by July 16, 2012 0 comments

BBC conducted an experiment to test if Facebook’s advertising campaigns really paid off. They created a Facebook page for a completely fictitious company called “VirtualBagel”, which basically does nothing at all. At the time of writing, there were more than 3,000 ‘likes’ for the Facebook page. The experiment was conducted by a BBC correspondent, Rory Cellan-Jones, in which he spent $10 to advertise his ‘company’ to various regions such as the UK, US, India, Egypt, Indonesia and the Philippines. Though his company was based in the UK, most of the ‘likes’ he got were from Egypt and Indonesia, and barely any from the US or UK. More interestingly, when he looked into the profiles which had ‘liked’ his Facebook page, Rory found that that many of them had like over 3,000 or 4,000 Facebook pages. Many of them had names such as “Ahmed Ronaldo”, and did not seem to be legitimate profiles. Given the statistic that around 5-6 % of all Facebook profiles are fake, it is very concerning if they are actually ‘bots’ programmed to like random Facebook pages. This would devalue the advertising of Facebook by a great deal. It is also questionable if the ads are reaching the intended market, as most of the likes came from countries which did not really concern the product’s location at all.

Nevertheless, the BBC experiment is also not in anyways conclusive because of several assumptions it makes. For example, the advertiser only ran his campaign for a few days and has used that data set for analysis, while most companies spend months on advertising to obtain tangible results. Also, Facebook commented that the advertiser has taken a ‘scatter-gun approach’ with no real demographic targeting, and this is also something that lowers the reliability of the study. The BBC article does bring up a salient point though, that the Facebook advertising algorithm will come under further scrutiny in the future, given that the US $100 billion valuation was projected mainly on the revenue generating capabilities of Facebook’s target advertising prowess.

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