to regard the internet as a waste of time with nothing of worth.

> Depriving the telecom companies of profits just means that investors will take their capital somewhere more profitable, like peddling advertising to kids:

You're very correct there. Personally, I'm convinced that Facebook is a house of cards that will soon fall ( and I hope and pray that it does so very soon. And that it'll take down a lot of others too, with it. I have no good answers here, I just people were a little more assertive in spewing away anything with the FB logo. Let's hope all of this advertising model is a passing phase and we get over it.

Veritasium on youtube has a couple of videos breaking down the numbers - not only do you have to pay to get views now, but the views delivered above and beyond what you usually get are fraudulent.

He showed the usage of his page beforehand, with users clustered in Western countries, generally 20-40% of whom interacted with his page in some way. After paying for more views, they were all from developing countries, a profile of users he'd never seen before with very little (0-1%) engagement with his page.

It's worth checking out his videos if you want more detail on the patterns he found. It's pretty clear that it's fraudulent. (explores problems he sees with FB as a marketing platform) (massive influx of unengaged developing-world pageviews)
yay! new ways to shred your ad budget on facebook's fraudulent clicks and spam click farms

Apr 07, 2014 · sparkie on Ask HN: Idea Sunday
I mean, we're practically all advertisers in some way or another - every time we share a promotion with our friends, or even just discuss a new product we're interested in. Most of the time we're not advertising for the sake of profit, but just sharing interests with like-minded people.

Social media outlets attempt to tap into our general ignorance of advertising profitability - and they act as the middle-man between companies wishing to advertise, and the people who're sharing with friends - but facebook take all of the profit by inserting themselves between these relationships, and the users who are sharing don't notice they done a large part of the advertising work, for free.

Facebook can obviously provide some usefulness, because it knows where you are, what your interests are, and your recent activities - so it can target you for specific promotions. A recent video by Vertitasium[1] showed how this isn't without problems though, and does not directly correspond to ROI for advertisers. (Likewise with many advertising models, there's always people trying to game them to earn a quick buck). Facebook provide the "advertising seed", by predicting who is likely to share.

I see a different potential model that could arise with the gaining popularity of cryptocurrencies and electronic transactions though - one where advertisers only pay when it results in a direct ROI, by tracing electronic signatures through a public, distributed ledger.

If a company wants to promote a product, and they offer a $10 advertising bounty for every advertisement which results in a direct sale. They initially create two digital signatures using "cryptocurrency X" and pass them to advertising agencies A and B. A advertises the product with "Get $5 back off your purchase when you register your product using X", in which they make this guarantee by creating a transaction whereby the original input transaction from the company is used as the input, and the output is split in half between the buyer and A. When the buyer then registers their product with the advertising company, they release the $10 into the public ledger, which propagates $5 to A, and $5 back to the buyer. B is greedy and wants all of the $10 for themselves, but fails to make any direct sale, and thus, is not paid anything.

In this way, there can be any number of middle-men between the company and the buyer, and each party can agree on the fees they wish to have for each direct sale that results. By having a public ledger of who is making the sales, companies and advertisers alike can use analytics to discover the best routes to sales, and narrow down their advertising strategies, and agree on the most reasonable fees for each of the parties involved.

The social media aspect is to have this technology encoded into the social platform, such that it is mostly invisible to users - they simply "promote" an existing post which has a bounty attached to it, and if those re-posts eventually result in direct sales, their wallet starts to grow. The part where users need to actively know about the system is when they purchase and register their purchase, such as to trigger the release of the advertising fees through the chain in the public ledger.

These are only rough ideas and I have no idea how they'd be implemented effectively, including issues around anonymity and ensuring the system cannot be gamed by registering a product then returning it, for example, but I think there's infinite potential for such ideas to replace the advertising empires - so that literally anyone can become a paid-advertiser, and where ones effectiveness as an advertiser results in profit. This wouldn't make facebook et al obsolete, only distribute the profit a bit more - and it would help to improve the AI which is behind FB's advertising, as it would be inefficient to promote things which aren't likely to result in direct sales. Everyone wins, although facebook's profits may decline a bit.

[1]:, also

In the test that this guy did for himself, restricting by country didn't help:
Yes. Here's a video (by youtube user Veritasium) that walks through an experiment and explanation, for those who are interested.

There's a good analysis for this phenomenon:

It was posted on HN a while back. The gist is that there's a high chance that your ad was clicked by click farms, even though you bought it legitimately from facebook (in an effort to fool clickfarm detection, apparently).

What's even more interesting is that not only are you wasting money buying the ads, you also end up with less legitimate "likers" seeing your content because of the way facebook propagates new posts. So you're actually paying to get negative results.

Plus, you won't be able to remove that negative as you can't remove likes and your page will be seen less forever. What does this show? Don't ever, ever pay for likes.
...Unless you are targeting your custom audience (past buyers/users) etc.
But isn't it that no matter who you target and where, the click farms always steal the clicks?
Only if they have accounts inside those verticals. The more specific you are the less likely this is to be the case.
But aren't the click farms in every verticla, in every location?
No, there isn't any need for that. There will of course be some spread but it isn't intentional or planned. They don't need a solid distribution of verticals and locations for what they offer to clients since they don't need to see their clients ads just click like on their pages.
in case you haven't watched these videos from Veritasium yet:

both videos show why facebook's model is inherently self-destructive and incoherent and will inevitably implode

As highlighted before in the top topic on reddit of the past weeks (VIDEO)
Likely the reason was what is described in this video (topped HN some two weeks ago):

TL;DW: there are tons of India/Bangladesh/Brazil-based spammers (those "buy 1000 likes on FB for $1" etc) who allegedly in order to prevent being caught by fraud detection algorithms, are liking whole array of random pages.

Edit: didn't see this was posted already later on this thread.

There's even the likes of these: (I just found about it)
Here's a good (but long) video that goes in depth into why they believe this happens

The theory is pay-for-likes click farms click everything they see, including legitimate "like" ads to avoid detection. This increases the number of fake profiles liking your page, which decreases the percentage of users liking your posts, which decreases the number of users posts are shown to (unless you also pay to promote your post...)

This is a great video. What I find very confusing is the fact that Facebook has no spam detection to eliminate fake clicks/likes ? Given the obvious nature of fake likes, some of the heuristics seem very straight forward i.e.

- just filter profiles with an insane number of likes

- have very few friends but relatively a huge number of likes,

- certain regions in the world where the brands that the users have liked have no market. It looks like a straightforward matching problem.

- Suspicious Like activity and patterns from an account (like/click arrival rates, diversity in liked campaigns etc).

- De-duplication of profiles that may have liked a certain entity by clustering on some obvious signals e.g. if too many disproportionate likes all fall in egypt relative to other primary markets, that would be an obvious red flag.

All of the above is not difficult to figure out for the quality of talent Facebook has. Here is my real confusion: Is it a lack of inclination for improving their ad network quality or a fear of exposing the low ROI of ad spend that's stopping Facebook from implementing quality spam/fraud detection ?

I'm pretty sure they do, but they are also torn by the apparent dilemma between generating more revenue through fake clicks and maintaining an appearance of the trusted ad platform. Hard to be them;-)
That video explains one aspect of the issue (the fake clicks), but what I found most troubling from the article was the five-fold discrepancy between the FB link count and the Bitly and Google Analytics visitor counts. If anything, you would expect Facebook to be able to detect at least some of the fake ad clicks, so their count would be marginally less than Bitly and GA detected.
Yes, this is a much better description of the problem.

FB is a really bad ad platform. Yes, you can use it & get good results, but that takes more luck & skill than other platforms.

From the article: "FB estimates that ~1% of their users are fake generating fake likes". But, if those accounts have 10-100 times more likes than real accounts, you can see that the polluting effect can dominate the overall activity.

Also 1% of 1.23 billion[1] is 12.3 million. Which might only be 1% of the total users but is still a very, very large number of fake people.


Yeah, and the 1.23 billion is going to be mostly ghost accounts anyway. People who check their FB once a week, if ever.
Presumably that 1% is continuously depleted by facebook's detection and deletion of fake accounts and continuously replenished by the creation or subversion of new accounts. A high turnover rate may drive the proportion of fraudulent activity on facebook still higher.
Retargeting seems like the only real viable option.
It should be possible to determine fake from real accounts using various statistics like number of likes per account average number of time between likes etc etc, with all the brainpower at Facebook I am surprised they haven't significantly mitigated this problem. This is not a problem that can ever be completely solved as its a typical arms race between good and evil but i am surprised at how badly Facebook appears to be doing as others have noted perhaps its because it in there best interest or maybe its just more visible on Facebook then it would be on google addwords or similar.
It could be devastating to their business. Facebook is in a tough spot, they are done or nearly done growing in the US and much of the developed world. Most of this fraud seems to happen in emerging markets, the exact same ones much of their "growth" is coming from. If growth numbers go negative or even flat Wall Street would run away from FB faster than you can cancel an advertising campaign.
Yes, we wrote about this at In short Facebook could compare behaviour as you suggested (they've got a whole bunch of data scientists). An even more robust way would be making their phone number verification more thorough.
Summary of article: "No, because that would be awful for my business".

I suspect Fang Digital has pushed this terrible notion on their clients for years and now look like idiots, so they are doubling down.

FYI: The marketers I work with have near universally dismissed FB as anything but "brand building for when you have more marketing budget than sense"... well before this video (or the 2012 BBC one) put it into the commons.

> Calling Facebook and its advertising “a fraud” because you choose to run a “like campaign” in a part of the world that is known for fraudulent clicks

He ran it in US, CA, AU, UK targeting cat lovers (see: @ 6:00) -- additionally, this is a full on admittance that fraudulent clicks are a huge issue.

> astute among us know that measurements such as “Likes” do not constitute anything

Then maybe facebook shouldn't be selling them as the metric?

> It's just immoral to use children their images in adds. And I don't think that this fits Zuckerbergs original intentions when he started Facebook.

Heh, really? Are we talking about the same Zuckerberg who got his start making webapps by having people rate illegitimately-gained pictures of his peers? ("The Kirkland dormitory facebook is open on my desktop and some of these people have pretty horrendiedous facebook pics. I almost want to put some of these faces next to pictures of some farm animals and have people vote on which is more attractive.").

Or the guy who called people who submitted information to his site "dumb fucks"? (

This latest move is exactly the quintessential spirit of the Zuck. But honestly, I'm expecting a lot more to come as the secret comes out that they can't make a lot of money ( -- I think they'll sell private information of users to insurance companies.

You've got a point there!
Because obviously Zuckerberg is personally choosing which profile picture to use in advertisements.
Feb 14, 2014 · 3 points, 0 comments · submitted by taytus
Feb 10, 2014 · 1678 points, 393 comments · submitted by fanfantm
If you haven't yet watched Derek's earlier video about "the problem with facebook", you should:

because in it he lays bare several fundamental structural issues about facebook which 99% people don't realize. Well worth the watch.

Unless fb changes drastically, it will die a surprisingly fast death.

What I don't understand is why doesn't facebook try to leverage it's data and serve contextual/interest ads on other sites in similar way that google does with adsense? I know I would use it with my startup.

That way, they don't have to conflate the incentives of the different parties involved as much as they are doing now.

Those ads typically perform pretty terribly
Something doesn't make sense here... I gathered from other threads that Google's ads are preferred over facebook's. So either Google doesn't do "contextual/interest based" ads, or contextual/interest based ads do not perform terribly (compared to what facebook is currently doing).
Google's search ads perform very well. They capture people in the moment of intent. Google's 3rd party ads perform badly since they are abstracted much further away from live intent, but Google gets away with it because they are pay per click, which implies lower risk for advertisers.
I don't disagree, but with that logic, maybe facebook could get away with it too. And I didn't suggest it as an either/or thing, just maybe something to reduce the pressure on the current revenue streams. For certain types of sites/products, facebook could give google a run for their money with a competing product.
Pretty sure that's on their roadmap:
And Facebook's valuation will disappear equally as fast.
But then again, there were many alternative search engines but not many alternative social networks.
huh? I do not understand what you are saying, care to explain?
Google had to be good because there was competition in the search space. Facebook doesn't have to be good because they're the only viable social network.
So was myspace at one point. You can certainly argue that fb has way more mindshare than myspace ever did, and be right, but nothing is eternal on the internet.
Even at its height Myspace never had users at the scale facebook has today. Baby boomers never used myspace like they use facebook.
One can be built in months if it has the right model.
What is the right model?
The software is a trivial part of building a social network.
as shown by google with g+. Great web app but not that many users
Thanks for sharing that!
Yes thanks for that, I've got a much better understanding now of the roles of the the creator, consumer, advertiser inside Facebook and he makes a good comparison/contrast to YouTube.
The trouble is this is 100% from the content creator's perspective. From the user perspective, this ends up working out quite well.
Not necessarily. If content from your friends and family and other pages you enjoy is regularly filtered out and replaced with paid "promoted" posts, it decreases the quality of the site.
And from there, you have the fallacy of this argument. This decreases the quality of your experience on Facebook. With the million other options and networks, why on earth would Facebook purposefully lower the quality of their product in order to make a few bucks with ads?
They would do it to make more than "a few bucks" with ads. Business is full of these tradeoffs, so I don't know wherefrom this presumption of purity from FB to our walls comes from.
because where else do you have a network of "friends" as extensive as the one on facebook?
Because they can get away with it in the short term. Millions of dollars is more than a "few bucks" but it's driving the site down hill and possibly contributing to their eventual collapse. In any case you claimed it works out for the users quite well, which it obviously does not.
Yep. Half of my news feed is bullshit stuff that my friends like because they haven't discovered true content aggregators. They use Facebook for the sort of stuff that I use Reddit for and it completely ruins my experience.

I'm there to see what's happening IRL with my friends, not to see pictures of stuff that I saw a few days ago while on the toilet.

For context, I'm a 19 year old student going into my third year at uni, so that puts me right in Facebook's original target demographic. It's disappointing that a service so useful for staying in touch with friends has degraded into little more than an IM service because the rest of it's been spammed to hell.

From a user perspective, I like things because I want to see content. It annoys me to no end that I know I'm missing out on updates from sources I care about because Facebook selectively decides what to show me, and effectively holds my attention hostage.
Can't someone write a browser extension that tracks what you like/have liked, and then builds your own Facebook experience, putting back the content you are missing? Running the entire Facebook data system is daunting, but running my own view of Facebook that I want should be easy to manage in a browser.
>Can't someone write a browser extension that tracks what you like/have liked"

The issue is that most of don't want to click like, like, like on everything we "like", just to see that content.

