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Yesterday, Facebook confirmed that it was indeed purging fake accounts and page likes from the system. According to Josh Constine of TechCrunch, “Illegitimately created accounts are being deleted, and Likes gained from malware, compromised accounts, or deceived users are being removed.”
Business pages with huge fan numbers could have seen losses of hundreds to thousands of fans. For many businesses, this sort of thing could be panic inducing. But let’s take just a moment to understand a social media reality.
A fan or follower count is a raw number with very little real meaning or intrinsic value.
Ruminate on that for just a moment. A steadily climbing fan count makes us feel good, and that’s about all its really good for. Its a number that’s easy for community managers and marketers to point to and tell decision makers that somebody (lots of somebodies) is paying attention. It makes us feel good. It makes us feel as though the time we’ve spent curating that account has been worthwhile.
The bitter pill of reality is that, on their own, such numbers are completely useless.
A raw head count tells us nothing of the quality of the people (hopefully people) we are connected to. Fake accounts and bots don’t spend money, they don’t make recommendations, and they cannot do anything to improve the bottom line.
Business users of Facebook should be rejoicing rather than panicking. Thanks to Facebook’s integrity improvements, marketers can be a bit more certain that the numbers that really matter aren’t being skewed. Let me give you an example in nice, round, easy-to-digest numbers.
Let’s say that your fan count on your Facebook page hit 100,000 last month. Everybody had been patting themselves on the back for reaching that many people, until the rest of the numbers were crunched and you discovered that only 10 percent of all those people were actively clicking links to the e-commerce pages on your website.
Then the purge happened yesterday, and the Facebook page fan count contracted to 80,000, but your click-through to e-commerce remained at about 10,000. The overinflation of the page’s fan count caused plenty of backslapping, but did nothing for the growth of the business.
It’s not about having lots of great numbers. It’s about having numbers with lots of great meaning. Social marketers cannot continue to sell businesses on strategies that stroke ego and nothing more. And claiming that having a social presence is as necessary as having a telephone system, is as useful to achieving a return on investment as arguing the need for a carpenter to have both a hammer and a screwdriver. They are all just tools and will continue to be completely worthless until placed into the hands of a skilled craftsman.