Buying Facebook Fans is a Horrible Idea

July 28, 2011
By Lisa Barone in Social Media

It always starts the same way.

My inbox chirps and I have a new message from someone inquiring about social media services. The nice man talking to me wants Outspoken Media to build out his company’s Facebook page. He wants to know how he can get more fans. Actually, he wants to know how he can buy fans and what, exactly, is my take on this process.

[clears throat]

My take is that you’re doing it wrong. Also, you just asked for help buying people. DO YOU HEAR YOURSELF RIGHT NOW?

But the truth is, sure, there are many ways to buy people on Facebook.

  • You can hire a street team to go out and offer people cash money to like your brand on Facebook.
  • You can buy fans through the allure of contests that hawk free iPads, exotic trips or other shiny things.
  • You can buy them via human traffickers bulk packages like this one from

Any one of these methods will help you see a sharp increase in your brand’s number of fans. But there’s a huge problem with this. It’s not the cost associated or the fact that you’re pretty much selling your soul to the social media devil. It’s that by buying people, you actually lower your EdgeRank score and limit the odds that your content will ever be seen. By anyone.


If you’re not familiar with Facebook’s EdgeRank algorithm, I’d encourage you to read The Next Web’s Everything You Need To Know about Facebook’s EdgeRank because it truly does live up to its name. Here are some highlights.

EdgeRank, on paper, looks like this:

What EdgeRank does is essentially determine whether or not your content is worth Facebook showing to its users. It creates an affinity score between your page and a particular user, adds a content type-specific weight (is it a link, a picture, status update, etc), and then adds a freshness factor to round things out.

As soon as you publish something, that score is immediately attached to it. That score is then increased based on user participation with that update – do they like it, share it, comment on it. If users routinely display they love your content, your base score rises. However, if they show they are bored with your content by NEVER doing any of these things, then your affinity score drops. The lower your affinity score, the less likely it is that anyone will ever see your content, regardless of how much time you may have spent creating it.

And that’s when buying fans become problematic.

When you pay money for a person (really, do you hear me right now?), you’re buying someone who isn’t interested in your brand. They only Like you for that $20 you just gave them or because they’re trying to win an iPad they’re too poor or lazy to buy themselves. That person is there for a prize, not for an interest in your brand.

They will never interact with you, they will never visit your page again. They are lowering your brand’s EdgeRank score simply by existing.

Remember that guy you dated in college who only hung around to eat your groceries and drink your beer? Same concept.

What makes Facebook different from other social networks is that you have to prove you deserve to be seen. If you build up 20,000 followers on Twitter, you can rest assures that anyone watching their timeline when you hit tweet will see your content. You can even use tools like tweriod to understand WHEN the majority of your audience is looking at their timeline.

For users to see your content on Facebook, you need to prove on a regular basis that people actually care. And you prove it with your numbers. The ones that report people engaging with what you’re putting out. No engagement, no visibility.

Your brand doesn’t need leeches sucking off EdgeRank. Instead, focus on connecting with the people who are genuinely interested in what you’re offering. The users who will want to interact with your page consistently over time.

How do you find them?

By creating a compelling experience on your Facebook Brand page, building the WHY into it from the very beginning, and delivering on it time and time again.

Can you do that by running Facebook contests? Sure! Facebook contests are a great way to build exposure and fans. But the contest needs to be highly-targeted to the brand and to the experience. Getting people to Like you for a free iPhone will do more damage than good.

Can you use Facebook ads to lure them in? Yes. Another great Facebook marketing tactic. But realize that the ad is only going to work if you’re DELIVERING something. If there’s value. If you’re inviting them to be part of an experience that interests them.

You can buy people all you want, but bought people don’t engage and will simply damn you to social media purgatory. Instead, put energy into creating an experience that will attract a response.

  • Share unique photos and video
  • Run contests that are brand-related
  • Discuss topics intended to push button
  • Touch on bubble-type events [Like the White House Town Hall or Mark’s next Facebook press conference
  • Ask questions
  • Make yourself part of larger conversations.
  • Tie online to offline and vice versa.

Basically, concentrate on wooing the fans you have.

As it turns out, social media relationships aren’t much different from real life relationships. You can jump through hoops to be the guy who impresses people with a gimmick or you can just extend your hand and say hello.

I know who I’d rather talk to.

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