I don't need to like HN; it's implicit in every visit I make to the site.

This is the argument I find confusing...You ask Facebook to curate your news feed and then get upset when they curate it.
Do you believe it's possible for Facebook to improperly curate content?
Where am I asking Facebook to curate (in this case, read: cull) from posts that I've indicated that I want to see?

I'm asking to see posts from something I've explicitly stated an interest in; I'm not asking them to pick and choose a subset that I get to see beyond that.

While I agree with much of what is said in the video, you are able to (at the top of the news feed) change from top stories to most recent to get the posts in order of date instead of filtered.
The OP's video is great and identifies a real problem that should be solved. This particular video is naive and pretty bad in my opinion, really disagree.
They are from the same person!
I thought this video was spot on as well. Can you explain how/why you really disagree with it's premise? I'm curious to hear your points...
This is not good. This won't stand for long. Reminds me of Yahoo advertising based on the buyer's ignorance.


I didn't realize the answer till later, after I went to work at Yahoo. It was neither of my guesses. The reason Yahoo didn't care about a technique that extracted the full value of traffic was that advertisers were already overpaying for it. If they merely extracted the actual value, they'd have made less.

Hard as it is to believe now, the big money then was in banner ads. Advertisers were willing to pay ridiculous amounts for banner ads. So Yahoo's sales force had evolved to exploit this source of revenue. Led by a large and terrifyingly formidable man called Anil Singh, Yahoo's sales guys would fly out to Procter & Gamble and come back with million dollar orders for banner ad impressions.

The prices seemed cheap compared to print, which was what advertisers, for lack of any other reference, compared them to. But they were expensive compared to what they were worth. So these big, dumb companies were a dangerous source of revenue to depend on. But there was another source even more dangerous: other Internet startups.

When I moved to Silicon Valley in 2006, I had just lived through the events that were eventually twisted into the movie The Social Network. My conclusion having witnessed Mark's behavior firsthand was that he was the least trustworthy individual I had ever met and that he was likely to harm others.

At the risk of sounding like Chicken Little ("the sky is falling!") I wrote a great deal voicing my point of view, including my very first post on Hacker News (, in which I called Mark a fraud. For expressing my grave and sincere concern, I was met with what could only be described as considerable hostility.

Aware that very few wanted to hear what I had to say, I did everything I could to move onto more interesting and useful work. I don't spend my time worrying about Facebook, so I haven't looked into their ad technology in any depth. Nonetheless, everything in the above video strikes me as spot on, which would also mean that I was exactly right. Facebook's entire valuation appears to be based on little more than false advertising and click farming. As the CEO of a publicly-traded corporation with a supposed market capitalization of $162.61 billion, Mark would still appear to be, as I described here (, the greatest con of all time.

I hope that based on these findings Facebook finds itself the target of civil actions filed by multiple Attorneys-General and the DOJ, but I doubt very much that our justice system would render a fair outcome even then.

Sounds like you're a little bitter.
Zuckerberg isn't a con, he's an entrepreneur and a successful one at that. He even created jobs in third world countries :)
Without judging whether he is right or not, I'd just like to point out that IF he is right he would fill the same role as Nassim Nicholas Taleb in the Banking Collapse of 2008 and the role of Harry Markopolis in the Bernie Madoff pyramid scheme.

So there is ample precedence for this being a correct assesment and if you have read anything surrounding the Madoff controversy and the banking collapse, you will know that the NY financial scene is riddled with incompetence and corruption. It is entirely possibility that Facebook is the biggest stock market fraud in history.

I found a way to dramatically improve facebook. Around the beginning of the year I unfollowed every single friend and page, so my newsfeed is completely empty. Now when I want to know what my friends are up to, I go check out their pages, essentially going from a push feed to a pull. It gets me out of the empty crack addiction-esque cycle of going to the news feed and being disappointed/bored with the lives of my friends, and instead lets me focus on what facebook is actually valuable for: party planning.
I honestly think Facebook was better when it was just a directory of profiles, then it decided to completely change the nature of the service by focusing entirely on the newsfeed. It sure made sense in terms of users engagement, but the value I get from it has declined steeply over the last few years. Now I only use the messenger app.
The "profile" meant something back when Facebook first started - in fact one of my favorite things was when the news feed would announce things like "Friend1 updated his favorite movies" - then I would click and go see what they added.

I can't even guess when the last time was that I looked at someone's information directly on their profile on FB

I have completely hidden my news feed. Since I consider FB only to be valuable as a utility, i.e. a means of communication or a repository of information such as where someone lives, the newsfeed is a complete waste of time and useless.

My solution is to use custom CSS to hide the newsfeed, but keep everything else. As a result, I spent 1/10th the time on Facebook, and only use it when I need to get information from it.

I really like this idea. I think I'll give it a go. Thanks for sharing it!
You're welcome! Let me know how it works for you in the Medium comments.
Thanks, this is great!
I did something similar on Youtube, I've hidden all the side videos to help me focus on the video I was watching. But on FB, I unfollowed 99% of the people, and only left things like 'March Against Monsanto', and 'Naturalnews', so so my feed only contains stuff that matters to me.
How long did it take you to unfollow everyone on FB? Sounds like that would take a while for someone with 1800 friends.
Yeah and someone with 1800 friends probably wouldn't have the time at hand anyway
~150 friends only, I unfollowed only when a post appeared. And I marked lots of people as acquaintances. Why do you have 1800 friends? Dang.
In my case, the majority of my friends only share with friends. So unfriending them all would result in mostly empty timelines for me.
You can unfollow without unfriend.
My friend had a solution to keep maximally 100 people on his account. One day, I received a message that I had to go. OK. A few months he asked me for friendship again :)
> Now when I want to know what my friends are up to, I go check out their pages, essentially going from a push feed to a pull.

I think you just invented MySpace.

Hmm, Facebook seems to randomly refollow people on my behalf when I try this. Perhaps it's latency or something?
Sounds like you're still addicted, just using a different way.
Exactly, event planning/tracking is the only reason I stay on.
Yeah i did the Facebook 300 Diet #FB300D 2 years ago and it was amazing. Basically, I unfriended all but 300 people and my feed got much better. I even created a word document that details who you should unfriend.
Smart. Pull is future. We don't want to be pushed.
That's exactly how Orkut worked.
My solution was to delete my Facebook account. Now, I engage with the people I care about via mechanisms that are far more meaningful: emails, phone calls, a coffee, a lunch.
I did the same and now I'm able to focus and spend time on real friendships that matter vs. clicking through a facebook feed of what facebook decides to show me.
I don't have any reason to delete it. I get messages every so often from friends that are in town, and it makes it easier to host and plan a gathering. It also makes sharing photos among friends easy.

I waste way more time on social media sites like this one than I ever have on Facebook.

I really wish I could do that. I used to ask a friend to change my password, now I use to do it (I'm doing it this week).

But I can't go really long without facebook since all is planned from there, the parties, the social events, the foreign friends visiting my city, foreign friends keeping in touch with me...

I guess it's easier not to have facebook when you didn't travel a lot and don't have a big social life.

It's actually very easy to have a booming social life and travel tons without Facebook.
if you want to share your secrets I'm all ears.

For example, last year I got to meet maybe 30 friends from all over the world because they were passing through France or wanted to go travel to the country I was traveling to. I wouldn't have met them if they didn't have my facebook as I rarely keep touch with people far from me (before facebook). My mail is filled with spam and I change my number every year.

I also moved to a new city, didn't know anyone, joined the erasmus group and a few weeks after I knew 100+ people, was getting invited to parties every day, was meeting new people every day.

You can always try to avoid facebook, it will be more difficult though.

You change your number every year? Why? If it's a privacy issue surely it's more important to change your facebook account every year.
I move a lot, China, Canada, France these last years. I don't want to keep paying to keep my number, and I don't really care about changing my number, if people want to contact me they can always find me on facebook (I have everyone there), and the few that don't use a facebook, well I don't really keep in touch with them but I don't have time to track everybody.
You are a freaking WUSSY! And you have NO life,let alone social life. Social life is OUTSIDE, face to face, NOT on facebook. Get a fucking life, freaking zombie.
Projecting much?
If deleting your Facebook would not have a negative affect on your real life social life, you are not using it the way most people do.

Almost every organised event that I go to starts with a Facebook invite, or someone sharing the event on their feed. It's also a massive time waster, but until another event service gains actual adoption (a service such as this is useless without users, right?), I'll keep using Facebook.

If your life relies on Facebook, then you have to social life and no friends ad all, you just have an illusion. If no one would call you for an event,what does this say about you?
It really only says that my friends are lazy. You could equally say the same thing with a mobile phone - if your friend would not send a paper invite, what does that say about you?
"But I can't go really long without facebook since all is planned from there, the parties, the social events, the foreign friends visiting my city, foreign friends keeping in touch with me..."

I have two questions to respond to this - how did people do all of these things before the facebook platform? What is stopping you from doing these same things?

I find it fascinating that people treat websites like facebook like an actual addiction, and are scared of the withdraw problems in their social life. Is there such a thing as social addiction? Is that a thing?

> I have two questions to respond to this - how did people do all of these things before the facebook platform? What is stopping you from doing these same things?

1) They used other services (e.g. Evite) which had the same effect 2) Nobody uses those other services anymore (okay, I got one evite from the one friend who refused to use facebook...and then somebody created the event page on facebook and all the party planning promptly got hijacked and moved there)

So your choices are to use Facebook and get invited to parties, or be like that guy from ten years ago who refused to get an email address and was butthurt that nobody would pick up the phone to personally invite him to the party.

I feel like that is a false choice. The only options are to either not do anything and be 'butthurt' or use facebook?

What about relationships with people? What about carrier pigeons? What about personal servants?

All of those things are able to do what you're complaining about, they just take slightly more effort.

I guess it's to each his own - is your support of a terrible, invasive company more important than your convenience? That's up to you.

Eh, Facebook isn't that terrible. I'm not saying I think they're good, but they make what is currently the modern equivalent of the telephone. It is what it is.

And it's not about my convenience, it's about not inconveniencing my friends by demanding that they remember that I'm a special snowflake who won't use the dominant communication platform of the day, and I must have my special needs attended to by using older, more inconvenient channels each time they want to send out a mass party invite.

That is a terrible analogy. The modern telephone is the computer, and Facebook, if being forced to stick with the telephone analogy, is some kind of phone book / telemarketer / wiretap agency hybrid.

The fact that computers are too inconvenient to use for communication without using locked centralized platforms and proprietary software is a testament to the failure of computers as a communication tool, rather than a good argument for the necessity of Facebook, which actually is terrible and worth resisting.

> The fact that computers are too inconvenient to use for communication without using locked centralized platforms and proprietary software is a testament to the failure of computers as a communication tool

Or maybe social communication platforms are a natural monopoly and the computers are working just fine.

Please describe this theory for me. I have always had a hard time understanding the concept of 'natural monopoly' when most of nature and the human experience demands diversification.
Huh, I'm from the few who never even created a Facebook account.

Whenever something is up, everyone knows I won't get the memo, and they give me a mail/text/call. Usually more than one person.

And you can't compare that to email vs phone. Phone is costly, time consuming, single threaded. Sending a message on Facebook or an email doesn't make any difference.

Facebook is simply, hands down, the easiest service on which to do these things today. It's only an addiction in the same sense that using a cellphone is an addiction. You could just as easily use a landline, or schedule meetings with friends and co-workers a day in advance, by writing them a letter, talking to them in person or getting in touch with them through common friends. Less convenient, sure, but equally functional.

To me, avoiding Facebook in the absence of any negatives (you are free to log on only whenever you want to) seems like some strange puritanical or old-fashioned ritual. Why avoid something that works?

>I have two questions to respond to this - how did people do all of these things before the facebook platform? What is stopping you from doing these same things?

Simple. It was just harder so it did't happen nearly as often. If someone is complaining about an airline, you don't respond with, "How did people get from LA to NYC before airlines? What is stopping you from doing it that way?"

People vastly underestimate the value of the network effects on Facebook.

> I have two questions to respond to this - how did people do all of these things before the facebook platform? What is stopping you from doing these same things?

Some of "these things" did not exist before. Like yesterday a former coworker of mine posted a bunch of pictures of her kids growing up, it was interesting and reminded me how the time flies.

Would I ask around acquaintances for her phone number, then get on the phone and ask her to send me a printed photo album of her children? Yeah, that seems non-creepy at all.

Friend of my spouse checked in at a restaurant that's opened just recently, I saw my wife liking it, and asked about opinion of the food. Would the "before" solution include compiling a list of my + my spouse's friends with their respective phone numbers, then calling everybody inquiring which restaurants they recently visited?

Passive information discovery sucked before.

This is a bit disingenuous to say these kind of reflection were not possible before. What happened in the old days was that your social life was much more localized : your street, your neighborhood, your village, your parish, etc. So rather that looking at pictures, you would be on your porch and you would be looking at your friend's kids playing in the street , wondering how all these years had gone so fast. Social platform allow to extend your social network beyond some (arbitrary) geographical limitations, but it does not really add anything to the human experience that was not there before, so to speak. I know that I am stating the obvious, but I think "some of these things did not exit before" was a bit too strong.
Yeah, communication and conversation was very location-dependent.
Jesus H. Christ, watch some old TV shows and movies. How would one see coworkers kid's photos before facebook!?! They'd pull them out of their wallet or purse, an album on the coffee table. It was a cliche and staple of sitcoms to be annoyed by the endless stream of kid photos from a wallet.
How about ex-coworker?
Be sure to watch through to the end for the conclusion! I'll summarise:

Click farms like every page they can, far more than just the pages they were paid to like; the theory is that they will evade detection this way. Paying for "legitimate" facebook exposure will expose you to the click farms as well, and that will be the absolute majority of your gained likes. In this way facebook ads give a huge, but useless, gain in "Likes".

"Paying for "legitimate" facebook exposure will expose you to the click farms as well, and that will be the absolute majority of your gained likes."

Does that matter? I mean, obviously if you're trying to work out whether it's worth paying for Facebook ads, it's worth being aware that a large number of Likes isn't necessarily a sign of a successful ad, but you don't know the "value" of a Like in advance anyway. If you discover that every 1,000 Likes you get 10 more sales (or whatever), then you can work out whether it's worth spending money for an ad that will likely bring in 1,000 Likes, whether 990 of those likes are "genuine" Likes that don't turn into sales, or 990 of the Likes are click farm Likes.

I mean, I've never advertised on Facebook, I don't know anything about it, but I would have thought you need to measure the actual effectiveness of your ads; whether click farm fake Likes are contributing to this overall effectiveness or not doesn't seem relevant to the end result.

