Is Paying for Likes on Facebook Worth it? [RESEARCH]


With Facebook’s organic reach decreasing and advertisers wary of having to pay to reach their audience, many are wondering if allocating advertising dollars to Facebook is cost-effective.

In July of 2012, Search Engine Journal published an article called ‘Facebook Ads: What Are You Really Paying For?’ with a Facebook advertiser’s experience of paying for exposure on Facebook.  The campaign made advertisers question the legitimacy of the purchased likes.  After purchasing about 800 likes, engagement, and post likes, Jake Filan and Brent Csutoras found that the individual posts likes were averaging the same totals as prior to the campaign.  After a deep dive into the actual people who liked the page, their findings indicated that many of the followers were fake.

In addition, science video blog Veritasium also recently posted a video confirming our previous findings:

Since publishing the article, there have been regular comments, 130+ and counting, from individuals who have experienced the same low quality results when trying to use Facebook ads to get new likes for their pages.

In order to test the value of Facebook page like ads, Gryffin MediaKairay Media and Search Engine Journal teamed up to create a case study to evaluate the current state of Facebook like advertising to answer the question on many marketer’s mind – is paying for Likes worth it?

Part 1

The Case Studies

We started by identifying three niches that we thought were most favorable for a positive outcome; topics of general interest that should generate engagement.  The pages were called: Health Bites, The Daily Om, and iKids.  Health Bites was focused on sharing content regarding healthy, organic foods and recipes.  The Daily Om featured inspirational quotes, yoga poses, and meditation tips.  iKids gave app recommendations for children and toddlers, as well as content for parents.

Our goal was to share fantastic topical information that would inspire and encourage people to engage.  We interspersed quotes, memes, news articles, and highly interesting content relevant to each topic.

After running the pages for a couple of weeks, we started our ad campaign limiting the ad spend to $100 for each page over a period of a week.

The Ads


We ran three ads to test different parameters and targeting options.  Our goal was to follow a process similar to most entry-level advertising executives, without getting overly technical and advanced.  The ads were targeted towards audiences of interest without being either overly generic or hyper-focused.

The Daily Om

For this ad, we targeted 40 million females who speak English and live in Canada and the United States.  Some interests included: meditation, yogaworks, spirituality, buddhist meditation, spiritual practice, and other such relevant interests.

Health Bites

Similar to The Daily Om, we chose people above the age of 18 living in the United States and Canada who are interested in topics related to cooking and healthy recipes.  Some of these topics included: cooking shows, simply recipes, martha stewart living, healthy diet, healthy habits for life, and more.  A key differentiator between this campaign and Daily Om is that we chose mobile news feed for targeting.


Our goal for this campaign was to target parents who are technologically savvy.  To reach them, we chose people above the age of 21 living in the US and Canada who like Enfamil,, The Children’s Place, Discovery kids, ipads, apple, and more.  We also added broad category targeting for “Parents” and chose to reach them on both desktop computers and mobile devices.

What We Found

Health Bites


  • 338 total page likes
  • 271 people engaged
  • 243 people talking about this
  • 1 share
  • 107 post clicks

At about .30 cents per like, we were happy with the cost and exposure of the campaign.  We got over 300 new followers, right? Wrong.


If we average out the active profiles between active users and the amount of users that liked fewer than 500 pages, we have about 100 active users.


Three weeks after the end of the campaign, we are getting an average total reach of about 30 views per post.  From Jan 1st to Jan 6th, our posts have been seen 955 times.  Starting from 0 likes/views to 955 views/week, this brings the cost of our investment to about 10 cents / view.

To conclude, I believe that we need to more than triple the ACTUAL cost / like to target the “real” new followers gained.  At about $1 / new follower, this is difficult to scale for small to medium-sized businesses, but may be viable for enterprise and large brands.

