Time For Brands To Question Facebook About Fake Likes

03/09/2012 16:54 BST | Updated 03/11/2012 09:12 GMT

Last week Facebook reported that it was cracking down on fake 'Likes' that it says were being caused by spammers, malware and black marketeers.

In an official post on its blog Facebook said:

"Newly improved automated efforts will remove those Likes gained by malware, compromised accounts, deceived users, or purchased bulk Likes,"

Analysts seemed to accept this as a genuine effort by Facebook to assure advertisers and those that operate brand pages that Facebook is doing everything it can to ensure that the people that like your page, ad and Facebook post are real people.

Facebook present us with the scenario that it has only relatively recently become aware that 1.5 percent of its users are "undesirable" accounts and that these accounts are set up by black hat marketers and the like to boost the reputation of brand pages and the content that they post.

Facebook would prefer us to believe that fake likes don't help them in any way, that fake likes only help brands that buy fake likes (in the same way that you can buy fake Twitter followers) to seem more popular than they are. However, an inflated number of Facebook users also helped Facebook to become the largest social network in the world.

Facebook also misses the point or rather skirts past it, that brands can't engage with or ultimately sell to fake accounts, so any Facebook marketer with an ounce of sense would not really want to purchase fake likes.

If Facebook was serious about outing fake likes and the pages that are supported by this activity then they would allow Facebook page administrators and everyone that uses Facebook to see the names of everyone that likes a particular page (where privacy settings have allowed).

This would enable Facebook page administrators to identify fake fans and report them to Facebook. Just as on Twitter, when you come across a fake account, it is very obvious that it is fake. At the moment Facebook only allows page administrators to see the most recent 500 people that have liked your page thus preventing people from identifying the majority of fake accounts themselves.

Earlier this month it was revealed that 83 million Facebook accounts are fake, and one startup claimed that 80 percent of its Facebook Ad clicks came from bots. Facebook estimates that 4.8 percent of its 995 million users are duplicate accounts, 2.4 percent are user-misclassified accounts, and 1.5 percent are undesirable accounts. Their latest announcement would only tackle the 1.5 percent undesirable accounts and Facebook has made no offer to refund advertisers who inadvertently got fake likes and fans as a result of their advertising campaigns.

As an advertiser or brand page owner there are certain things you can do to be more certain that your ads are being clicked on by genuine people such as favouring a preference towards display ads instead of like ads and having the same display ad going to a Facebook app with a data entry form.

This way you can see the details of those that clicked on your ad and then (by their own choice) entered their information into your app. When targeting ads try to be as targeted as Facebook's ad platform will allow you, targeting people in the same country rather than world-wide targeting as most suspicious accounts tend to come from the Middle East and Asia.

If Facebook is to demonstrate it's long-term profit potential to investors they will need to be a lot more transparent about the number of fake Facebook accounts, let the cards fall as they will, and then rebuild from there.