You didn't watch the video. More likes means a larger percentage of your "likers" AREN'T engaged which will actually show content to FEWER of the people who are actually interested. Having 2850/3000 of your likes being farmed means when FB does a "sampling" by only showing content to a few of your likers it has a lower chance of actually hitting a non-farm account.

And frankly, the whole thing is fucking ridiculous to even have to explain. FB does all sorts of shady/hacky shit to make money in a way that is totally incongruous with the needs and desires of both content consumers and content creators. Someone will come along with a simpler model that makes sense, and everyone will move away from facebook like they did from digg->reddit.

I doubt there's any trivial solutions to this, but one simple scenario would be to limit the amount of 'likes' an account can have..but that could also cause FB to implode.
Well, if he could identify these accounts as illegitimate, surely Facebook could automatically do the same with their vast amount of data. However, they really have no incentive to do so. The average advertiser just wants to see a higher like count, and they're not paying as much attention as they should to actual conversions. If Facebook can serve 5x as many likes, with the help of illegitimate users, and no one is complaining about low conversions, they're not going to stop. Why chase down the click farms, if they're generating 80% of your revenue for free?
Well, there is one solution which wasn't mentioned in the video, get the bots to like your posts so they get visibility leading to actual users seeing them.
it was mentioned in the video, doing this creates a negative effect.

the video mentioned how real/useful engagement didn't change before and after he got all those fake likes

I meant likes on particular posts on the page. Not the page itself.

According to the video, the click farmers will like the page itself, but not any content it posts.

If your page likes are mostly fake, your posts likes will be proportionately lower.

The auther discovered that Facebook tests your posts among your following, and uses the % that liked the post as a signal as to whether it should show it to the rest of your network.

Now, if you are paying farmers for likes, they might also be liking the content you post. If you're not paying for likes at all, but you have a bunch of fake likes on your page, your posts will get proportionately fewer likes, and FB will show your post to fewer people.

The point was ultimately:

By buying likes, legitimately or not, your page will attract likes from fake accounts -- Which due to the aforementioned reasons will tank the presence of your page in the news feed of real users.

The only workaround from this position is to promote your posts either through legitimate or illegitimate means.

The other byproduct of this notion is that using the free coupons that Facebook tends to offer can cause more damage than they are supposedly supposed to fix.

Yep, this is possible and a much better use of ad spend that's allocated for FB. The only downside is the admin required to single out individual posts for paid (fake) promotion.

It's also a much cheaper method than paying FB to promote to your click farm fans.

Facebook determines post visibility based on engagement. If a high percentage of your likes are fraudulent and don't engage, that means that the initial group your post is shown to is less likely to engage, and, in turn, your post is less likely to be seen by legitimate followers since the low engagement means Facebook won't expand the percentage of your followers that see it in the first place.
What is to stop click farms from evolving into selling engagement as well as likes?
I'm not sure, beyond effort required. It would at least be slightly less actively harmful to advertisers, though.
Actually there is a fundamental reason why you're exposed to click farms: because fb exposes your ad to a small sample size of your audience first. Then based on the engagement the ad receives, it will target it more to those 'types' of people.

Since click farms are far far more engaged than the average fb user, this means that invariably, your ad will be steered actively by fb towards click farms!

So if you pay for fb ads you are in effect wasting your money because fb is forcing your ad to be shown to those who shouldn't see your ads.

And if you don't pay either for legitimate or fraudulent likes, you will still get a large fake following because they are using you to disguise their activity.

Looks like it's hard to get rid of the click farms and FB is using it for revenue. And it could be worse that most of the Likes are fake.
As someone who has helped massively grow a handful of businesses with Facebook being a significant channel, part of me wants to say "Yep, FB advertising is bunk. Everyone stop!"

But in reality I'd be saying that in a weak attempt to make my own Facebook advertising more effective.

Lemme tl;dr this in three bullets:

- It's far easier for non-sophisticated advertisers to waste money.

- The ad platform is pretty technical and nuanced

- Notice I didn't mention facebook in the previous two bullets? That's because it's true for anywhere you buy ads, even print or flyers, radio or direct mail.

So to reiterate: For any given paid advertising channel, it is far easier for non-sophisticated people to waste money as it is to see significant ROI. Any place you can buy ads is far more technical and nuanced than people who don't live and breath it could every imagine.

So given that, to see significant ROI you need to find genuine experts in how to use each form of media.

So, even if it is technically possible to do well in a given media, if it is really hard to identify who is a genuine expert in that media due to it being new and full of snake-oil merchants, then you are likely to do better in a more established field.

There is already a bunch of startups around this problem. A friend of mine works at Adaptly which, among many others, let buyers who don't know social media advertising essentially outsource the expertise required to do so effectively. It's always seemed a bit like snake oil to me, but maybe its a real problem.
You're right it's a real problem.

There are literally hundreds of "startups" doing that for social media advertising. Hundreds for search. Hundreds for display, and not just regular display, but RTB(sarcasm)! There are tons of startups doing it for native ads. And don't forget video, seo & content marketing among others.

Add on to that, the partner/provider lists of "startups" that sit on top of one or many of those tools.

And let's not forget about the 1000s of agencies out there to roll it all up.

There are tons of snake oil salesman, and many good tools and people in that list. But as with pretty much any ecosystem, it's 80% crap, 10% meh, 10% bam.

And there is no one right answer. Just like no absolute answer to Python vs Ruby.

So whenever I see articles like, "facebook ads bad! look what they're doing!"

Change it to, "facebook ads bad! Look at all the things I'm doing wrong, but don't even know enough to know I'm doing wrong!"

>it is really hard to identify who is a genuine expert in that media //

Arguably it's easy - if their advertising works then they're good. If you notice a marketing company then they're doing things right to some extent (at least WRT your demographic).

You're correct that there certainly a lot of snake-oil merchants out there. But they're not just limited "new" media channels. Just as many slimeballs in the traditional world.

I'm going to get crucified for this, but paid advertising is somewhat analogous to software engineering/developers. There are many languages/platforms/technologies out there. Some old, some cutting edge. Each one most likely has it's own syntax/terminology, patterns, approaches etc.

So when hiring a full stack engineer, you look for someone who cuts pretty deep across a few key areas, but can also roll up their sleeves across the stack if need be. Example: Ruby Expert, Getting into Angular, and knows how to provision AWS if need be.

Same thing with full stack marketer. If you know Google Adwords, Content Marketing and a bit of PR are your core, then optimize your hire for that.

This article (video) is pointing to fundamental flaws in FB's advertising offerings. I don't think that any amount of "social media marketing" expertise will compensate for the fact that a large proportion of the ad spend on those offerings may likely be wasted on what is effectively fraud. Even if you optimize for better performance, there will still be inordinate waste to fraud.

Beyond that, I think a lot of people have been jaded by the multitudes claiming that they can help businesses with social media. If you are stating that there is some fraction of 1% who do actually grasp some deep, esoteric knowledge required to succeed with Facebook campaigns (or with other channels like Google), then OK. But, I would think that to be a massive problem for Facebook, Google, etc. That is, the overwhelming majority of their customers (lacking the required knowledge) would eventually realize that the ROI just isn't there for them.

Perhaps that will yet happen with some of these channels. If so, perhaps FB will be among the first to implode, as there are many who don't find the same abysmal metrics with Google, et. al. as they do on FB. So, even from a relative perspective, it still seems that FB is deeply flawed.

It's not that fundamental.

Buying Facebook likes for a Facebook page is a subset of ads. You're definitely driven towards it in Facebook UI, but if you're Amazon or NetFlix or Expedia or whoever buys billions of ads nowadays, you still buy clicks to your site and bid on CPC basis.

Anecdotal evidence (visiting on the Web, seeing 7 ads on the right-hand side) suggests very few businesses actually pay for likes on pages. My current advertisers are,,,,,,, none of them having a Like button underneath the ad.

BS - I've watched both videos twice and more sophisticated targeting solves 90% of their "problems."

How much facebook advertising have you managed? I hope it's a lot if you're going to call out "fundamental flaws" and "large portion of ad spend...likely wasted...on what is effectively fraud."

I've managed many millions across a handful of companies. Has their been issues? Yes, just like every other channel.

You're spot on about being jaded though.

Wading through the masses of BS is a huge pain.

75% of the people probably give up, 20% outsourced to varying results, 5% nail it in-house or via finding the right partner.

But that 5%-15% of potential advertisers that lock it down?

That's 80% of the ad spend right there.

One Expedia is worth 100,000 small businesses to Google.

Google, Facebook, et al have all tried to simplify their ad products to capture more potential advertisers at different levels.

But in doing so they arrive at a Catch 22 though...

To make it simpler, they hide sophistication and advanced options. The very options that are needed to drive campaigns with meaningful ROI. But those options are also over the head of the SMBs.

So what are they supposed to do?

If you're going to make me create a custom audience in order for my ad to be successful, don't also make me use or write a scraping tool to grab open groups to populate that audience. It's really a bad idea for Facebook, though it works for savvy advertisers. I stopped doing it because I don't really feel like it's a good thing to promote.

Basically, I have to create the targets extremely specifically, and then Facebook lets me advertise to them. Unfortunately, I haven't had the same success with Facebook's pre-set targeting criteria.

Facebook's advertising tools promote the page like system too much and are too complex for non-specialized workers, I think.

Regarding your question about my statement that a "large portion of ad spend is likely wasted on what is effectively fraud."

Not sure what you want me to say here. I don't believe the author's experience is isolated, nor is that of others who have demonstrated/reported the same. Your suggestion that they should use more "sophisticated targeting" to circumvent fraud is odd. Targeting should be for optimization, not fraud avoidance. How about instead FB fixes the fraud problem?

In any case, by your own admission, most people don't possess this sophistication anyway, so it follows that they would likely be significantly affected by this fraud problem. Hence, you haven't refuted my statement, but supported it.

>How much facebook advertising have you managed? I hope it's a lot if you're going to call out "fundamental flaws"

Really? OK. Well, personally, I have only my own company's test cases. But, I can read and I don't think it's a coincidence that my experience corroborates that of many others. I'm actually also paraphrasing you (in part) when I say it's fundamentally flawed. I think it's a pretty big problem if only you and your cousin Bob, along with two other people who live on a mountain somewhere possess the esoteric knowledge required to create a successful campaign.

And, now you've explicitly stated some of the flaw, with this: "To make it simpler, they hide sophistication and advanced options. The very options that are needed to drive campaigns with meaningful ROI. But those options are also over the head of the SMBs"

You don't see a very serious problem there?

In general, what you're saying throughout your post just doesn't make a lot of sense to me. You gloss over fraud and lay out all of these problems with FB advertising, then you conclude that it's not fundamentally flawed. Instead, the problem is with the huge percentage of people who simply don't know how to use it. For what other product would this premise lead to this conclusion?

And what you are saying doesn't make sense to me. You want to achieve meaningful results when competing with people who are vastly more prepared to you. Why do you feel entitled to making facebook work?

The truth is you (and majority of the people who posted here) have spent negligeble amounts of money testing and have read very little on the subject and even less time on putting down a strategy. I have a newsflash for you - marketing is hard and you are not entitled to results, just because you throw $50 on facebook ads.

>I have a newsflash for you - marketing is hard and you are not entitled to results, just because you throw $50 on facebook ads.

Interesting that you know how much time and money I've put into it.

It's also, interesting that you know what other means of advertising I've employed and am using for COMPARATIVE purposes.

Marketing is hard? No kidding. I have been marketing online for over 10 years and have driven well over $500M in sales during that time. Now, maybe you've done more than that with your FB ads, but I would say that I'm qualified to speak on my experience.

>You want to achieve meaningful results when competing with people who are vastly more prepared to you.

No. The person to whom I'm responding stated that very few people know how to succeed with FB's product. If FB is marketing a product from which the overwhelming majority of their customers don't get value, then something is wrong with the product. I'd think that simple statement to be obvious but, then, here you are.

>Why do you feel entitled to making facebook work?

Again, you know me so well. I don't feel "entitled", though Facebook certainly wants me to feel that way. Again, if the overwhelming majority of customers find the product ineffective, then there's a problem with the product or Facebook's positioning of it. I call that fundamentally flawed. You can call it a success.

So, you say you went off and built a slide-rule, strapped on a rocket pack, and obtained a PhD in psychology and statistics, and an MBA in marketing. Now, Facebook Ads work for you. Great! So I guess it was me and the other 90-something% of Facebook's ad customers who were wrong after all. We should just do what you did.

Listen, FB sells the product. Funny thing: they don't recommend the MBA, PhD, or even consultants. In fact, they hide important features because they are so unusable for the vast majority of their customers. This is tacitly misleading people into believing that what they see is sufficient for success with their product.

So, FB itself is telling you there's a big problem with their product, and this doesn't even consider the fraud issue in the OP. But, you just carry on defending them.

>So, you say you went off and built a slide-rule, strapped on a rocket pack, and obtained a PhD in psychology and statistics, and an MBA in marketing. Now, Facebook Ads work for you. Great! So I guess it was me and the other 90-something% of Facebook's ad customers who were wrong after all. We should just do what you did.

No, I'm saying that you marketing is a field like every other and should be treated like it. It's like me saying "Oh, C++ is so stupid, I can't do "X" with it, although this book says it's comprehensive. Btw, I'm a mommy blogger".

I will give you the benefit of the doubt on your accomplishments and tell you that if you are good at marketing facebook is a goldmine. Go read whitepapers from success stories. Read Gary Vaynerchuk's stuff. Be super precise with your targeting (like laser precise). Think differently about facebook traffic. Get in the mindset of your customer when he's on fb. You are not looking to fulfill a demand. You are looking to create it, so all your efforts should be completely different from adwords for example.

There are 2 groups of people who whine about facebook ads - marketers who fail to adapt and people with 0 knowledge about marketing/advertising.

>No, I'm saying that marketing is a field like every other and should be treated like it

We're not talking about the field of marketing. We're talking about a specific product. One of many available products that consistently underperforms for a lot of people (including those with experience in the field of marketing).

>it's like me saying "Oh, C++ is so stupid, I can't do "X" with it, although this book says it's comprehensive. Btw, I'm a mommy blogger"

No. It's not. It's like me saying "I have many years of successful marketing experience, using many tools, channels, and approaches. I have found fundamental flaws with this particular product. Many others seem to be reporting the same."

Which is, of course, exactly what I did say. But, you seem to be pretty determined to stick with your worldview.

>I will give you the benefit of the doubt on your accomplishments

My $500M+ in sales and I thank you.

