Evolve CommunicationsWho Says You Can’t Buy Friends?


Who Says You Can’t Buy Friends?


Recently, more than a few people have taken up the position that it’s a bad idea to “buy friends” on Facebook. And by “buy friends,” we mean to advertise to get people to “Like” your business page. Sure, it sounds icky, and seems to fly in the face of everything social media stands for: engagement, interaction, dialogue, etc.

Some reasons cited for not buying friends include:

  • Companies that help you buy friends are all spammy
  • Having fans that don’t interact can hurt your Edgerank
  • It’s better to earn fans than buy them
  • People you buy will never be as engaged with your page as people who find you organically

Are there companies out there who are “doing it wrong,” by buying friends? Sure. Are there some less-than-credible companies who are providing less-than-reliable Facebook advertising services? You bet!

Does that mean it’s a completely worthless medium? Absolutely not. In fact, when wielded properly, buying ads on Facebook can give a page a much-needed boost faster and more efficiently than simply growing connections with people organically.

Take, for example, American Estate Jewelry (full disclosure: AEJ is a former Evolve client). When we started working with this company, they had about 35 fans. Through a highly targeted campaign, we proudly boosted this to just over 1,000 in about two months for a relatively low investment. Today, well after the advertising campaigns ended, the fan page has more than 1,300 fans–the last 250 or so being won organically.

More importantly, engagement during the campaigns grew very rapidly, and keeps growing. We went from virtually no interaction, to several likes and comments per post every day (on average). This is clearly a case of advertising driving the initial introduction, with engagement produced through–you guessed it–relevant content.

The point here is that engagement levels change over time, which also means that Edgerank (Facebook’s method for determining what makes it to users’ individual walls), shifts over time. Like Google search engine results pages, Edgerank is not static! In terms of “buying friends,” having individual fans who are not closely connected to your brand might result in fewer Facebook feed impressions in the short run. But in the long run, as the business provides more relevant content on a more frequent basis, the more likely it is that those “bought” fans will see it.

For example, check out Nutella (not a client, but still one of our favorites!). Nutella has more than 11 million fans. In terms of engagement, though, roughly 2,000 – 10,000 individuals respond to any given post (likes and comments). Even if 20,000 people engage, that’s still only .18 percent of the total fanbase.

In case you couldn’t tell, we’re big believers in social media advertising. Why? Well, as Erik Qualman put it, “In the future we will no longer search for products and services; rather they will find us via social media.” There is no other medium currently available that allows marketers to target individuals the way Facebook does.

Our job as marketers is to help the products and services we represent find the right customers. The future of advertising, in many ways, is Facebook. As marketers, we need to be objective about our recommendations–but also recognize opportunities (for ourselves and our clients) to experiment a little.

We also need to recognize that buying fans (or any form of advertising for that matter) isn’t the be-all end-all of Facebook marketing. Instead, we should look at it as a small push down what could be a very steep hill.

Photo credit: Yes!Online


Scott Paley Reply

Hi Daniel,

To be 100% clear, my objection to buying friends should *not* be considered as a blanket objection to FB advertising. Quite the contrary.

My post was a direct response to somebody who asked me what I thought about companies that charge a fee in return for the promise of X number of new Facebook fans. To me, that’s just building up volume for volume’s sake, and can actually hurt you because of EdgeRank issues.

I also think a lot of ads are not well done. For example, how often have you seen a company offering to enter you in a sweepstakes for a free iPad in return for “liking” them on Facebook? To me, this is a nonsensical approach. Everyone wants a free iPad. So maybe a cosmetic company tries this and I sign up to try to win. Is there *any* chance I will ever engage with them? No. Am I waste of their ad budget? Yes. Do I screw up their EdgeRank (and thus there likelihood of even showing up in other people’s streams?) Yes. Am I likely to stick around once the winner is announced? No. (Though for them, that’s actually a good thing.)

That kind of a promotion is a complete waste of time and money.

But I never said that advertising was inherently bad. In face, I completely believe that strategic, smart advertising can have a huge positive impact, as your case studies prove.


Daniel Waldman Reply

Thanks for responding, Scott. I think we’re actually in agreement here about the need to use the targeting aspects, and not “artificially inflating numbers,” in your words. 

That said, you said you do not advise clients to buy likes, but work on earning them. In theory, this is what social media is all about. In order to organically earn likes, you need to do some serious networking–which takes serious time and serious money. And in order to do that, marketers need to start somewhere–i.e. with their business’ network (and personal networks). 

Some issues with this: 

1) FB limits the size of the contact list you can upload. If you’re database is anything more than 1,000 contacts, you’re going to be doing a lot of uploading; 

2) You’re limited only to the people your business knows–not necessarily exposing your business to potential customers who are not already connected to the company–or to its employees; 

3) Your business’ contact or personal contacts may not even be in your target audience. This might be particularly true if you’re looking to tap into a new market or industry. 

I think FB advertising can help in all three of these scenarios. Again–I’m not saying it’s the perfect solution; there is no perfect solution. It’s just a tool in the toolbox, and I think marketers in general need to be open to it. 

Ted Reply

what about buying likes outright? we’re thinking about buying 500 or so likes through a service like “buyilikes”. we would do it because we want to portray ourselves as an established company providing high end services, and ~40 likes shoots us in the foot. will buying likes of fake people cause any harm? 

DanielDubya Reply

Hi Ted,

I wouldn’t recommend it. Those dummy accounts will end up hurting your edgerank, where as advertising for likes can actually connect you to real people with real interests in what your page has to offer. 

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