Cairo, Al Qahirah. Home to the biggest fitness audience in the world… according to Facebook!
Dear Mark Zuckerberg,
I write to you as somebody currently building a business within the fitness industry.
In 2012, Facebook shut down almost 100 million fake Facebook accounts, originating from so called ‘like-farms’. Sadly, the people running the like farms got wise to what Facebook was doing, so they adopted a new strategy. Using the fake accounts, they were liking lots of normal pages, and the introduction of ‘similar pages’ by Facebook made that job a whole lot easier. In liking lots of normal pages, they were disguising themselves as real accounts.
As a consequence, we saw the pages of athletes and fitness companies absolutely explode over night. Rumors were spreading like wildfire of people paying for ‘Likes’, but this simply wasn’t the case. Unbeknown to athletes and brands in the fitness world, they were simply subject to astronomical growth from these fake accounts from the like farms. From about September 2013 onwards, pretty much all of the major fitness pages underwent this vast growth.
When you look at the most popular city and see Cairo, Al Qahirah as an example, and it just so happens that the most popular weeks occurred in November 2013, you know that they have been subject to this like-farm scandal. On the face of it, one could very easily look at this as something positive, the notion of having such a hugely liked page. But when you understand Facebook marketing, it’s clear that this in fact is not a good thing. Such pages have lost masses of their significant and useful audiences, by way of losses of the percentages of the audience who have liked the page that will actually see the post. Targeted adverts have pretty much been a disaster, so whilst the Facebook architecture should support the usefulness of ‘advertising’, as a result of these fakes likes it no longer does.
For the people and brands that own these pages, it has brought about other problems. There has been a belief that ‘social media strategies’ have been working, so great expense has gone into trying to monetise these audiences. I know a page that shot up to well over a million likes, and yet can sell less that 20 useful ebooks priced at $1. The feeling is that all these ‘likers’ are currently pressing their noses up against the glass front of the shop so you should be able to at least sell something to a few of them, but that isn’t the case because the people don’t actually exist. So the stress, anxiety, and expense within some of the biggest fitness brands has been huge.
Attitudes changed tremendously, especially among individuals, as, with the vast apparent audience, came inflated self-worth. Again, in such an economy, over-inflated values are neither useful nor are they desired. There has been somewhat of a depression among certain people as page interactions have plummeted to less than when they only had 10,000 page likes, despite currently having some 200–300k. This is not supportive of successful enterprise, and is somewhat of a mind tease.
Facebook isn’t to blame for this, but it is now your duty to fix it. I’m currently building a business in the fitness world, and I would dearly love to be giving you my money to add to your advertising revenues, but it’s on the basis that my money is being used to target real people. Currently you can’t guarantee this, but I believe there is something that, going forwards, you could do.
You have just purchased Whatsapp, a service which is based on mobile devices and phone contracts. One account per phone contract, so each Whatsapp account represents a real person. If Facebook was to use Whatsapp as a verification service for Facebook accounts, you could easily weed out all of these fake accounts and turn Facebook into a hub of useful enterprise, and this is seriously required in the fitness industry. I’m certainly not about telling you your job, but I do want to tell you about something that would make my job, as somebody trying to execute a strategy to grow a company, a lot easier.
Thank you for reading this, and thank you for any consideration you and your team will apply to tackling the problem that I have highlighted. I will happily forward you references to a large number of such fitness Facebook accounts, who I can assure you have not purchased likes, but have been subject to the way that like farms have tried to mask themselves.
Dr. Daniel Reardon