>There are 2 groups of people who whine about facebook ads...

So, you don't even allow for the fact that perhaps something could possibly be wrong with the product, or even that FB ads may simply not be the right channel for every product/business. I understand that you feel very strongly about FB ads (or more accurately that you have disdain for those who don't love them as you do). But, you have to realize that when you make categorical statements like that, it's hard to take you seriously.

This is so stupid and pointless conversation. In this case you have 2 choices - stay in the corner and cry for mommy because facebook is not "fair", or step up your game and figure out how you can make it work for you.

You don't sound like a marketer to me. Usually marketers are not put off by barriers to entry, they are enthralled by them.

I personally am happy that chimps can't make facebook work. Less competition for me.

>This is so stupid and pointless conversation

I agree. I think.

>You don't sound like a marketer to me.

>I personally am happy that chimps can't make facebook work. Less competition for me.

Well then, it sounds like you have it all figured out. Carry on.

I wasn't going to comment on this story, as I'm clearly biased. I used to work for an early facebook marketing partner, and I am very familiar with their advertising.

This video is sensationalist, a large portion of all internet advertising is click fraud, no one is arguing against that; however, that doesn't mean you can't get results from social ads if you have the right expertise.

I don't know what kind of budgets you have managed, I have personally devised campaigns with millions of dollars in spend for brands, and they worked out very well. Of course, the targeting we did was very advanced and impossible to do for most people.

I have my pet theory. I'm yet to find significant evidence for or against it, but it's what my hunch tells me. The theory goes like this:

All on-line ads are mostly worthless - most clicks are from clickfarms, and the genuine parts are mostly by clickjacking or accidental misclicks. Almost no one really wants to buy stuff via ads. Ad agencies keep telling companies that advertising online will generate lots of revenue, but between all those messy, noisy metrics and people generally not understanding a thing about statistics it's hard to see what part of revenue can be really attributed to ads, and whether or not they're worth the money invested.

This is absurd. While I'm sure there is a lot of fraudulent activity and rubbish ad networks (IE Facebook likes, as claimed by the article), traditional online ads are pretty trivial to track at this point for a business that can complete transactions online. If you run a web store, you can track exactly how much sales you get from a particular ad channel and weigh it against the advertising cost by simply creating a unique link for each channel, or using any of the many available ad analytics platforms out there. Entire multi-million/billion dollar businesses are built around arbitraging this opportunity positively, particularly on Google.

Things like Facebook Likes are more difficult to track and are still relatively new, and that's why many people haven't figured them out yet, but over time they will either reach an equilibrium, where value provided is equal to cost or they will disappear.

I'm an anti-ads person, even though I know it hurts some of the sites I like who depend on advertising.

I'm anti-ads because the kind of ads that I am being exposed to are invasive, especially re-targeting ads. I.e. those ads where you've been on a website and thought about buying something, then decided against it? Then you get the same product advertised to you on random other sites you visit.

I cannot stand it when those ads follow me around. In fact, assuming I didn't buy the product or service for a good reason, and I do want to buy the product, I will deliberately buy from a competitor, because fuck you and your invasion of my privacy. It is my own little way of silent protest.

I assume I'm in a minority though and most people don't care. Most of the time I use an ad-blocker. iPad doesn't have a solution unfortunately.

Ha! I love re-targeting... it keeps reminding me of companies who's products I've decided not to purchase automatically! And even better the company is paying someone to remind me not to do business with them!
The only targeting Ads that work for me are ads.

I always try to deactivate and fallback to classic ads. It was at least possible in FB some years ago.

Yes, you are in the tiny minority :) So your actions are pretty inconsequential to most companies
> "All on-line ads are mostly worthless"

I would tend to agree, if we keep the "mostly" in mind. You really need to target you ad money on places where the users are already trying to buy something.

Other than that I don't see ads on random sites working any better than television or print ads. Maybe that's okay, but let's face it, I'm not going to buy 10kg of fire wood because I see an ad on a news site.

This is just not true. There is much, much, much waste in online advertising, but there are companies who make it work and then go on to go public or get acquired for large amounts.

Right now at Perfect Audience, we have many customers using our tools and seeing anything from $5-15 in sales from each $1 they spend. It takes time and work to get to the high end of that spectrum, but people get there and it grows their business swiftly.

I disagree somewhat. Buying ads on google's search engine makes a lot of sense (for us), as google closes the loop from impression to click to sale (ads served to places where sales occur, keyword bids adjusted automatically based on sales). For my clients, google adwords adverts typically result in 100x-400x sales vs ad spend. A good deal for all involved.
So it's more of a hypothesis than a theory.
I used "theory" in the common meaning, but you're right, it would be better if I used "hypothesis" instead. I'll try to do better next time.
While there is a lot of fraud, if you actually track from ad click to sale, you'll see SOME amount of results.

In most cases they will be underwhelming, but if the numbers make sense, why not?

example: 2$ per click for a $500 dollar product (assume no other costs_

if you can turn 1 out of 100 clicks into a sale, then it might still be worth it, despite 99 fake, uninterested, botted, clickfarmed or otherwise undesirable clicks.

If you can completely obliterate your margin like that just to make a single sale, I suspect prices are too high and you'd end up doing better by just offering the product at $400.
We learned this last year when we started paying for ads on Facebook. Our app is in a niche market (Flight Simulator for mobile devices), I assumed that very little people would click, but we saw a constant increase of about 1K likes/day. After looking at the analytics, I decided to cut Brazil and India. We had a huge disconnect between our App Store country data and those ads, and we also saw no noticeable change in our sales figures.

The accounts also were random like the one in the OP video, a Indian teenage girl liking a Flight Simulator? Why not... Hundreds? nope...

I feel like I've been cheated by Facebook in a way and would like my money back. They sure can find a way to figure out if those clicks are legitimate. Someone has 3K likes of random interests? That's a red flag to me.

It shouldn't matter if ads are priced on the basis of ROI instead of per-user (which it is). The ads are only as cheap as they are because they're being farmed, if they weren't they would be much more expensive.
But at least that would be some honest math up-front. And perhaps fewer ads.

I mean, how it stands now you've compounded the problem given the fake engagement and following you've built and how that changes which posts get promoted.

Soon more businesses will find that the Likes does not help their online marketing at all. This is a major SEO problem that most of the businesses are hunting for. Can we find some other ways to resolved it?
Why should I click some random URL shortened link no matter how enticing you think the lead in is?
Good point. I thought the question leading the link means there is some possible solution for it. Another reason is that I don't want to have a long URL to block people from reading. This last one is for tracking on bitly.

I'll put the complete url in the future posts. Here it is:

In every Facebook HN post, there is always the "I deleted my FB account" and the "you can't really delete your FB data" back and forth.

Instead of deleting your account has anybody tried to "trash" your account via "Liking" everything you can and posting a large sets of unrelated pics? your info is only really valuable because its "true". if you trashed your account, its pretty much the same as deleting. also based on the filtering mentioned in this article, it seems like at some point your friends would just filter you out.


That is interesting. I'm wondering if you have thought of the best way to remove an account from Facebook, turning your account into a spammer. You could have a friend report it after a couple days of spamming.

When, for example, an intelligence agency gathers people's information from a service like this they probably save themselves the hassle and do not include information from accounts marked spammer.

Am I making sense?

Analyst to the new Intern: "Here is a list of stuff people have come up with to foil our algorithms. To familiarize yourself with our sophisticated tools, have a look at this problem: Find social media accounts that used to be real but are now flagged "spammer". Make categories such as "account was hacked", "sold" or "someone tries to go off the radar". For last category, we will set the scrutiny-level to 'elevated'."
The ad-based revenue model is fundamentally broken. Everyone needs to run Adblock and we need to figure out an economy that doesn't rely on this garbage.
Well, ad based revenue is not broken for Facebook or Google. They employ thousands of engineers and have made billions in revenue.
It should be broken. People just don't know to use Adblock. And it is broken from the perspective of being a reasonable thing to do. Both of those examples rely on totally crazy privacy invasion.
Hopefully improving technology decreases the costs of running large websites to make up for the decreased revenue. Recommendation engines can replace the need for ads entirely. It would recommend products/websites/apps/etc based on what it predicts you will like, not how much money the site is willing to spend on ads.
Man I love AdBlock.

I used it today to block "Hot Network Questions" on StackOverflow. The click-bait trivia was driving me nuts. I'm there to work and hated being distracted by that crap. Two clicks and ahhhh, much better.

Just online, or in general? Has it been broken for years, decades or centuries?
I think the newer generations who grew up online tend to be oblivious to Ads. It's just an instinct to ignore them.
More likely they THINK they are oblivious to them, but they are not. I recall (sorry, I have no citation) a survey of people who played the California state lottery that asked people if they had paid attention to any of the state's ads for the lottery.

They also asked the people why they played the lottery. A very large fraction of the people who said they had not noticed the ads repeated slogans and tag lines from the ads when explaining why they played.

Yeah, people aren't oblivious! That's why we need Adblock. Our brains don't adblock automatically.
Funny thing: (a) I don't watch live TV and sign in to Chrome everywhere so my Adblock follows me from computer to computer and browser to browser. Therefore I don't notice many ads.

(b) I notice ads more than ever now that I block them. I'm not as used to ignoring them, so when I see them, they stand out. Especially on mobile. Oh, not the content, not unless it's irritating or advertorial (or YouTube without YTO), but even so, it's interesting to notice adblock backfiring.

I wonder if there's a common ground between adblock and annoying that won't require advertorial?

I whitelist some websites from Adblock including Google. The ads need to add value to my browsing experience. Most sites just bombard me with irrelevant ads that distract me from what I'm doing but don't give me any value in return. I often click on ads in Google when I'm searching for a particular product to suit my needs.
Agree. Hopefully it will come true soon.

However, so many CPCs are based on this model. If it's gone, how businesses can do commercial online?

I've got a new business model for that, but so far failed to draw enough attention, due to it's early beta without enough data to show. Interesting parties can view my profile.

You mean like paying for every site or things like in-app purchases for games (which many people here hate as well?)
Adblock is my favorite thing right now, I don't know why I didn't install it sooner. And I couldn't agree more on finding new ways to generate money for the online economy. Advertisement is so boring and old-school.
This is well known among savvy internet marketers. It's great to see someone exposing it so well for the laymen and denouncing the issue at large.
Understanding that the system is flawed was fairly simple but this video really laid it out well piece by piece. Easy to absorb, well done.
It's interesting this is still making the rounds. Back in 2010 I remember seeing articles talking about how their ad services was a total Ponzi scheme. Nice to know not much has changed. At the time I was thinking about investing some pretty large amounts of money into advertising on FB. In hindsight, I'm really glad I didn't.

There are reasons that only 6% of FB advertisers are profitable, and this highlights one of the major ones. Unfortunately Facebook has a serious disincentive to fix this - namely the loss of billions of dollars in market cap. As long as the river of cash keeps flowing, they won't make serious efforts at targeting these fake likes.
I'm interested in learning more about this. Does anybody have any thoughts? I think that, by intentionally posting unlikeable things, he guarantees himself 100% spam likes. On something that's actually likeable, these spam likes might be contained to a reasonably small proportion of likes. But what is the size of this shadow population of click farm users on Facebook? For these countries with large click farms to be the largest contingent of likes on big pages like David Beckham suggests they are not small enough to be manageable... I also don't know Facebook's revenue distribution well enough to gauge the business implications. Is it tilted towards small businesses that have serious trouble weeding out spam? Or is it concentrated with the large corporations that can garner large enough real audiences to ignore the spam?
I've worked on all sides of this: brand, agency, buying likes, selling likes, etc.

The reality is this: everything in this video is 100% true and it's been this way almost since the beginning. But most marketers are just checking a box. No one really cares about the budget spent on social ads. It's a line item next to display and TV.

I should say, this isn't just true with Facebook. The same thing happens on Twitter and YouTube. Google AdSense its he only platform that even attempts to sniff out fraud. No one else even tries, because no one cares.

The Google engineers are also trying to release their methods. This is not detecting 'fraudulent' activity, but rather trying to classify adversarial advertisements: (pdf is linked there). You can assume that they are doing the same types of thing to classify fraud.
I love the BS that Twitter tells you about the ROI of their ads. "70% of people who follow you will buy from you".. DUH... That's because the people who follow you are for the most part your EXISTING customers. The other 30% of course are bots.
Twitter ads are pretty much the same. Never pay for ads for Twitter and Facebook. More than 98% of what you pay for goes to fraud followers.
We need better solution.
Pay for quality products.
"Never pay for ads for Twitter and Facebook." and " Pay for quality products."

Do you mean pay better website to get your products listed?

It's not about quality of products. See the other reply. Without ads, there will be no Facebook or Twitter. The issue with fraud is a very serious and difficult one that creeps into many industries, and ends up sucking the life out of them (hint: check banking or finance!).
FB can still put ads on users timeline pages, like Twitter inserts ads in between the tweets.

But this kind of fraud is a big harm to the social network ecosystem.

Putting ads on the users timeline pages may not decrease fraud. The fraud issue is not where you put the ad at.
The challenge here is the misalignment of interests. I agree with lingben that if someone can create a social network with the reach of Facebook but a better alignment of its users and advertisers, it will kill Facebook dead.

FWIW it makes an interesting way to evaluate Google+.

It reminds me of the poorly aligned incentives of Yelp (and to be fair, all accreditation institutions)
can anyone from facebook comment on this? I have a hard time believing the company can hit $7.8bn in revenue per year and have this being more than an insignificant fractional percentage of the total revenue. surely major customers would have noticed by now and reduced their spend.
WP wrote about this story, and there was an inadequate response from facebook
I run a dating site as a side project. For me Google ads are too expensive and I couldn't target a particular country/age/sex as in facebook. (Yeah, likes are useless. But I just wanted eyeballs.) But in December they suddenly disapproved all the ads. The official reason is they want to review and remove inappropriate ads and the advertiser has to apply again on Feb 15. Then I read elsewhere on various forums that big dating advertisers are still allowed to advertise (I can see some ads) and this is a ploy to reduce the competition for big players during Valentine's Day season. Or else why Feb 15? Whatever you say about google, at least they strive to be fair and honest. I think being fair and honest is not in facebook's DNA. (Yeah, It is a throwaway account since I still want to advertise there :( )
The way to advertise on FB is to use a custom audience and pass in a list of every Facebook ID / email address you want to target. Yes, it's a lot more work, but it's also the best bang for the buck if you do the hard work to figure out who you really want to reach. I've driven a lot of revenue through Facebook ads, but it requires unconventional thinking. Just like Google, the obvious advertising options are usually a total waste of money.
Wow, I didn't know you could even do that. This is a great solution and sounds super powerful. Thank you.
Why everybody seem to ruling out the idea that FB is not running click farms? Theory that professional likers are clicking Virtual Cats and Virtual Bagles just so they don't get noticed by FB policing seems ridiculous.
I'm not sure. Maybe Facebook knows the blowback from advertisers would be severe and probably grounds for giant lawsuits / fraud cases. Could they outsource or fund clickfarms while still having plausible deniability? Probably. Could they cap people at 300 likes to give more real value to "likes?" Or punish accounts that are 1000% more active and clicky than regular users? Sure, but it hurts their short-term ad revenue. (And might even save the company.)
Can Facebook ads be targeted at users with less than a certain number of likes?
That will encourage click farms to just create more bogus accounts.
You could target ads to accounts that have less than x likes AND are more than y years old.
That might work short term, but it still won't prevent click farms from hoarding new accounts, and letting them 'mature'. Hopefully advertisers will become more savvy and stop paying for these broken metrics.
Is it possible to prevent them from creating bogus accounts?

