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Facebook Kills Suspicious Likes

As an Internet Marketer you must be using the awesome power of social proof to drive traffic to your website. Facebook ‘likes’, Twitter ‘tweets’, Pinterest ‘pins’, and Google ‘plus’ should all be part of your content traffic strategy. More than ever, search engines are placing a high value on the interaction and approval of your business, products and services from within social networking sites to calculate the authority of your website content. And, as we all know, the more authority you have in a particular niche, the higher your search engine ranking will be.

Getting Facebook Likes the wrong way

For the past few years, many Internet Marketers have tried to increase their social standing through more dubious means by generating a huge number of likes, tweets, pins, and plus’ either by paying low cost service providers to do it, or by using automated ‘bot’ software. This activity is reminiscent of the high-volume “back-link building” activity that has driven Internet marketer “Warrior” activity ever since Google published their earlier PageRank algorithm, which based search engine ranking on the number of back-links to a website.

Well, in the same way Google got wise to the manipulation of their search results, and changed their algorithm, Facebook are about to wipe the smiles off the faces of a very large number of Internet marketers. On August 31st, 2012, the Facebook security team announced in a blog post that they were now able to detect suspiciously generated Likes, and will remove them:

When a Page and fan connect on Facebook, we want to ensure that connection involves a real person interested in hearing from a specific Page and engaging with that brand’s content. As such, we have recently increased our automated efforts to remove Likes on Pages that may have been gained by means that violate our Facebook Terms.

Facebook doesn’t Like a lot of Likes

Curiously, it doesn’t seem to as much of a problem as you would think, with just 1% of Likes on any given Facebook page considered dubious. However, the Facebook security team revealed that ‘purchased bulk Likes’ (low-cost service providers) and ‘malware’ (bots) aren’t the only way to twist things in your favour. Indeed, two other methods seem very ‘black hat’; compromised accounts and deceived users:

These newly improved automated efforts will remove those Likes gained by malware, compromised accounts, deceived users, or purchased bulk Likes… we only want people connecting to the Pages and brands with whom they have chosen to connect. Beyond the need to maintain authentic relationships on Facebook, these third-party vendors often attempt to use malware or other forms of deception to generate fraudulent Likes, which is harmful to all users and the internet as a whole.

Oh dear. But, this has been going on for years. Why is Facebook taking such action only now? They would likely argue two main reasons: First, that suspicious traffic from Internet Marketers has reached epidemic proportions. One percent of Likes may not sound like a lot but, of course, this is 1% of 2.7 billion Likes and comments per day. Secondly, that it has taken time to develop their cyber-defences against such suspicious activity. I’m sure both of the reasons are entirely valid, but an interest comment in their blogpost points to another more interesting reason. The same reason, in fact, that prompted Google to release the Panda an Penguin updates to their search ranking algorithms.

This improvement will allow Pages to produce ever more relevant and interesting content, and brands will see an increase in the true engagement around their content.

Oh, really? Is Facebook taking on Google at their own game? There are a number of rumours around the ‘net that Facebook intends to displace the search giant as the place to go to find relevant content. And what better way to rank relevant, authoritative content than by the social vote given to it by its fans?

The correct way to get Facebook Likes

Politics and corporate ambition aside, there is a clear lesson here for every Internet Marketer, whether chasing Google back-links or Plus’, Facebook Likes, Pinterest pins, or anything else: You need to build an audience for your business in a way that plays by the rules.

Not only will this correctly generated social authority remain with you for many years, surviving successive rounds of algorithm updates, but your customers are real people who will buy from you repeatedly and recommend your quality products and services. There are a number of ways to generate authentic social authority:

1. Publishing relevant, high quality, engaging content on niche Facebook pages/Twitter streams/Pinterest boards/Google circles. Fill out your profile information properly and interested people will have no trouble finding you.

2. Viral images (cure kittens in wicker baskets, and so on) are very popular on all the social networks. Genuinely so. They are easy to produce, can be linked back to your website and the very best will spread like wildfire around the ‘net. There is no manipulation here, other than “tugging at the heart strings”.

3. “Connect to reveal”. Use the “apps” and other linking technologies developed by the social networks themselves to create a buzz for your products. People interested in obtaining product, or getting access to content, from your own website, can be asked to Like, Tweet, Pin or G+ before they are allowed access. It works extremely well and is completely supported by the social networks.

4. Media buying. Yes, a little money spent in the right places will rocket authentic traffic to your relevant, authoritative content (see #1 above). In fact, Facebook ads return more ‘bang for the buck’ than most other online advertising because of the high degree of audience targeting that can be done. (Only want to target 20-year old males who own ginger tabby cats and play the saxophone? No problem!) Clearly all the social networks support traffic generation (and subsequent social approval) through media buying because this is how they make their money. It is one way of generating Likes on Facebook that is never going to go away.

You can read the Facebook Security Team’s blog post in full at Facebook.com.