The Daily Om


  • 628 total page likes
  • 717 people engaged
  • 479 post clicks

For the same budget as Health Bites, we got double the amount of likes, halving the cost / like to about 15 cents.  Not only did we get higher quantities, but we also saw better quality in the types of followers, with 239 active in the last 10 days and close to 200 that liked less than 500 pages.  In addition, of all the pages, The Daily OM had the most people responding to our direct outreach, with four people writing back with suggestions on the type of content they’d like to see posted.


Surprisingly, our reach for the week of Jan 1st to Jan 6th has been lower than that of Health Bites, with only 831 views.  Even though the cost / like was lower, the cost / view was roughly the same.  Both accounts have continued to receive daily updates so perhaps the higher number of likes does not signify engaged followers.



  • 172 total page likes
  • 73 people engaged
  • 35 post clicks

We had to pause and restart this campaign several times as we were having trouble gaining reach & exposure.  Our hypothesis is that the commercial nature of this page, as opposed to the other 2 pages, made the traffic more expensive and difficult to acquire.  Our initial goal was to reach users on mobile devices, but after this saw highly expensive clicks, we changed our approach towards reaching desktop users.


It’s possible that the cost was double if you consider that only 59 liked fewer than 500 pages.   With only about 150 page views in the week of Jan 1st to Jan 6th, the cost / view is just over 50 cents.

So is Paying Facebook for Likes Worth It?

For marketers looking to grow their audience and reach, paying for Likes on Facebook might be a viable, cost-effective advertising strategy.  Paid reach definitely became organic reach, in some cases as low as 10 cents / view, and in the worst case, as high as 50 cents/view.   Even after ruling out possible bots and fake accounts, the results still showed potential for improved visibility.

After a month of pausing the ad campaign, we are finding that we retained an engaged audience.   Post reach is about 15 percent of the likes that were paid.  Even though it does seem that many of the likes were unqualified, at least 15-20 percent are real, engaged followers, making the ad campaign cost-effective.

We saw a significant increase over the Case Study from 2012, showing that if you are making a decent effort, running Facebook ads for can benefit a page that is just starting out and needing a boost to get off the ground.

Further studies will center around paying for likes for established pages, commercial pages in nature, and using more sophisticated targeting methods.

Have you bought Page Like ads on Facebook? What was your experience? Did you see continued engagement from these new followers? Was there a significant return on investment? Do share!

Part 2

Deeper Dive Into the Case Studies!


Now for all you serious Facebook marketers, who want to dive in a little deeper into the case studies to learn more details on how you can improve your efforts, here are the complete details on each of the three case studies we completed.

Health Bites

Health Bites was created on November 13, 2013 and we started posting content on November 15, 2013 with 3 posts a day up until December 6, 2013 in which we brought our content down to 2 posts per day. We starting “buying likes” and running our ad campaigns on December 2, 2013.

Campaign Details:

December 2, 2013


December 4, 2013 Campaign Detail Changes

No change in targeting, but lowered the cost from $15/day to $10/day and added on another day to the duration.

Impressions: Impressions are how many times anyone on Facebook ran across our ad. Here this graph shows that on December 2nd, about 1,300 people saw our ad for Health Bites.


Social Impressions: Social impressions are how many times people saw our ads because one of their friends liked our page or talked about our page. This graph shows that on December 3rd, about 55 people saw our ad for Health Bites due to Social Impressions.


Social Clicks: Social clicks then reflects how many times people clicked on the link for Health Bites that they came across on Facebook because a friend has liked or interacted with us. Congruent with the Social Impression chart, our Social Clicks peaked on December 3rd.


Actions(likes): Actions are simply how many times someone clicked “like” on our page. The graph shows that December 1st was the day we got the most likes. This, however, does not correlate with our best days of social impressions or social clicks. This shows that the social aspect of Facebook (word of mouth and popularity) was not a factor in receiving the majority of our likes, but rather, the money we paid.