From our website, accessing to user accounts are protected by cookies. If the request is not being sent from the same browser, the next page will be not accessible. It's an experiment now.

I think this gets to the fundamental problem with buying likes: You're competing with all the other pages the user has liked. The value of a like depends on this -- and it should definitely be factored into the price you pay. Hopefully this will happen some time in the future!
that might just be the best solution to this problem.

weigh based on the value of one like among however many a given user has

You know what else is interesting? If you pay per click then your ad gets shown to accounts that click on everything, but if you pay per impression (CPM) then your ad gets shown to people who almost never click on anything.
There should be an option for page owners to clean their likes based on engagement if they want to.
Well done video and yes this is a problem. But except for the possible hit on how it distributes engagement to the graph, most people will never complain about fake likes, so it will go on. Facebook will adjust to allow for fake likes to not hit engagement and it will go away.

However I think they need to add a modifier to regions. Likes count as a like but overall engagement should be less equal from bot farm areas. A bit like an electoral college or aggregated country value based on fraud/fakes.

In the end advertising is always a small conversion rate and is very thin online so tricks to kick up visibility will always be around on every ad system.

"Facebook will adjust to allow for fake likes to not hit engagement and it will go away."

How? Now the problem OP brought up is: if he got too many fake likes, his posts are not being delivered to his organic followers. This cause a major damage for his intention to post, and he is forced to advertise his posts which is ridiculous.

I think there should be some better model to distinguish the organic from the click farms. Here is a proposal:

I went through a similar experience with a client - purchased targeted ads and got immediate likes. However, those likes turned into an albatross and engagement went through the floor.

And the crux of the problem wasn't that engagement dropped, it was that for this particular client "Likes" were deemed as more valuable than actual engagement. This belief that a Like is the most important conversion Facebook has to offer is something that repeatedly encountered, and one that drives me a little batty.

Having worked on Fraud Detection and Risk Management at eBay previously, I can understand the difficulty in solving this. As it was explained in the video, the fraudsters will want to look like the regular folks as much as possible. I think this is solvable problem. I will not post the features here, My guess FB folks already know how to address this specific aspect of Fraud.

Btw, has anyone had better experience/ROI with FB Mobile app installs ?? How is the effectiveness of those Ads ?

Why would anyone even hire the fraudsters? (Once they understand they're buying 'Likes' which reduce their reach due to lower engagement)
I don't understand. If I only advertise in the U.S., why would click farms in Egypt see my ads (and subsequently like my page to avoid detection)?
Off the top of my head, two ways: using proxies and having the fake account artificially listed as having an address or location in the US while the actual owner is not in the US.
Exactly our experience as we tried to promote our page on Facebook.
Now people understand why G+ wants real names?

Still doesn't stop the fake accounts but at the same time it pretty much patches it. I think

It'd take about five minutes to take the top 500 first and last baby names and write a script to generate fake names with combinations of them, adding a suffix every once in a while.
You can easily enough come up with a million "real" names for your fake profiles. Meanwhile G+ penalises people with genuine but surprising names.
I think I understand the idea behind the video, but to me it looks like an experiment made by a very inexperienced advertiser. This guy could be a god walking between mere mortals on AdWords, but he surely lacks experience with Facebook advertising. Let me summarize why:

- wrongly setted advertising: Google AdWords and Facebook Ads work in a completely different way. If you try to do advertising with Facebook the same way you do with AdWords... you are going to fail for sure. I work in a start-up that does Facebook Advertisng (AdEspresso [1] ) and I struggle to make customers understand the equation new instrument=new things to learn. The problem with fake clicks exists and has a lot of reasons, but is marginal and partially avoidable. It worsen if you do everything to avoid really interested people (fake page, wrong targets), I don't find it strange that you only get fake clicks (and really expensive ones!).

- how to evaluate the effectiveness of an advertising campaign: the classic and easiest way to measure ROI is the LCA (Last Click Attribution) and is when you click on the ad → do the conversion, some browsing or less than 30 days in the middle are usually not a problem to keep the connection between those two actions. The classic example is AdWords when you are looking for a new razor. But what happens if I see a cool advertisement on Facebook about a cruise but it's not time yet for my holidays? I may like the page, visit it, and keep in mind that there is this really cool agency that sells fantastic cruises. It will come a time when I can ask for holidays at work, I'll remember the agency name and I'll google it looking for their website, also I may click on one of their ads because is between the top results. Next I buy the cruise: who gets the goal an who is the real dealer? That's why you look for Multi Touch Attribution models (MTA). Brand building and brand awareness are serious stuff.


An (e.g.) 1/2 cent payment connected to the current Like button (whether it was credited to the likee or something else) would stop the Facebook Fraud problem by making them non-viable for clickfarms.. and still not seriously impact the original button's usability?

for instance a user could designate a charity recipient for his likes

Characteristics of the Monied "Like" Button

One-Click Micropayment Capability for Volume Solicitations and Multiple Providers

Haha, I just posted my blog post about this sort of thing yesterday! Good timing. I'll update the post with this video.
And here i was considering what advice i should give a client on whether or not to purchase facebook ads. I want to say i am shocked but these days i am way to cynical about the ins and outs of SEO/Inbound marketing. It's all a rat race
This makes me hate the web.

I like the internet, but facebook infested so many websites with those widgets...

If facebook keeps living, I'll say "meeeh".

If it goes down, I'll say "GREAT. Now's the chance for reddit and twitter and G+ and others".

Try ghostery. it's like adblock for share buttons.
Ghostery-clean websites makes me so happy. Hacker News is one of them.
> If it goes down, I'll say "GREAT. Now's the chance for reddit and twitter and G+ and others".

You cheer on centralized corporate systems that have business models based on censorship, vote manipulations, surveillance, arbitrary policy changes, and spam.

While you cheer them on, I will be saying now's the chance for democratic distributed blockchain based replacements for the Twitters, Gmails, and Facebooks. Think Bitmessage, Namecoin, Ethereum, NXT, Bitcloud...

Well, then make a startup and do it. But I still think facebook has to die first. Google+ and other are just imitating facebook to introduce some competition.
And just what makes you think that the facebook replacement won't do exactly what they're doing, or, rather, aren't currently doing exactly what facebook is doing?

Can you convince yourself that reddit isn't gamed by advertisers and companies in general? Can you convince yourself that twitter isn't as well? Can you convince yourself that G+ isn't gamed by one of the other eighteen people using it?

Couldn't help myself.

still prefer reddit though. facebook is really a bleak thing to use.

I don't care about a replacement, maybe there won't be any, I just want to see it die. I just think other social networks are less evil than facebook, that's all.

Being an asshole is not mandatory for a corporation.

I'm not so sure about the explanation. I have also gotten a lot of these useless "like thousand of random pages" likes but the difference is that I'm pretty sure they are real people.

Could it be that their computer is hacked? That they are part of a like farm without knowing it? A lot of the profiles I've been analyzing seem to be really computer illiterate so it wouldn't surprise me if they are more prone to install viruses and less likely to understand that something is wrong when their feed is filled with updates from random pages.

Maybe Facebook could try something like Flattr: one user has, say, 30 likes per months for pages. If he or she likes 3000 pages in one month, then each like counts as only 0.01 normal like.
This dude has a good channel. This video blows my mind
Good video and but nothing new. One workaround is to create custom audience based on emails you have. That helps a little.

And I would like to point out that he might be wrong about engagement of "fake like" audience. Some farms will give you fakes which are very much engaged (I guess to prevent detection of fakeness).

The most interesting thing is to see whether Facebook will do something about this.

On one side, this definitely helps their bottom line. On the other hand, it erodes usefulness of Facebook as an ad platform.

I thought I read a comment here that thought that there was a cultural difference as well. The author mentioned that a couple of distant friends in some countries who would Like every one of his posts, no matter what it was about.

Regardless, the need to drive up page fans is probably over, as the value of a fan/Like was always questionable. Target your actual customer base and pay for clicks that matter. Facebook seems to still be a great place for performance-based display advertising.

It's not Facebook that is the problem, it's the entire Silicon Valley culture. Facebook is just a reflection of that. Rotten to the core.
Although the conclusion of this video might be right (the engagement from users who like your page is not high), I don't agree with the premise that click farms are only present in developing nations.

Moreover, an experiment with just ~10$ and ~35 likes seems statistically insignificant. A figure of at least 100$ and hundreds of likes would have been more credible.

Of course I would to run a few tests to run my hypothesis, but an almost too easy feature could make this avoidable: the ability to remove from demographic people who like X. That way, if you want to target people who like Apple you can also avoid people who like HP or Dell. An easy enough solution, that Facebook should look into.
I'm a fan of what works. And right now Facebook is what is working. I don't know if it's the same for you, but not a day goes by where I don't overhear someone talking about Facebook in public.

About the video, the guy ran a poor campaign for a pointless page. He was expecting advertising to work like a magic button where you click it and you get engagement. The guy had no product and no target market. He advertised nothing to everyone. Of course he's going to get poor results.

About the click farms. Yeah, they do exist. But it's not Facebook's fault. Just like it's not Google's fault if people use the internet to send spam. You have to think about the scale that Facebook operates. They're the number two website in the world. And the number one social network. Let that settle in for a second. Fraudulent activity is, unfortunately, inevitable when you have a site like that.

The bottom line: become smarter with your ads. Have an actual product and a real audience. Ironically, I know of a copywriter / marketer that made a website for the dog niche. He gets 800,000 engagements a week on it. Every one of his posts gets 500-26,000 likes and tons of comments. The site is basically a news site for dogs. He just does content right. And he knows how to advertise. He doesn't spend time making fancy videos like this guy did. He gets things done. He gets results. He partners with dog related products and services and makes a killing entirely from a Facebook page.

This video is an insult to marketers. It's like me trying to insert a floppy disk into a cdrom drive, then complaining that computer makers are all frauds. 

It seems you are missing the point of the video.
I'm so glad this video came out. People like me can continue to dominate Facebook ads. This video will scare people away that do not know how Facebook ads work. Ask any internet marketer, Facebook ads are dominating unlike anything in history.

A part of me thinks this video was made to drive people away from FB advertising on purpose.

Would it change anything about the problem if the initial distribution of a post would favor people with fewer overall likes and people who had previously engaged? It seems like a win for the poster, but a loss for Facebook since they wouldn't get more money for payment to promote the post.
FB already has the money, why should they care about engagement? What is the value proposition for that if goodwill is not a primary driver? That is, is there any indication that FB isn't simply penny-wise and pound-foolish?
I don't really expect Facebook to do anything since it seems like a profitable churn. I was more interested in the system as a whole and what small changes could correct it. It seems like a really weird, random sample taste makers thing right now.
Facebook should stop trying to sell advertising and just start selling premium services directly to users. Seriously, just ask for $10 a month from everybody, then build some genuinely good new features.
Hrm.. just reading on the net Revenues: $2.59 billion, Monthly active users: 1.23 billion. Just need about $2 per MAU which is not crazy at all.
Also interesting that "cairo-based" "Ahmed Ronaldo"s name is written in greek writing on his facebook page. That does not even look like a authentic, egyptian fake account
The only type of Facebook marketing that kinda "works" - is "remarketing". I.e. when you show ads to people who have already visited your website.
Good video except for the love everything, mono your voice track. Every-time the speaker turns his head, the audio pans to the right. Its annoying with headphones.
There are lots of such activities still floating around, its not the likes which matters , its the people talking about which matters , and relevant comments .
I think this applies here...
project i wanted to start - basically a marketplace where you will get paid for posting stuff about local businesses. Seeing post from friends about restaurant opened in their area should give more significant bang for a buck then trying to sell something online to people reacting negatively to any online advertisement.
Whats scary is from reading all this and my experience, if FB ever got their act together, it would be a serious hurt on GOOG.
I'm not a fan of this video. One is that it's told in a very convincing way. He sure spent some time on his charts and making his opinion sound factual. The problem is that he is wrong. Facebook ads are the most effective way to advertise, if you do them correctly. It's not Facebook that's fraudulent here. Facebook did what they said they'll do. It's the way this guy ran the ad that's the problem.
I'm not entirely sure click farms are the cause. When I ran a recent "Like my Page" campaign as a test, I noticed 99% or something absurd came from Facebook mobile. I think it's just way easier for people to accidentally click the Like the page on mobile (no coincidence Facebook has reported record mobile revenue recently).
If it can be shown that Facebook is aware of this would it put them in legal jeopardy?
So what's gonna be next? auto generated user engagement and comments?
This is devastating.
I was expecting this would have more views by now.
FB stock is losing -1.21%
i wonder if promoting posts also lead to fake/false exposure
Gief bubble
I like how a bunch of programmers, mom&pop bakeries and nerd youtubers who have absolutely 0 experience in marketing/advertising expect to throw $50 on facebook and see astonishing results and ROI.

Guess what? Marketing is a difficult discipline. Pick up a book on communications and a couple more on copywriting and advertising. Then another one on marketing. Do a demographic/psychographic profile, read a ton of whitepapers and case studies.

Then map out your strategy, load your account with money and test, test, test.

You are going vastly unprepared in a space filled with people who do this for living and expect to compete with them. When you fail after your pitiful attempt, you blame someone. Human nature at its best.

You've opted for total ad hominem and strawman without even touching upon the complaint made in the video: that Facebook's advertising system is designed in a manner that reduces the reach and value of that advertising when it's used.
Ad hominem? If you try to build a space rocket and fail miserably at it, post a video about it and I call you a biggot for attempting to do something extremely complicated without proper preparation process, is that ad hominem? Or you keep the wikipedia page on fallacies and wait for every suitable (or not) opportunity to show off with your pompous knowledge?
You still haven't even attempted to address the original argument.

