When starting social media marketing initiatives, many business owners focus on ROI (Return on Investment). That’s a good thing, but sometimes hard for many to do accurately.

It’s easy to focus on the obvious metrics: growth of fans, followers, likes, shares, recommendations, views, comments etc. Many people seem hung up on overall numbers and lose sight of the overall point of social media marketing. Where many fail is that they don’t focus on the right numbers.

Here’s the big bold statement I want you to remember. Social media marketing is NOT a popularity contest.

Having more likes or followers than your competitor does not mean you are doing a better job than they are.

For example, you could get 10,000 new followers within a week but those followers are located out of your target geographic area, do not speak the same language you do and do not have any interest in doing any sort of business or desire to engage with you in any way. Would that matter?

Yes. That serves zero benefit to you.

What I want to warn business owners of is that focusing on fan/follower numbers is not an accurate way to measure social media success. There are many companies claiming to sell followers, likes, shares, etc for some pretty low rates. It sounds like a great opportunity to gain some headway on your competitors but it’s a disaster waiting to happen and often a complete waste of money.

Here are 5 reasons buying Facebook fans is a bad idea:

1. Buying Facebook followers is inauthentic and unethical 

Bottom line: if you buy followers you are creating an inauthentic culture within Facebook. You’re creating a deceptive appearance to future fans. The number 1 rule of social media is to be authentic. Be real. Be true to what you stand for and what your brand represents. While I understand the argument that “having few fans on a page can give you a less than positive appearance”, I believe everyone starts somewhere and working hard to find and build fans who are interested in your brand, want to learn more from you, plan to purchase from you and will support you will benefit much more in the long run.

In addition, it is possible for users to see who your fans are based on where they are located. This means that people can actually discover where most of your fans are based. If they notice that you are a Canadian or US based company and most of your fans are from India, Russia or Philippines (as an example) they will know something is up. And don’t put it past the general population to rebel against a brand that is using social media inauthentically. It happens all the time.

2. Purchased fans are often not in your geographic area   

As mentioned above, when you get into the business of paying for Facebook fans you’ll end up with a fan base that is commonly from other areas of the world – not local. I’ve even seen sites that claim to promise that fans are “local”. I’ve also heard that what you end up with is not what you paid for so as the saying goes, “buyer beware” and “you pay for what you get.”

Will it help you in any way to have fans that are not interested in ever buying from you, not interested in your brand or messaging and will never engage with you? The answer is no.

This is the part that drives me crazy. If you are buying fans, you’re just wasting money. Even if you think it’s going to make you look better that you have many fans, users will likely still look at how often you are posting on Facebook. Plus if you have 10,000 Facebook fans but your posts get 1 or 2 likes, comments or shares, people will know something is up.

3. Purchased fans are often not real people (real accounts) 

When you pay for fans, in most cases you are supporting a company that is paying people to sit in front of a computer and click “like” hundreds of times a day…and they are likely getting paid pennies to do this. I’ve read a few articles on this subject referencing these companies as creating an environment that has been compared to a high-tech sweat shop. While there are real people behind the computers most of these “accounts” that are liking pages are fake Facebook profiles. So not only do you have fans out of your geographic area, in most cases these are not “real” Facebook profiles. Facebook recently sited that there are likely over 1.4 million of these fake accounts and they are working hard to find and delete these accounts. In some cases these companies have created “bots” which are computer scripts that are created to automatically go around liking pages, posts and more.

4. It hurts Facebook ad reach and ends up costing you more   

Facebook is continually changing its post reach and rank algorithm and many have noticed that it is becoming increasingly harder to ensure your posts are seen by your page’s fans. In most cases only 12 – 18% of your fans (this figure has been cited most recently around 6%) will see any given page post. That’s pretty low reach and many businesses are growing concerned with this reality. You’re working really hard to build a big fan base but Facebook is making it hard for you to reach everyone. Why? They want to make sure that their users are seeing the most relevant information and in most cases every post you share is not going to be of interest to every fan.

The new reality is that Facebook is not becoming a “pay-to-play” environment. They are pushing businesses to pay to expand reach. This means they want businesses to pay to expand the reach of targeted posts. Yes, that’s right – they want you to pony up and pay to be able to get your posts to reach more of your fans. That’s just the new reality we have to accept.

That said, consider now that you have potentially thousands of fans who are not “real”, not in your local area and are not interested in engaging with you. Now that you have to pay to expand reach, this means it’s actually going to cost you more to reach your real fans.

5. In the end it creates more work for you and costs you more money

So let’s assume one of the reasons you decided to pay for fans was to give the appearance that your page is popular and you hoped that it would help you attract more likes from people who have checked out your page. Now let’s assume you now have a larger fan base. Let’s also assume you have started to pay to expand your post reach (even if on occasion) and that you realize that having these fake fans is costing you more money in ad spend. What’s the next thing you’ll want to do? Get rid of those fake fans.

It is possible to “unlike” or “block” fans of your page. But it’s a slow process and will therefore take you lots of time. Time is money. Again, in the end having these fake fans is going to cost you lots of money! I’ve even heard of businesses whose sole purpose is to help businesses find and delete theses fake fans/accounts from their page.

In summary, paying for Facebook fans is bad for business, unethical and will end up costing you more money and more aggravation than it’s worth. I recommend you put your time and energy into building up an authentic audience. It may take a bit of time but in the end your hard work will pay off.

So I’m sure you’re asking yourself now “what else can I do to attract more fans to my page?” Check out these links from past blog posts we’ve written or feel free to contact us today to find out more about the strategies we use with our clients.

http://goingsocial.ca/2014-social-media-marketing-tips/

http://goingsocial.ca/5-tips-to-stand-out-on-facebook/

http://goingsocial.ca/5-tips-to-grow-engagement-on-facebook/  

Also check out this video of an interview I had on Canada AM on February 16, 2014 on this very subject http://canadaam.ctvnews.ca/video?clipId=292888&playlistId=1.1689819&binId=1.811572&playlistPageNum=1&binPageNum=1

If you have had some experiences (good or bad) from paying for Facebook fans, we’d love to hear about it below.