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The Monetisation of Facebook Likes Explained

One of the main complaints we have read is the increase of advertising through others in Facebook. There has been an exponential growth in seeing friends ‘liking’ a brand or product.

Many users aren’t happy with it, but most brands are. As an example, in the same day I saw these two comments in my feed:

From a user:
“Down Arrow -> Hide -> Hide all posts from [Samsung, Samsung USA, Samsung Mobile USA, Samsung]. I get that fb is free and advertising is its main source of revenue. But ease up a bit on the unrelenting spamming ads from the same vendor, eh facebook?”

From a Facebook marketing agency:
Posting a Business Insider interview on the same campaign…

You can see the problem, can’t you… on the one hand the users don’t like it, but advertisers are seeing the rewards.

Why Are These Appearing?

There are three main challenges which Facebook have been facing up to:

  1. Monetisation: It is no accident in timing that this activity has started in earnest since Facebook has floated on the NYSE. The early share drops have been down to concerns about Facebook being truly able to realise the income and value in every member. We are all ‘valued’ at about $80 by Facebook, but we don’t pay for the service so they need to realise this value somehow.
  2. Mobile: Facebook knows that mobile is (and will continue) to dominate Social Media use. Currently smartphones dominate mobile access with small screens giving limited viewing space. The only way in which to realise the mobile opportunity is by placing advertising into people’s home feeds.
  3. Marketing: The first form of advertising on Facebook down the side of the page has disappointed. The aim was to make it as effective as Google Adwords and yet, given the amount of traffic to the pages, it has performed badly. Facebook has tried a variety of ways to improve this, but with very limited success. Ultimately, they realise they need adverts in user feeds to have people click on them.

So, What is Facebook’s Advertising Solution?

Facebook are testing advertising in your feeds to deal with these mobile and marketing challenges. They have some posts which appear as adverts, but are also trialling automated recommendations: if a user has ‘liked’ a page then it will appear in your feed if the brand has paid to advertise to you. They can see that the power of a ‘like’ and personal recommendation improves performance.

Facebook has gambled that your desire to remain within their platform is greater than your frustrations with such activity and, as you get used to these methods, then they gain acceptance. They have some problems, and it certainly has not been plain sailing.

Firstly, there is a lot of user dissatisfaction with this, just read your feed! Many users are threatening to quit… although most complainants generally don’t leave.

Secondly, people are getting repeated ‘like’ messages from the same users where the advertisers’ budget is much greater than the number of users who like them. So, if only one of your contacts ‘Likes’ Samsung, but they have a big advertising budget, then you will see the same user liking Samsung again and again in your feed.

How Can I Stop Them?

There are really two issues here…

How Can You Stop These Marketing Messages?

You cannot stop them overall (whatever you think your legal rights are, you have accepted Facebook’s Terms). The user quote earlier in this post shows how to hide repetitive marketing messages from brands. When you see one on your computer, click the down arrow (top right) in the post, choose ‘Hide’, then remember to click the link ‘Hide all messages from [brand]’. We’re not sure about on the mobile app, these options don’t seem to be here… let’s hope they’re coming!

You will need to do this for every brand, so there is not a single opt out, nor do we expect Facebook to come up with one.

How Can You Stop Your Name Being Used?

The second issue is hidden from you: your name, your personal ‘brand’ is being leveraged to your friends through Facebook. You don’t know how often this is taking place, or two whom it is appearing, but if you like a brand which advertises on Facebook, then you are almost certainly being used in this way.

The best way to deal with this is by doing some pruning. Just click on your profile, choose your ‘Likes’ box and unlike all the brands you no longer want to use your name in this way. Note that some of your likes are hidden by the year in which you liked them. So go back into the past and make sure your likes are brands you genuinely like today!

We have not yet found (as has been claimed) that Facebook are faking likes and doubt that this is happening because it would create uproar. So check first, and ask others when you see a promoted ‘like’ from them whether they are aware and happy for this to be occurring.

What is the Likely Future for Facebook Advertising?

That really depends on their numbers and how this is performing for them. There is little doubt that if this doesn’t work well then they will need to make some substantial changes. The two areas Facebook will look very close at are Advertisers and Users.

Advertisers have already had their fingers burnt by Facebook deliberately reducing page reach to the users who liked them, mainly to setup this new advertising initiative. Brands who spent millions on gaining Likes are feeling very sore as the goalposts have been moved.

So, it is important that they get this right and prove it works for brands otherwise, without advertising spend, this initiative will fail.

Users who are not happy about this need to respond. Opt out of these messages, remove all the ‘likes’ you have accumulated over the last few years. Use Facebook less often if you can. Or, if you really are against this, then quit – leave Facebook altogether.

You have these options, and you can be absolutely sure that Facebook will watch this in detail too. The fewer likes, the more opt outs, a reduction in user numbers or usage will ring alarm bells. Rather than complaining, act on it!

Ultimately, however, we know that their aims remain. Whilst we have seen a few posts from users who would be willing to pay for Facebook without adverts this would be a last resort as it would end up creating a two tier service. Therefore it is likely that this kind of solution is here to stay. Facebook may tweak the frequency, but they know that the main way in which they can monetise their users is through advertising in user feeds.

As an online marketing business and Facebook users, we have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand we do believe that effective marketing involves reaching audiences some of whom will ignore or dislike the activity.

On the other hand, this is blurring the boundaries of marketing: this is not genuine, real endorsement of brands – this is using people unwittingly to advertise services for profit. There is good reason why the press needs to highlight bought placements in print as ‘Advertorials’. Facebook should do the same.

Let Others Know!

If you would like to share this article, then please use one of the social sharing buttons below. We think that informing Facebook users of exactly what is happening is the least you can do! Many thanks.

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