Are you trolling or just naturally obnoxious?

I'm naturally obnoxious towards manchilds who refuse to face the reality.
Okay, I'll let you get back to being a special snowflake, then. Have a good one.
First, you sound like a real champ, so thanks for making it hard for me to reply and support your point.

But I will,

Test, Test, Test and don't be a noob is the key to making any paid channel work. The deck is stacked against anyone who doesn't.

The problem I see is that Facebook is banking naiveté and unsophisticated users to bolster their short term revenue.

Is that right or wrong? Maybe. Will it have long ranging impacts on the platform and the small businesses that could really be benefiting from social channels, probably.

Test Test Test and don't be a noob.

>The problem I see is that Facebook is banking naiveté and unsophisticated users to bolster their short term revenue.

This, exactly. It's perfectly okay that marketing is hard and return on investment is also difficult. The problem is Facebook actively pursues unsophisticated advertisers while running a platform that's actively harmful to them.

I see it analogous to SEO. Good SEO being hard is fine. There are noob mistakes you can make that will hurt your SERP placing. That's okay, too.

But if AdWords worked such that paying for AdWords actively hurt your SERP positioning, I think people would have the same kind of problem with it that they do with this.

Well said. I think your adwords example is spot on.
In every Facebook HN post, there is always the "I deleted my FB account" and the "you can't really delete your FB data" back and forth.

Instead of deleting your account has anybody tried to "trash" your account via "Liking" everything you can and posting a large sets of unrelated pics? your info is only really valuable because its "true". if you trashed your account, its pretty much the same as deleting. also based on the filtering mentioned in this article, it seems like at some point your friends would just filter you out.


Solution: limit the total number of likes per account to something like 50.
great video. I experienced very similar things and have since cut back on promoting posts on Facebook. We have already cut our spending on Facebook by 50% over the last two months and I am thinking that pretty soon we will spend $0 on this soon to worthless social network.
look, someone just discovered the concept of click fraud.

getting ROI on FB is hard but not impossible. driving mobile app installs with good targeting at a reasonable price can be done. i can't speak to likes but i have to imagine with good targeting and a reasonable understanding of the dynamics of click fraud that for the right domain you can get your money's worth.

Here we go again. It's a new quarter. Now that earnings decimated the young-people-dont-use-facebook myth, now we have the click-fraud-is-a huge-systemic-problem myth. Haters be hatin.
What factual errors did this video make?
This video does not seem like hate to me. The guy starts by how he tried to increase Facebook likes through legitimate Facebook endorsed advertisement and shows the data how that worked out for him.

Of course, the data he uses is rather thin, but he makes a good point.

Google had a click fraud issue before and they fixed it. Facebook will throw every appropriate resource on this problem and it'll be fixed. I am absolutely positive this is just noise.
He used the endorsement poorly. He does a way better job at putting on a show than providing a convincing argument.
I run profitable Facebook marketing campaigns.

Here's the problem with this guy's argument:

He expects people from Somalia to be as responsive to his content at people from the United States.

That makes exactly zero sense.

These aren't "likes", these are people. And the people from Somalia apparently don't like his content.

But, according to his very own numbers, people from the United States are very responsive.

Are fake likes the obvious answer?

Or is he completely ignoring marketing fundamentals?

Please write an article about how you run these "profitable" campaigns. Seriously. It seems like you are the only person I've ever heard make this claim and I'm sure people here are dying to know the secret.
Our company has seen lots of profitable campaigns run through us onto Facebook. We know this because our customers track the sales they get from the ads and it can be easily compared against the amount they spent.
I've run many profitable campaigns on Facebook -- by not buying likes or advertising a Facebook Page. You can advertise normal links on Facebook and that operates like any other online ad -- some text and a picture, linked to a landing page for your own site.

There's no "likes" to count or "engagement" to measure other than the normal conversion metrics -- how many of the clickthroughs completed whatever action you wanted them to complete on the landing page, how many eventually convert to paying customers, and is their LTV higher than their CPA.

Facebook's also a great channel for retargeting. I run a campaign for Improvely there and the ads only appear to people that have already hit the signup page within the past few days.

Sounds like that's the only viable way to have profitable campaigns: having ads that go directly to your landing page.

I for one am confused as to why people chose the other indirect, convoluted way: buying likes, directing people to their FB page, THEN hoping they click through to their actual website.

You can save money on a Facebook ad by linking to a Facebook page, well on a per click basis but I'm not sure if it's a good strategy overall.
I think you're misunderstanding the word "fake" in this context. He means they are inauthentic likes, aka likes from real people who don't actually like what they're clicking the Like button on.
The problem is that he's intentionally buying likes from people he KNOWS aren't responsive.

The simple solution? Stop targetting the unresponsive countries.

It's not rocket science. It's actually super-brain-dead obvious.

If you're buying likes from India -- and no Indians are responding to your content -- then why would you keep buying likes from India?

This is stuff you can spend $5 to figure out. It is very, very, very easy to stop targeting the countries that don't respond.

He claims certain countries give him a good response, and certain countries give him no response.

His solution is to stop advertising and complain about "fake likes."

Why doesn't he just stop targeting markets that don't work for him?

Maybe so he can make a link-bait youtube video?

He was buying likes only from the US and he was still getting fraudulent likes from profiles that liked thousands of pages.
It's funny how he predicted all these stock objections to his claims of fraud in the video, and yet they all appear here in the HN thread. Let's all watch the video again shall we?
You didn't watch the video...
As others have noted, this is explained in the video (and made to seem super-brain-dead-obvious, at that).

Specifically, clickfarmers are liking the ads whether they have been targeted or not, in order to thwart automated detection. So you can't escape it.

So far the only way around this that I've seen mentioned in this thread is to not advertise your facebook page at all, and instead advertise links to an external page that redirects back to your facebook page.

Thank you for being one of the few logical people in this thread. People love to bring out their pitchforks, and report / downvote (or whatever it is they do here) when someone disrupts the "flow" of things.

The guy ran a poor ad. It's his fault, not Facebooks.

I see you are a proponent of the third way.

He specially addressed that at 05:25 into the video. And he spent $20 instead of $5. He marketed to the US, CAN, AUS, and the UK and analyzed the new likes. The likes appeared to come from fake users.
If the people didn't like his content, then why did they "like" it?
Because the internet is just a big video game with few consequences for trivial, meaningless actions. Click any button you see, FTW! Who cares?
winner winner chicken dinner
Nice video. All true. I have performed tests with the same ad budget ($20k) and target audience for Google and FB. FB ROI was negative. Google ROI was 400% (travel space). The only thing that seemingly "works" has been buying likes by advertising. This video should help educate my clients of the utter uselessness of those too.

This brings up the interesting question of the general (non)value of a lot of mobile advertising. High impressions, super-low click rates, with many "falsies" because of tricks by the developer, eg where the advert is shown at random, quickly covering up parts of the user interface or extremely close to legitimate user interface elements.

Case in point, the app "Reddit in Pictures" bounces its adverts up and down at the bottom of the screen. If the advert were static, you wouldn't make the mistake of clicking on them, however, due to the bounce it has happened to me at least 20 times in the past month.

In short: for me the only valuable advert is a google advert... visible at the time when people have actually expressed interest in a topic/product, because they search for it. Note: google display network advertising is equally useless/fraudulent.

Hey everyone -- sorry to hijack the top thread but I’m an ads engineer at Facebook so I feel qualified to respond. I posted this over on reddit too but it's still pending approval.

In the case of this ad — I think we actually delivered on what was asked for. The targeting specs were fairly broad (cat lovers in four countries). Getting 39 people who like cats to like a page with a cute cat picture in 20 minutes sounds pretty reasonable to me. If you want a specific kind of cat lover, you’d probably want to target even more specifically (like people in a zip code near you).

We're continually working on making it easier for advertisers to target the right people. Earlier this year I worked on a piece of UI called "Audience Definition" (in our ad create flow), which helps give advertisers guidance on how to target ads more specifically. If you set your advertising too broadly (or too narrowly) -- you get a warning.

Fake (and low quality) likes are bad for everyone. We don’t want advertisers to get fans that aren’t good for their business -- we want to help them drive real results, and we can’t do that with bad likes. We invest a lot in improving the systems to monitor and remove fake likes from the system, and also in helping advertisers set smart targeting to help them reach the people they care most about.

And to be honest, a lot of people like cats, and the picture on the page is pretty adorable. Lots of real people like lots of things. And LOTS of people like cats. :P -Peter

My company spends about 100x more money with Google on ads than we do on Facebook ads. Why? Because every time I test advertising on Facebook (outside of retargeting), 90%+ of the engagement looks like garbage. I buy likes, I get likes from people that are clearly not target customers. I boost posts, it makes no sense who seems them and who comments. I could never figure out why people that are clearly not target customers would ever "like" my ad or engage with me. Beyond that, we get no conversions/ROI. It makes no sense; ergo I cannot trust the FB ad platform.

Defend the "reasonableness" of your ad platform all you want, but realize that your brand is completely tarnished and it will take serious changes before you ever see much of my money.

That said, I am not hating. I wish Facebook ads didn't suck, as I'd gladly pay you as much as I pay Google if I got similar ROI.

This is not a Facebook problem. It's a problem with how YOU are running Facebook ads.
This IS a Facebook problem. Whether they are not doing their job properly or customers have problems understanding their platform. But whatever it is, it still affects FB directly, so of course it's their problem.
No, it's not. This is as much of a Facebook problem as it is Google's problem that people send SPAM to people on the internet. This guy doesn't know how to market. People think that advertising is a magic button that you push and you get results. Hilarious.
But SPAM is Google's problem and they are devoting a lot of resources to stopping it. Not to say it is exclusively Google's problem or Google's only/biggest problem.
And let me guess... you get great results with your Facebook campaigns? My marketing teams have spent a lot of time with a variety of advertising campaigns. The Facebook has always been by far the worst, an order of magnitude worse than everything else we tried even though it's supposed to have greater targeting ability. Snarky comments on HN aren't going to make me believe that Facebook advertising is anything but overpriced and overhyped. Please present your evidence instead of assuming everyone is an idiot.
I'm not here to make you believe anything. Do what's working for you. If Facebook ads are not working for you, stop using them, or seek the help of someone more qualified than you and your team.
> I'm not here to make you believe anything.

Then what are you here to do? Just write unsubstantiated snarky comments about how much of an idiot everyone but you is?

Just expressing my frustration about this whole thing.
Here is an accurate response:
Yeah, a facebook employee complaining that he didn't use enough money to promote the fake pages. Also complaining that he is using facebook wrong and should know better. I was expecting facebook to know better than to leave old tools that does not work lying around just because they make good money out of them? No wait, I wasn't.
That is correct. Facebook campaigns don't work for actual conversions. But it is in large part due to the casual way most users navigate the website; which is not going to change. Fake accounts or not you will get a large amount of users that have no relation to your product 'liking' it. This is not necessarily bad. I am not sure if this still applies to USA because of the people that have been leaving Facebook lately. But in my country (Mexico), Facebook is used to give 'presence'. We don't expect any actual ROI or new customers directly from Facebook campaigns, but a user looking at a high number of likes does make a difference in trust perception.

That said, this problem is not present in Google because of the way they present the ads and the way users are navigating when they find them. I believe for this reason Google will always have a great advantage over Facebook and although we won't stop spending a small amount of money to keep a higher amount of likes in Facebook it won't be near as much as we do for Google.

For the same reason, that Facebook's reaction to ads is based in the way users navigate the website, I don't think Facebook will never get a ROI similar to Google.

> I’m an ads engineer at Facebook so I feel qualified to respond.

You'll be qualified to respond when you've actually watched the video so you won't have to write uninformed drivel like the following:

> In the case of this ad — I think we actually delivered on what was asked for. The targeting specs were fairly broad (cat lovers in four countries). Getting 39 people who like cats to like a page with a cute cat picture in 20 minutes sounds pretty reasonable to me.

Because that is exactly what did not happen in the video.

> Fake (and low quality) likes are bad for everyone.

Nobody was talking about "low quality" likes, the topic under discussion is fake ones, from fake accounts by fake people.

> We don’t want advertisers to get fans that aren’t good for their business -- we want to help them drive real results, and we can’t do that with bad likes. We invest a lot in improving the systems to monitor and remove fake likes from the system, and also in helping advertisers set smart targeting to help them reach the people they care most about.

Blablabla, said every advertiser, ever.

> And to be honest, a lot of people like cats, and the picture on the page is pretty adorable. Lots of real people like lots of things. And LOTS of people like cats.

Once again, did you not watch the video, or are you in fact arguing that those 39 people are actually real people and not fake accounts?

xxbondsxx is also a fake, just of a different variety. Convincing perhaps at first glance, if you only read the first sentence of his post and moved on, but lacking any apparent understanding of the issue at hand and moreover, I suspect, full autonomy. A marketing drone.
I've got to admit, I wasn't going to comment about it but I did wonder what serious engineer would register a name of xxsomethingxx, and then use it to speak in official capacity :)
I do not think you addressed the actual point of the video: the clicks on his cat page came from click farms. They were not real people.
Not necessarily all of the fake likes are always from fake accounts. I have witnessed some of my facebook friends 'liking' a big number of pages without their consent, automatically. Most probably as a result of phishing they became a part of some big click farms.
It's not like that would be the first "non-denial denial" Facebook has ever issued...
Sounds more to me as if, despite skirting the issue, this guy works there, is constantly trying to make Facebook a better ad serving platform, and him and his team are doing the best they can to achieve that, one fix or improvement at a time.

It's obviously not a company wide statement on the issue. It's one engineer saying "Hey, I work there. This is what I'm doing and this is what we're doing. And this is what happened when X did Y which is what he wanted."

I can't imagine that solving the entirety of this issue could ever be simple.

It sounds like something that would need to be fixed from a policy level. Better targeting won't help if the top brass avoids any approach that eliminates the fake accounts.
I spent $46k on Facebook ads last year, with very healthy ROI.

First, I want to say THANK YOU for the many improvements to the ad system that have recently taken place.

Second, I want to say that you have a LOT of work left to do. Facebook marketing is hard. Too hard.

I have many suggestions, but here's one of them:

Allow the same targeting options when posting directly to the page, as when posting an ad.

For example, I can create a custom audience, and send an ad only to them.

I want to be able to target (or exclude) that custom audience when I post to my Facebook page. If I could do that it would make a huge difference.

Thank you for your time / consideration.

