Since the birth of social media marketing, operators in those channels have looked for measures of success for their campaigns. It can be a difficult for a lot of companies so many just use Return on Investment (ROI), but that’s a metric that’s very difficult to apply to social media.

If your objective is just to increase market awareness and perhaps build your brand’s image, your metric is probably how many followers you have. Now it seems like market leader Facebook’s ‘Like’ count might not be as valuable an indicator to marketers as was thought, according to some recent figures.

The Numbers

According to Facebook themselves, almost 6% of their active profiles are believed to be fake.

It doesn’t sound high, but 6% of 900 million active users is 54 million profiles. Which is a little bit more than the population of South Africa. There are even spam programs that can automatically open thousands of different Facebook accounts without human input.

There are large groups of these profiles that are controlled by a single spammer who sends promotions across all these profiles as a way of advertising. A lot of these have been sourced to the Philippines and Egypt.

These profiles have a very hard time befriending people, as Facebook is very personal social network. So they just simply ‘like’ certain brands as an easy way of propagating their content, sometimes up to 5000 pages per profile.

The Problem

‘Likes’ are highly valued by brands as an indicator of their relative popularity. So this has somewhat shaken the way companies see their brands on Facebook. If these fake profiles have so much of an impact on the total number of Facebook profiles, imagine the inaccuracy of the ‘Like’ figures relating to their brands.

Forget the fact that these profiles are way out of the brand’s target market, it paints a damning picture of the marketing potential in these channels. Advertisers specifically have voiced concern, as many decided to advertise on Facebook in the first place based on the apparent success of certain social media campaigns on this website.

Marketers and Facebook: Moving Forward

Facebook have consistently maintained that the problem is quite mild and inconsequential. But, similarly to Google, most of Facebook’s revenue comes from advertising (around 85%) so they certainly can’t go on ignoring the issue. They say they’re working on more sophisticated ways of detecting fake profiles and removing them.

It’s funny, as it very closely resembles the search engine industry having to gradually develop more sophisticated ways of fighting spam in their search results. An endeavour that saw new market leaders emerge based on that principle.