With that said, at the end of the campaign, on December 12, 2013, our stats are as follows:

  • 338 total page likes
  • 271 people engaged
  • 243 people talking about this
  • 1 share
  • 107 post clicks

From insights on Facebook we found this information about our fans:

  • The most popular time for our fans to be online was Wednesdays at 7pm
  • The first week of our campaign (December 1st), was the most popular
  • Jacksonville, FL was the most popular city our fans came from
  • The most popular age group of our fans were: 35-44 years

Total Reach:

The number of people who saw any activity from our page came out to be a total of 6,279. Our paid average came out to 982 and our organic average came out to 158. To break that down further into days:


Page Likes Analysis:

In this chart we have analyzed the people from whom we received likes, trying to determine whether these were ‘real people’ or ‘Facebook robots’. To determine this, we studied how many of them have recently been active on their profile, how many have more than 30 posts on their profile, and how many pages each person has liked.

We also emailed every person who liked our page in another attempt to see how many of those people are real. The chart below summarizes this data.

Health Bites Page Likes 2

 Our Fans:                                   People Reached:                    People Engaged:



Page Visits:

We received the most page visits on December 3, totalling 59 timeline visits, 4 admin tab visits, and 2 like tab visits.

Post Reach:

Our total post reach was 192. Our average organic reach was 47 and our average paid reach was 0.

Marcela De Vivo
Marcela De Vivo has been an SEO since 1999, promoting thousands of sites including large corporate sites and small mom and pop businesses. She loves to connect, so don’t hesitate to reach out through her Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus, Pinterest or LinkedIn profiles.
Marcela De Vivo

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20 thoughts on “Is Paying for Likes on Facebook Worth it? [RESEARCH]

  1. We just saw the Veritasium video last night and came across your post today. Great write up and useful information to combat the findings at Veritasium. But you are correct in that FB ads may not be the best solution for all businesses, so depending on the company goals and KPIs the ads could help or may be a waste of money. It’s important for marketers and small business owners to have those conversations and look at rich data such as what you’ve provided in order to develop a more solid online marketing plan.

    1. Thanks Patrick! I think the key to all of this is the Goals/KPI’s, as well as how the targeting is used. Marty Weintraub wrote a book called Killer Facebook ads that describes how to use targeting effectively. The premise here was exclusive to Paying for Likes, so that’s where now WHY you are paying for likes is important.

  2. I`m in a position to say Facebook advertising is costly and ineffective, it also returned virtually no ROI, if anything it wastes even more of your time responding to touchy feelers, time wasters and competitors.

    Facebook advertising is good for raising brand awareness and make your business / brand look more popular.
    As for gaining customers from Facebook Advertising, well I recommend you stay with Adwords.

    1. Hi Sitebee,
      Facebook ads are incredibly effective if you use the right targeting/ads/campaigns. What I’m questioning here is whether paying for LIKES is worth it. In this case study, we found that it IS worth it and cost effective given the low price for building an audience.

      1. I have 700 fans, with every good quality post I send out I can still only reach about 10 of them! How were all those ads I spent $200+ on to acquire my fans effective?? I can only reach 1% of them! Facebook is a scam and businesses who continue to use it after these recent changes are throwing their money away, especially when they can reach 10, 20, 30x as many people on Google + for free!

  3. Not you got me glued. Though I am not in favor of this kind of scheme, but you convinced me with the data and information that you provide here in this post.

    In the end, there is still a good upshot, that at least 15-20 percent is real, engaged followers, making the ad campaign cost-effective. So the 300 like down to 52 is still worth it. Hmmn Good!

    I found this post shared on, the Internet marketing social networking site, and I “kingged” it and left this comment.

      1. What I personally worry about is something that people do not consider when valuing the likes they get from real people in comparison to fake users, which the way Facebook’s Algo works. It test all updates with a subsection of your audience, before showing it to a larger group and it also judges the value of your page based on interaction levels as a whole.

        If you take on 1000 likes, with only 200 being real, then you are going to have problems getting your updates visible in general, due to the quality of your page’s updates being considered low from the lack of engagement.

        So in my mind, I still have a hard time doing Facebook Ads for likes :(

  4. I would only recommend paying for likes on Facebook if I am looking to increase the numbers of followers for vanity purpose but if I am seeking to sell my good and services, people who are more receptive are those who came across your page seeking what I offer.