Jacob, that makes perfect sense. Yes, I suspect people are getting good ROI that know how to navigate the fakes. But the reality is that facebook could easily create "don't allow likes from someone with more than 5+ likes in their account" rule. Why not? You're probably not getting any mind share from them anyways.
I really like that:

"don't allow likes from someone with more than 5+ likes in their account""

The # of likes by the user is a good proxy for how diluted the quality of the "like" is.

Probability_to_show_ad = constant * num_other_likes

That said, as long as Facebook has a counter-incentive to cleaning it up, we shouldn't expect this change. We need advertisers to revolt in large #'s before the financial incentives make this a priority for FB.

Making it an option is not very intuitive. If those likes are useless, just stop them from liking or hellban them by never having their likes show up or cost anything.

Either solution would require Facebook to admit that there are tons of fake likes though. The assumption being that admitting this will have a negative impact on revenue.

Also, either solution would probably result in a lot of new click far accounts being created with the new goal of keeping likes to a minimum. It'll be a constant battle I'm sure.

This is actually a great idea for Facebook - don't sell Likes in absolute numbers, sell them normalized to the fraction of total Likes for the users Liking you.

So I could buy 10 "Fractional Likes" and get 20 users who each only have 2 total Likes (including this one) = 20 * 1/2 = 10

OR I get 10,000 users who each have 1,000 Likes each = 10K * 1/1000 = 10

...which seems a reasonable ballpark for resolving it in an automatable, economic way.

"Don't allow Likes over X" kind of sucks since what happens to legitimate Likers? I'm not a clickfarmer, but I've Liked way more than 5 things.

My News Feed has turned to crap (probably because of it), but that's a whole 'nother story.

I would challenge the correctness of this post.
Any questions? Go ahead.
I have limited experience with Facebook, but this sounds like a "fine print" to me. You assume that it is customer's responsibility to learn FB advertising model down to smallest details and navigate carefully around technicalities in order not to drain resources to click farms. While legal, such practices are dubious. It is FB responsibility to filter out garbage and provide clean service to paying customers.
I don't understand your comment. He complains that it is too hard. Isn't that also your point?
I do analytics for a major brand you have definitely heard of.

We spend way more than $46K/year.

I agree with Jacob here. If you are willing to work at it, facebook can give you a very healthy ROI. It is not nearly as easy as with Google though.

- Buying likes is basically a waste of time unless your goal is to stroke someones ego or are trying to generate some sort of "social proof"

- Re-targetting via Custom Audiences is awesome (you need a robust CRM program to take advantage of this, or at least an email list).

- Lookalike audiences are promising, but you have to work at them.

Edit: paragraphs

It's great to hear about what works for you.

Last year, we had great success with buying likes -- but for it to work you need to execute very well in terms of regularly publishing highly engaging content to your page. I'd love to compare notes some time. Send me an email if you are interested. (Google my name.)

I work in the field and have seen companies who spend several million a month, agree with your key points.

For companies of that size, data is everything, if an ad is underperforming it stops running, if an ad is bringing you low quality clicks (for example, like farms) it will stop running too.

It's really silly to look at someone saying they dumped $20k in FB ads and it didn't pan out without providing any kind of data at all, how many creatives/targeting permutations did they try? did they monitor their ads at all? did they try to negatively target those bad likes they were getting?

I've even seen "custom" lookalike audience implementations, to squeeze that extra cost/performance ratio out of it.

>We don’t want advertisers to get fans that aren’t good for their business -- we want to help them drive real results, and we can’t do that with bad likes. We invest a lot in improving the systems to monitor and remove fake likes from the system, and also in helping advertisers set smart targeting to help them reach the people they care most about.

Has no one ever suggested being able to add targeting filters to target users with a total number of likes between x and y? It may seem counter intuitive, however it would allow people to stop targeting users who don't like anything and avoid those who like everything (and therefore can't possibly engage with all their likes).

To me this seems like the obvious solution (with a bit of tweaking to the upper bound), however as the video states this could be negative for Facebook to implement due to the (denied) benefit of fake likes to them. With this implemented however, it could possibly force the click farms to be maintaining simultaneous accounts to keep their total likes down?

Looking at my own Facebook account, I have 46 likes, so surely a company wishing to advertise, would want to advertise with; if they targeted adverts to users with above 2 likes and below ~500 whom are also within they're usual specific filters and regions they are more likely to reach their desired audience of active users. Yes it's quite possible they would miss a tiny percentage of outliers with thousands of likes or new accounts with 0 likes, but that's simply a cost of doing business efficiently.

There's a brave (and perhaps naive) engineer. I think you'll find this audience a bit skeptical, but there's a bigger issue. If people are paying FB for relationships with people that want to be engaged with a product, they will quit paying as soon as the ROI is proven to be negative. And I think you'll only get one chance! If you honestly think the guy with the $20k ad spend is going to "try again just to make sure", then I think I'll go short some FB stock before it takes it's final dive.

This isn't a problem you face alone ... and I think it's telling that Google has had to put more ads on each page to grow revenue. In their case, the ads are targeted to the user AND often are related to a product search. I think FB has a bigger problem because people didn't go there to search for a product but rather to engage their network.

Good luck

> If you honestly think the guy with the $20k ad spend is going to "try again just to make sure", then I think I'll go short some FB stock before it takes it's final dive.

That person has already replied with more info on his case, but you should also note that for some people $20k is big enough to never risk that mistake again, while for others it really isn't. I spend around that much each month on Facebook and that's a "well we'll put a little into FB" amount in the scheme of things. Sure, I've had other clients for whom a badly spent $1k was a problem, too. My point is to not jump to assumptions that an adspend is big because it sounds big to you.

(He'll, just this morning I sent a mail to a video website saying that a $15k spend delivered shit results and that we should try again.)

You sound like somebody who hasn't done that much search engine marketing. You can lose $20k on google in the blink of an eye and have nothing to show for it but clicks and exit-pages. Some of this may truly be Facebook's problem, I don't know, I personally doubt it. But no, if one negative-ROI campaign led people to abandon Google, they'd have no advertisers left, either. So I think your premise is flawed.
FYI, as the $20k guy, the money wasn't spent all at once. We fiddled, we tried, we failed, several times, miserably. We've made mistakes on Google as well, but success was more easily achieved.

So, despite being certain that our target audience is on FB, we have concluded that we're better off advertising in a place where the intent to purchase a hotel room/travel is clearly present (ie google search).

It's a specific situation, certainly not true for all advertisers. I'm sure that FB advertising for other products might work quite well. It's just not for us.

You just completely ignored the point he was trying to make with the fake likes. You're going to have to come up with a better bullshit defense.
I'm not convinced they were a FB employee, as I'd expect better spin. And commentary. Especially given the target audience of this site.
He didn't completely ignore the claims. As he mentioned, the targeting specs may have been too broad.

It's easy argue against the value of something so easily faked as a like, but we shouldn't forget that Facebook is also a large platform for promotional advertising, where "like-gated" promotions are designed primarily to collect users' email addresses.

Watching the video, I don't think that the takeaway was that the advertising was fraudulently performed, but that due to the chaining of likes/engagement/content display, that fake profiles/click farms can have a negative impact on longer-term relationships with people who consume an advertisers content.

I mean, if you look at the page he was trying to drive traffic to, it seems as though 20 minutes would actually be problematic. He was attempting to stretch out the time it took, and failed. If I put up an ad with the basic premise of:"like this page, and it'll download malware" and got likes, the likes would be EXTREMELY suspect, which is what it appeared he was trying to do. I think that non-genuine eyeballs are a large problem for any CPM advertising company, but as this seems tied to how content is distributed after the fact, the problem may be exacerbated.

It's not just paid likes that people are worrying about--it's organic likes too...which brings me to my question. What is your response to the other problem the OP references: spammers liking thousands of unrelated pages to confuse your algorithms, which in turn diminishes audience reach across the entire network?

I guess I just don't understand why the responsibility is on the advertiser to "target the right people." And really, that's not the problem here. If I had a Page that I wanted to target in Bangladesh, how exactly could I go about doing that without having the majority of my likes be fake?

> If I had a Page that I wanted to target in Bangladesh, how exactly could I go about doing that without having the majority of my likes be fake?

Well obviously this means you can't use targeted advertising on people in Bangladesh.

Hm. We should roll out click farms everywhere.

Facebook somehow allows a website to determine whether the user likes a page or not. I've seen websites asking users to click Like (basically liking a page that paid the money to the click farm) in order the view the content. This kind of Like bait is extremely popular, and Facebook basically allow content publishers to trick users in this manner easily.
The most interesting assertion in this video is that the facebook algorithm sends out user updates to a sample of their fans/subscribers and that the engagement performance within that sample is a key determining factor as to whether an update is shared more broadly in news feeds.

If that is in fact the case and purchasing facebook ads indirectly increases the amount of fake/automated likes included within that sample (thereby negatively impacting the overall engagement metrics on your posts) then the purchase of facebook advertising has the side effect of diminishing your ability to organically drive traffic and engagement.

To put it another way. This would be like if buying Google Adwords advertising not only got you fake/automated traffic, but also simultaneously decreased your organic, unpaid search rankings.

Just curious, what "flavor" is Facebook blue (#3B5998) kool-aid? I always imagined it to be like a Blue Razz Blow Pop.
Thank you for chiming in. Facebook should add a new filter limiting the audience to users who have fewer likes. So for example he could advertise to folks who are interested in cats but have fewer than 5 overall likes. Likes from more discerning users are certainly more valuable than likes from generous likers. How about another filter limiting the audience to users who have posted X number of entries to their timeline or the number of years they've been on Facebook?
Peter, I think you need to watch the Video again. Watch around 6:40 where he goes through the likes his cat fans like - such as mouthwash amongst dozens of other conflicting pages. Also watch the part where Facebook can't admit to this because they'd have to give back all that ad revenue.
Characteristics of the Monied "Like" Button

One-Click Micropayment Capability for Volume Solicitations and Multiple Providers

Represented by Perkins Coie

And what about the 83,000 fake likes that his Science related page has? Can you explain that too?
blah blah blah
Oh lord, "ads engineer".

I weep for humanity.

I sincerely hope names like this become widespread if they accurately describe the job. Very helpful to have a bright red "KEEP OUT" sign.
I'm a soon-to-be graduated student and am job hunting, so identifying dead ends is presently very relevant to my life. What about a title like this smells fishy to you? I'm not being pedantic, I really want to know how to avoid crappy jobs.
The job might not be that bad. It just depends on what you find intellectually stimulating. The actual algorithm for selecting ads probably won't be what you get to work on. Ad engineer jobs are quite frequently focused on making tooling for the buyers to slice and dice data in lots of different ways to analyze the results of a campaign.

By all means, if it's a good company I would highly suggest taking the job. A job at Facebook or Google for a year working as an ad engineer is still going to be a much better experience than most 'enterprise java' positions at a non-tech company.

I have graduated a long time ago, here is my piece of advice. Do not steer away from the jobs just because someone says so. Try them all. You are young, don't get stuck in one place/industry. This will give you a strong advantage later on.
I don't work in ad engineering, but I do work in marketing/advertising analytics for a major brand.

I get contacted by recruiters every week, so I find any talk about a shortage of jobs in this field to be laughable.

I work in natural language processing now, but I was working on ads for the last couple of years (right out of college).

There is nothing inherent to ads that makes it universally something to avoid. Different people have different priorities for their ideal engineering job (num of users reached, power within the team, liking the product, liking the actual technical work, etc). I know people who loved working in ads: some of them didn't care a ton about the product they worked on, but loved the challenge of their technical work, and some who truly found the world of ads itself to be interesting. This set of priorities isn't necessarily something you'll realize immediately out of school; I was happy for a while with the technical challenge of the work I was doing in ads, but after a while I realized that my personal preference prioritized the actual product I was shipping higher than I thought, so I switched to something I was more excited about.

Don't listen to anyone stupid enough to tell you that there's any universal rule about jobs in ads being crappy (much less a "dead end"; I couldn't be happier where I am at this point and spending a couple of years working in the area of ads didn't hurt me at all). Keep in mind what your priorities are for your job (they're different for everyone) and do research on what a given role would entail (something that even good CS programs don't really prepare you for: I had to discover my aversion to front-end work the hard way).

> Don't listen to anyone stupid enough to tell you that there's any universal rule about jobs in ads being crappy (much less a "dead end";

Also, be aware that this can change in a few years. Some people consider working for Monsanto a "dead end", because not many other companies would want to hire a person like that afterwards.

>Some people consider working for Monsanto a "dead end", because not many other companies would want to hire a person like that afterwards.

Is this even true? I know it's the kind of thing that's hard to explicitly source, but I have a hard time believing that many companies (let alone most) would blacklist someone for working for Monsanto. I feel like the actual reason to avoid Monsanto would be if it's incompatible with your personal morality, not for some imagined fear of widespread reprisal.

I can't say from direct personal experience, but I had a friend reject a Monsanto job offer, explaining that such a first job could become a negative influence on the rest of her career. I'm not in her field, so I don't know what different kinds of employers think.
Hm ok, I was thrown off by the fact that it sounded like you were saying "not many [desirable] companies would hire you after Monsanto". I honestly think your friend might have just been overreacting. Don't get me wrong, I wouldn't work at Monsanto either, but I wouldn't have any illusions about it being a 100% personal decision as opposed to something that would affect my career negatively. My assumption is that most organizations aren't childish enough to turn away employees just because of negative views of their past employers; people take jobs for LOTS of reasons, not simple optimization in one direction (how "good" the company is).

For a facile example, I have a friend who got into environmental law and was very aware that she could either make peanuts defending the environment (at a non-profit) or make bank helping companies destroy it (she has chosen the former so far). If she suddenly had to deal with huge medical costs for a sick kid or something? One would have to be a complete asshole to judge her sight unseen for having a certain company on her resume.

Identifying which ad to show to which user is basically mind reading. I can think of few things which are more intellectually stimulating.
Humanity has had ad engineers as long as we've had civilization. There was even actual physical engineering going into the intricate stencils used to carve the names of kings promoting themselves into temples and other buildings in ancient Babylon -- over 4000 years ago.
Peter, Derek did not get 39 people who like cats. He got 39 Likes from fake accounts. There is no option in the Facebook Ad UI to "exclude fake accounts." Don't blame him for broad targeting when the result is fake accounts.

> Fake (and low quality) likes are bad for everyone.

But they're endemic to the advertising product you sell. "It sucks for us, too!" is no comfort.

> He got 39 Likes from fake accounts.

>> Fake (and low quality) likes are bad for everyone.

