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

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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

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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.

iKids

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, Diapers.com, 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

Summary:

  • 338 total page likes
  • 271 people engaged
  • 243 people talking about this
  • 11 likes
  • 3 comments
  • 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.

3

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.

4

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

Summary:

  • 628 total page likes
  • 717 people engaged
  • 261 likes
  • 19 comments
  • 58 shares
  • 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.

5

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.

iKids

Summary:

  • 172 total page likes
  • 73 people engaged
  • 14 likes
  • 0 comments
  • 3 shares
  • 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.

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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!

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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
  • 11 likes
  • 3 comments
  • 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:

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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:

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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.

Post Likes:

Over the duration of our ad campaign (10 days), our average post likes came to two per day. December 3 was our best day with a total of eight likes.

Comments:

During the 10 days of our ad campaign, we received 0 comments.

Shares:

Lastly, during the campaign we received a total of two shares, one on December 3rd and one on December 4th.

Content Strategy and Engagement:

Link Posts: 31 link posts

Picture Posts: 42 picture posts

Posts with Questions: 40

The top post for Health Bites was a picture post with a question included in the description.

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The Daily Om

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

Campaign Details:

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December 4, 2013 Campaign Detail Changes

Changed the placement to only show up on the news feed rather than in the ad space.

Impressions: Impressions are how many times anyone on Facebook ran across our ad. Here this graph shows that on December 2nd, about 3,500 people saw our ad for The Daily Om.

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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 5th, about 1,100 people saw our ad for The Daily Om due to Social Impressions.

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Social Clicks: Social clicks reflects how many times people clicked on the link for The Daily Om 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 5th.

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Actions(likes): Actions are simply how many times someone clicked “like” on our page. The graph shows that December 3rd 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.

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Looking at the data, the number of likes came from Impressions and as social became an involved factor, the average number of likes dropped significantly throughout the day.

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

  • 628 total page likes
  • 717 people engaged
  • 261 likes
  • 19 comments
  • 58 shares
  • 479 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 6pm
  • The first week of our campaign (December 1st), was the most popular
  • The most popular city our fans came from: Chicago, IL
  • The most popular age group of our fans were: 25-34 years old

Total Reach:

The number of people who saw any activity from our page came out to be a total of 12,956. Our paid average came out to 1,656 and our organic average came out to 675. To break that down further into days:

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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.

The Daily Om Page Likes

 Our Fans:                                 People Reached:                     People Engaged:

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Page Visits:

We received the most page visits on December 3, totalling 61 timeline visits, seven admin tab visits, one photo tab visit, and one likes tab visit.

Post Reach:

Our total post reach was 3,183. Our average organic reach was 432 per day and our average paid reach was 0.

Post Likes:

Over the duration of our ad campaign (10 days), our average post likes came to 27 likes per day.

December 5th was our best day, receiving 82 post likes.

Comments:

During the 10 days of our ad campaign, we received an average of two comments per day. December 5th was our best day, receiving eight comments.

Shares:

Lastly, during the campaign we received an average of six shares per day. December 5th was our best day, receiving 23 post shares.

Content Strategy and Engagement:

Link Posts: 16 link posts

Picture Posts: 60 picture posts

Posts with Questions: 29

The top post for The Daily Om was a Picture post with a quote.

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iKids

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

Campaign Details:

December 2, 2013

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We first added really strict criteria which did no good for likes considering we didn’t need the uber targeted person, so I backed off on some targeting and limited it to: parents/married/non-specific relations. The budget on the first day was $50.

December 5, 2013 Campaign Detail Changes

Had the ad turned off due to the super high CRT on December 4, changed the campaign to include more popular adult/kid related corporations such as Disney kids and took out a lot of the tech industry which used to target iPad/Android related items. Left the restrictions, only had it run in news feed, and budget changed to $10/day.

Impressions: Impressions are how many times anyone on Facebook ran across our ad. Here this graph shows that on December 2nd, over 1,000 people saw our ad for iKids.

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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 1st, about 44 people saw our ad for iKids due to Social Impressions.

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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 does correlate with our best days of social impressions, showing that the social aspect of Facebook (word of mouth and popularity) may have been a factor in receiving the majority of our likes.

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

  • 172 total page likes
  • 73 people engaged
  • 14 likes
  • 0 comments
  • 3 shares
  • 35 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 4pm
  • The first week of our campaign (December 1st), was the most popular
  • The most popular city our fans came from: Winnipeg, MB, Canada
  • The most popular age group of our fans were: 35-44 years old

Total Reach:

The number of people who saw any activity from our page came out to be a total of 3,338. Our paid average came out to 1,720 and our organic average came out to 67. To break that down further into days:

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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.

iKids Page Likes

  Our Fans:                                     People Reached:                  People Engaged:

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Page Visits:

We received the most page visits on December 10, totalling 23 timeline visits and 2 admin tab visits.

People Engaged Gender/Age Summary:

Not available because there were less than 30 people who engaged with our posts.

Post Reach:

Our total post reach was 106. Our average organic reach was 32 per day and our average paid reach was 0.

Post Likes:

Over the duration of our ad campaign (10 days), our average post likes came to 2 likes per day.

December 5th was our best day, receiving 4 post likes.

Comments:

During the 10 days of our ad campaign, we received 0 comments.

Shares:

Lastly, during the campaign we received a total of 3 shares, one on December 4th, one on December 5th, and one on December 10th.

Content Strategy and Engagement:

Link Posts: 41 link posts

Picture Posts: 35 picture posts

Posts with Questions: 15

The top post for iKids was a picture post of a funny kid meme.

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To Summarize, is paying for Facebook Likes worth it?

As always, it depends on your goals and KPI’s.  If you are using branding KPI’s to measure the effectiveness of your campaign, then it may be cost-effective.  If your KPI’s are conversion based, perhaps not, but you get a lot of numbers on your new audience.  We can definitely say that the quality of the likes is better than it was a year ago, the main question now is – is buying likes on Facebook worth it for YOUR COMPANY based on YOUR GOALS?

Have you run similar experiments for your company? What’s been your experience about the quality of the audience?

 

Image Sources:

– Screenshots taken on January 13, 2014 of Facebook.com Ads Manager
– Screenshots of Facebook pages taken on January 13, 2014
– All custom graphics designed by Search Engine Journal

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... Read Full Bio
Marcela De Vivo
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