    1. Paying for likes isn’t just for vanity purposes, it’s also about building a community around your products or services. Once you have that engaged community, you can then market your products or services.

  5. Hello Marcela,
    I love how thorough the entire case study is and it really made me think about the way I’m using Facebook ads too, yet there’s a few things I wanted to address.

    First, the definition you of the ‘active user’ that you described. You mentioned you couldn’t identify all Facebook fans, due to the limitation of the interface, and you based the findings on the number of their posts and pages they follow. Now, with properly set privacy settings, you might not have an access to any of this information because people wouldn’t have any public posts, and you can even hide the pages you follow from public. Furthermore, I follow more than 500 pages but that doesn’t mean I am a bot – simply all the movies and books you add become part of the ‘pages you follow’. Finally, I was confused about the part where you emailed the fans – how did you get their email addresses in the first place?

    Analysing the ads itself, there is quite a difference between the targeting set for Daily Om and Healthy Bites: for the former you were using precise interests, while for the later – topics (marked with the # sign). In my experience using precise interests generates much better results and higher quality followers, which is why I believe the Daily Om fans were more engaged in the end.

    I will disagree with those who say Facebook ads are irrelevant and that they don’t work. I successfully build pages from scratch with highly engaged followers. Just how engaged they were, I managed to get an organic reach of 127% with one of the post (yes, our fans engaged so well, that we reached more people than the total number of our fans without any advertising) and continue having 20%+ organic reach on the pages we manage.

    Also, Facebook just recently released a massive amount of new features that we can use: you can use a custom audience from your email subscribers and advertise to them (as they’re the most likely to engage), you can create lookalike audiences from that, and now you can even create website custom audiences and advertise to every single visitor of your website. By doing this, you can get very targeted high value followers for your page, and if that is not enough, you can narrow it down even further with traditional targeting options.

    From my experience, a better way to build a page, though slightly more expensive, is by using very targeted promoted posts (I’m talking about using Power Editor for it, not the “Boost Post” feature). In this case, your ad will reach similar people, but only those who are truly interested in your content will become fans – thus, higher future engagement.

    All in all, Facebook marketing is only effective as the quality of your audience. If you are not willing to spend more money to attract better fans, you will lose out in the end. It’s not the game of who will have the highest number of fans anymore, it’s about reaching the most relevant audience and engaging with them. For that, you need to crystallise the audience on the exact age, sex, location (even by cities), precise interests, language, education, family status and so on – and by doing this, you will have much more chances of avoiding the bots and attracting the people you are actually looking for. :)


    1. These are some awesome points Adomas, thanks for the thorough reply. As I mentioned in the article, we gathered data as best we could given the limitations. We messaged all the users through Facebook itself. I completely agree with you that Facebook marketing IS VERY effective when done correctly…but the premise of this case study was to evaluate the power of using the “Page Likes” ad feature. We use Page post likes often and very effectively, but I always questioned the value of Page Likes – so the idea was to gather more information specifically about this type of ad. If you have any other tips for how to market effectively using other ad types do share!!!! We’d love to know more.

  6. Why would bots be liking a FB ad? Seems to me the only entity benefiting would be Facebook themselves to generate revenue. Who else would do this and why?

  7. You were reaching 15% of your fans?? A lot must have changed in the last 1 1/2 month. I recently gave up on Facebook because I was reaching on average 1-2% of my fans, which is basically a waste of time even posting. I’d be surprised if they have any business left in a few years.

  8. If you’re just starting with facebook, I would start with custom audiences from your email list and users that visit your website. Much more targeted and cost effective.

  9. I have had more success in boosting a specific post than paying to get likes to the page. I have also found that boosting posts adds some likes to my page.

    Additionally. I have seen a greater boost in clicks to my website using the “boost post” option.

    Either way, I have a much higher ROI from Adwords than Facebook so that is the bulk of my ad spend.

    Great post and thanks for sharing your findings.