> But they're endemic to the advertising product you sell. "It sucks for us, too!" is no comfort.

Not only is it endemic, it is well-known at Facebook. Thousands upon thousands of Facebook employees at all levels have known this deception has been taking place. We are not talking about a few days, weeks or months....

This multi-billion dollar company is knowingly generating revenue via this nonsense. It's not a mistake. This has nothing to do with cat lovers reflexively clicking like.

This was made clear in the video.
Good questions raised about the UX issues that contribute to fraudulent clicks and installs but I take issue with the generalization that only bottom of the funnel, high purchase intent ads are valuable.

Startups generally have a bias towards doing things that they can measure accurately. This leads to heavy reliance on highly attributable channels like AdWords since you can target people who have expressed high purchase intent. What most companies don't do is look closely at multi-channel attribution models and look at how multiple exposures across different media types change purchase behavior. Perhaps someone who is exposed to two display ad driven messages prior to seeing your Google ad is 2x more likely to click and 4x more likely to purchase vs. just being exposed to your Google ad alone. I'm not saying that's what you will see, but you should be curious to understand those effects.

We tend to generalize based on our own experiences. I also don't think Facebook ads work well in many cases but I also can see brands that are doing a great job or run innovative campaigns that get their message across effectively so I know Facebook works if you get it right. Similarly, many folks give banner ads, mobile CPA ad networks, or TV a shot and see poor outcomes without knowing whether it was poor creative, bad media planning, loose targeting parameters that contributed to the poor outcomes.

True. I should have generalized less. It didn't work for us. Reasons include the product in question (hotel rooms) which in New York are plenty in supply, the price of the product (median stay ~$800), a client with a relatively limited advertising budget (branding exercise unlikely), a defined purchase cycle (typically 2-4 weeks in advance of a trip), and last but not least, something people actually search for (not a "cash register" or "impulse" purchase). In short: I think FB ads may work for companies and products that sell "small stuff" or big brands that go for the eyeballs/brand recognition/awareness.
It's my experience as well that Facebook pages work extremely well for small stuff, also geared towards women - I've seen shoes, bags, jewellry and arts & crafts in particular be extremely succesful, mostly thanks to viral campaigns. Facebook should try to monetize that (and it actually started doing so with promoted posts and such) instead of facebook ads which, as mentioned, are awful.

My own Facebook ad campaign got us zero conversions, as opposed to Google campaigns. BTW the Google campaign on mobiles was as awful as the Facebook campaign.

> Startups generally have a bias towards doing things that they can measure accurately.

My fear is that many of them don't understand a thing or two about statistics, so all that precise measurements are means for them to lie to themselves.

>Startups generally have a bias towards doing things that they can measure accurately.

As far as biases go, preferring to pay for things that have a demonstrable effect is a pretty good one, especially for startups that generally don't have the resources to waste on a large number of failed initiatives. Sure if you have some incite that gives you a better than normal chance of getting a very high ROI on a creative initiative, then go for it, that's what startups are for. But if you don't have any special incite, stick with what has been shown to be effective, and avoid things like Facebook advertising which appear to give low or negative ROI in the typical case.

I agree that investing on these may seem more profitable in the short term. But branding is a long term goal. Even for Startups branding is important, this can be crucial to close the next deals with VCs or acquiring users' hearts.

Digital Ocean is a good example, I've read good and bad stories, mostly good and they had an extensive Youtube and Display Campaigns. When it was finally time for me to close a deal with a VPS to replace my old Dreamhost shared server I didn't have to search. I went straight to Digital Ocean.

This is harder to measure, or even impossible when you add the fact that I was probably impacted at least 50 times by passive or active advertisement for them on at least 4 different devices.

Also keep in mind that I was aware of this the whole time, and I smiled every tie I saw a DO ad, because I knew I was probably gonna sign at some point. But most of the time these type of advertisements happen without you even noticing, even if you are in this business.

Companies spend millions in SuperBowl ads, and nobody can click on that, it's impossible to tell how many coca-cola bottles will be sold by that ad and post discussions that it sparked. But they will do it again next year.

Display advertisement is valuable but it's harder to put a price tag. Even if you don't click on the ad in a mobile app it's still valuable. I'd argue that if you make it annoying or if you try to steal a click it's less valuable.

There is a reason this type of publicity is sold by impressions, because that's where the value is, clicks can or cannot happen, that's just a plus you won't get on TV.

>Companies spend millions in SuperBowl ads, and nobody can click on that,

not that i dream about clicking it, i'm just surprised that they still hasn't implemented it yet as current TVs are really computers sold/packaged as TVs.

google display network advertising is equally useless/fraudulent

It is very good at giving me pictures of the more expensive things that I have recently bought, should I suddenly need two.

Ha...I think about this all the time. I start researching something, eventually buy it. Then a ton of targeted ads show up everywhere advertising to me the product I already purchased.
I think the difference is that Google really tries to kill the click farms as apposed to the social media companies.
I meant it in the sense of "loads of impressions", very few clicks, lots of clicks from countries listed in the video, unless specifically excluded.
It's kind of funny because Google really only controls the network of sites their ad spaces are on, the content of the ad you get is controlled by the advertiser or 3rd party ad tech provider.

The retargeting ads you speak of (Criteo runs a lot of them) is generated automatically via these 3rd party ad platforms cookie combined with an API into the advertiser's store feed (product photo, description, price, etc.) They get a stream of SKUs that you've looked at and try to get you to pull the trigger.

There's nothing to prevent the store from also associating items you've already bought so you don't get shown something that's irrelevant. My best guess is that it's just easier to not do that.

I'm the developer of Reddit In Pictures and I'm sorry about that issue, please go into 'Settings' and disable ads!

I just wanted to give as much space for images as possible, so when the ad loads it puts itself between the text showing the number of images and the ActionBar, if the ad doesn't load it doesn't take up any space. Is the bounce you're talking about when the ad initially loads (like on orientation change)?

I haven't had a chance to work on that app in a while, but when I have time to re-visit it I will test out making the ad area static so that it never seems to bounce.

Hi Entropic, I did not mean to mark your app as the prime example, it's just one I use a lot (thanks!) and one where I've noticed hitting the advert unintentionally. There are many many many apps with this issue.

My point was that many mobile ad clicks are mistakes and thus useless. Didn't mean to cause you any trouble (and I wasn't aware of the turn off ads option, so double-thanks)

I'd be a bit careful with that. Someone on /r/AndroidDev had his app removed from the store because Google thought it could get accidental ad clicks. He didn't have a space for the ads and the ad would just appear on top of the bottom content.

Not sure if they are cracking down on it or not but thought you'd like a heads up. Popping up onto an area not meant to be touched in the first place is probably fine though.

Thanks for the heads up, I will have to try out some other layouts for the ads.

Right now the ad shows above the bottom split action bar, and you can pinch to zoom on the images.

If an ad isn't showing the image will fill up the rest of the space to the action bar.

I didn't expect many people to keep ads enabled, I released it as RateWare, asking that users rate the app if they choose to disable ads.

Another great example of the kind of mobile advertising you're talking about: Flappy Bird, where ads are shown every time you re-start the game. In a typical Flappy Bird session, that could be up to 5-6 ads per minute — only shown on screen for a second or two.
The major disconnect between Google ads, Facebook ads, and likes is that Facebook likes don't mean anything. Very rarely are people begging to engage with your company — in that case, they'd already be engaged. When you ask google "cheapest flights to SF" it will serve your ads to an eager audience on a silver platter; Whereas many Facebook users will like anything moderately interesting or cool, and the ads show up between "Girl from high school had a baby" and beach photos.

It's apples and oranges. Imgur/9GAG aren't advertising on Google, just as travel agencies won't see much ROI on Facebook.

Two questions: (1) What are practical, specific ways that Facebook could fix this problem? There's clearly a problem. (2) Also, how should digital advertising companies that integrate a Facebook share option in their offering avoid supporting shares from fake profiles?
I replied above ( but Facebook could basically sell Likes normalized against the users' total Likes. So a Like by someone with 10 Likes is worth 10x vs someone with 100 Likes, etc.
Interestingly, the problem is caused by Facebook trying to fix the problem. The hypothesized reason the clickfarms "like" random pages is to seem real because Facebook will shut them down if they don't seem real. Perhaps Facebook could drop that specific ("has the user liked other pages?") signal from their bot detection and focus on other signals. Whatever they do will likely result in some type of side-effect as clickfarms continue to strive to "seem real".
I can't find a thing called google advert. You meant google Adword right?
Advert is British for "ad".
Correct. Sorry if it caused confusion. I used it because I find 'ad' a confusingly short word, and advertisement too long. Showing my European roots I guess (but I live in NYC).
Alternative in short: You are only looking to do demand fulfillment.

See how that pans out in the long run (5+ years).

Since it was my post, let me hijack the hijack and refocus the discussion.

FB advertising has major issues and not just fraud.

#1 - FB has a feedback loop issue

The main reason why (for us) Google works so much better, is that it spans the full sales funnel, from impression to click to registration and finally conversion (room bought).

Google optimizes ad serving for themselves AND for me, and I can see the results. As long as they generate more revenue for my client at an acceptable cost per conversion (sales, not likes) we will spend more on google. Google isn't just taking, it's giving (a lot). As long as the last segment, ie actual conversions affecting ad serving, is missing, google will remain our favorite marketing channel.

#2 - Facebook has a major intent issue.

Eyeballs are nice, but only if those eyeballs have the intent to convert/purchase, which is rarely the case for high price, non-luxury and non-lifestyle items on the FB site itself, unlike a lead generated by google's search engine.

I have read about the "tricks" to minimize useless clicks and learned about some more below, but it really shouldn't be that hard.

PS I do realize that my situation is quite specific - see comment above or below, hospitality industry, busy market, price-sensitive audience, not a big brand name, etc. It may work for you, it just doesn't work for us, and not just because of the fake likes.

Well, since you're "here"

Here's the question I'd want to ask: if the Facebook ad clicks are from click-farms but you don't pay for them, how did they get there?

One guess would be that click-farm people like stuff at random to "seem legitimate". Maybe Facebook itself incentivizes fake account to like stuff by not deleting fake accounts that behave "conveniently".

But that's just a guess, I've look for someone to do more research.

The idea floated in this earlier Next Web article cited in the video is that click-farmers make use of the Page Suggestion feature, i.e. each time they like a Page FB suggests a new page they might also like to "like". What was once a useful service for discovery for legit users may have turned into the click-farmers' best friend.

The parent comment author is not the original video author, given his appreciative comments for the video. (Not sure otherwise what you meant by 'Well, since you're "here"')

As to your question, that's exactly what the video covers. With a nice animation and everything. And really, I expect Facebook to post some useful numbers rather than forcing us to do the research.

My understanding was that identifying fake accounts automatically was a pretty hard problem to solve. That's not making up for the likes being fake, but it does justify why they can't just delete all the fake accounts.

To me, it seems clear that if something's going on, it's not Facebook "conveniently" letting the fakes go. It's more the problem being hard to cope with.

Or somebody present me results that demonstrate how easy it is to identify fakes with low false positives.

As others pointed out I'm not the author of this wonderful video.
Jesus, did you watch the video that's subject of the post, or are you just posting, since "you are here." This is exactly the information that the video covers, with animations, explanations, and even links to sources.
I wish we are sufficiently close to a time, when automated comment-comprehending and comment-curating software - like browser extensions and plugins - are widely available, thanks to advances made in the areas of (textual) Deep Learning and (textual) Artificial Intelligence.

Perhaps then, clumsy comments like the one made by joe_the_user:

  One guess would be that click-farm people like stuff at
  random to "seem legitimate".
could be neatly redacted by the extension, without affecting the rest of the comment.

I surely hope so.

Some of the comments that surface to the top of the heap, are head-achingly dreadful.

Including this one, ironically. x0054 called out the problem, no need to pile on with nothing more of any particular value to add.
My comment is less ironic than you might discern.

History is rife with far wilder inventions than the comment-curating 'contraption' that I describe, that have been conceived and crafted, drawing from a far smaller source of inspiration than the clumsy comment made by joe_the_user.

In all probability, the sort of thing, I describe, would never materialize in the foreseeable future. It could just be a figment of my imagination.

The leaps and bounds that are required for such comment-comprehension - especially the two step thing needed for the software to assimilate the contents of the video and then contextually-observe that joe_the_user has not viewed the video, just by reading his comment - are probably far too great for the current state of Deep Learning and AI (someone well versed in these areas could chime in).

Or perhaps such advents in content curation - unbeknownst to us - are already afoot.

Surely then your quick dismissing of my "value-less" comment could be the butt of jokes for posterity.

Time will decide.

You're writing a lot of words without actually saying anything. You can try and dress your original comment up all you want, but all you were doing was kicking someone while they were down to make yourself feel superior, while attempting to disguise it in the form of some highbrow but vague speculation of some future technology without providing anything of concrete value about it. This is HN, we're all aware of the possibilities of strong AI, but unless you've got a github account with a demo in it or some new algorithm, you're just spouting bs.
(Also, you really don't want to end the world just to get better hn comment threads. Strong AI is scary, man)
Regarding #1 - Facebook conversion pixel (a JS script that has to be loaded the HTML header) solves the feedback loop problem.

Is there a native mobile equivalent for this? Identifying our FB ad cohort is a major problem when trying to calculate the effectiveness of our ad spend on FB.
I think facebook's official mobile SDK will let you do this.
Yes, there are dozens of preferred marketing developers who provide this service.

In my experience, Facebook actually has the best performing ads with respect to measurable financial objectives.

Thanks. Quickly glanced over this page (I wasn't aware of this option, I admit) but can anyone tell me if the conversion pixel is just a tracker for conversion, or whether it actually affects ad serving? I know on google it does.

Anecdote: once had a Google advert that resulted in many more clicks, but another advert was served more. When I inquired about this, google staff explained that the other advert had fewer clicks, but resulted in more (or actual) revenue. I did not have to manually track the results of the campaign and adjust, it was adjusted for me.

You can optimize based on the expected rate of conversion.
Feb 10, 2014 · 21 points, 5 comments · submitted by stargazer-3
Facebook has no clear revenue model that can sustain it's business for a long time. It's a ship that is sinking slowly.
Mods, Please fix he accidental libel in the title!

"The Facebook Fraud", by Veritasium

Fixed the title. Didn't realize it was ambiguous.
Mechanical Turk: It's a hell of a drug.
Well done video that helps explain why Facebook ad spend has such low ROI.

I'm surprised there isn't more discussion about this on hacker news.

I think it's a joke that FB is worth over 1/3 of GOOG.

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