Social Media: Pay to Play – Conspiracies & Tips to Save You Money | RankWatch Blog

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Social Media: Pay to Play – Conspiracies & Tips to Save You Money

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social media

Social Media is a big part of our lives. Believe it or not, users spend the most time on instant messaging platforms and apps. It’s no wonder chatbots are getting more and more popular. Social Media platforms are expanding rapidly and their owners, along with advertisers, are trying to profit from this as much as possible.

Now the Pay to Play principle applies to other platforms as well, but we’ll be talking more about Facebook because Facebook has recently changed their algorithm to (quote) “help you have more meaningful interactions”.

The problem with Facebook:

Zuckerberg stated in a public post that you’ll see less public content like posts from businesses, brands, and media. But is this to really make the user experience better, or for Facebook to make more money?

Well, I’d put my bets on the last one, because they did not mention anything about the ads. And to be honest, I’ve been personally experiencing a lot of ads in my news feed.

I carefully craft my news feed by unfollowing people I’m not interested in seeing posts from and by liking only posts that I want to see again. Even so, I get one ‘Sponsored post’ (which is a synonym for the ad) every 4 posts!

Every single 4 posts, there is an ad blended very well into my feed. It’s even worse on mobile, where the ad is the only thing in the view frame. Could you imagine ads on Google every 4th result? Or video ads on YouTube every 4 minutes?

Don’t get me wrong, though. Facebook is awesome and it serves us well. After all, around 2 billion people use it. The platform offered us a lot of good things FOR FREE. The truth is, people, tend to become haters when they’re used to free things and you take that away from them.

This happened to us when we launched BrandMentions. Before December 2017, our tool was a completely free web mention monitoring tool. After we launched the improved, paid version, many people that before stated we were awesome, suddenly became pickier, changed their minds or found other tools (probably free). In any case, there weren’t the fans they once were anymore.

If you’re ever interested in finding out who talks about you on the web (social media included), as soon as it happens, make sure you check BrandMentions out. You can enroll in a free trial there.

Platforms like Facebook tend to fail because of one of two reasons:

  1. They fail to satisfy the needs of the end user and they move on to something better.
  2. They fail to attract advertisers and can’t make any revenue to sustain their business.

problems with facebook

I’ve been to a meeting recently and someone asked the speaker (Robert Katai) what he thinks about Facebook’s new algorithmic changes. This was his answer:

“This is something normal. Google does that as well. If you want to get your content out there for free, you can, but you have to work hard. If you want to bypass the work, you can pay for it.”

And he’s completely right. At a core level, the business model is simple. Almost every popular platform does this more or less. Offer something for free to the masses, then monetize it via advertisers.

I’m a big fan of science. One day, Derek Muller, one of the best sources of truth on the internet, posted something about Facebook:

The main concept in the video is that both YouTube and Facebook are platforms where people create content on, but on YouTube, the content creators are paid for views, whereas on Facebook, content creators are the ones who pay for views.

How come the money flows in opposite directions on these very similar platforms? Well…

  • First of all, people go on these platforms for very different reasons. People go to YouTube to watch something, while on Facebook, they probably go to chat or catch up with friends and family.
  • Second, on YouTube, viewers, content creators and advertisers are very distinct groups. Also, the majority of viewers are not also content creators. On the other side, on Facebook, content creators are treated as advertisers. And most of the viewers (users) are also content creators… which makes them also advertisers.

So… on Facebook, we are all advertisers and this is a problem. Facebook can’t seem to figure out another way to better monetize their platform.

The problem isn’t only for us, but also for them. Since people go there to catch up with friends and family and post pictures, the Facebook ad CTR (click through rate) is less than 0.1%. For contrast, Google’s ad CTR is about 2%. (That’s actually pretty low since people actually go there to search for things to buy. Long live SEO!)

So Facebook is having trouble monetizing their platform.

But wait. There’s more…

Does Facebook sell you fake likes and clicks?

Derek also found something else. I was shocked, not only because of his discovery but more because I’ve actually experienced something similar what I would’ve called then ‘recently’.

My experience was similar. Although I could not confirm it, I actually dug into it a lot. Here’s the story:

There was a contest. You could win a book. All you had to do was Like the post and comment on it. I boosted the post to a relatively broad audience in Romania because the subject would interest pretty much everyone in my country.

It was my first Facebook promotion experience. Although the budget was burnt rapidly, the post got the likes, but not the comments… And that really short-circuited my brain because I really could not understand why anyone would simply like the post when it was so obvious that you also have to comment on it to win the book. If you like it, then you want it, so you comment.

Here’s one, for example:


We even have one mutual friend! Now I can’t confirm that this is really a fake account, so that’s why I’m censoring the name. It could be real. But what I can confirm is that the last post was made August 2017 and that the woman in the pictures, all her pictures, is actually a Turkish celebrity, Amine Gulse.

serp results

And it’s not just someone posting a picture of a celebrity. She only had pictures with this particular celebrity and when some would say “You’re pretty” she would reply with “Thanks” like it was her.

All the other users’ posts I’ve found were flowing with useless, unmeaningful stuff. They did not have any personal posts and they pretty much liked EVERYTHING. All the likes to their posts were coming from foreign people and the comments looked strange and written in other languages.

other users facebook

One theory that Derek found says that Facebook isn’t to blame for this, but Click Farms themselves. I believe that.

Click farms are places where people from undeveloped countries are paid (very little money) to like things. You buy a package, and for about $50-$100 you can get a ton of likes, pretty much in no time. They’re all fake though.

It would be very easy for Facebook to catch them if they only liked thousands of pages in a short amount of time. So in order to protect themselves, they try and act like real accounts, sometimes actually clicking the ads, liking real facebook ads pages.

So are fake likes actually all that bad? Well… yes! Yes, they are!

First of all, you have to understand how organic reach works:

When you make a post, Facebook distributes the post to a small portion of your following, to check on their reaction. If the reaction is good (what we call Engagement) and people like, comment on the post and share it, Facebook distributes it to more people.

If you have real likes and good engagement, not only does Facebook distribute the post to more of your followers, but the post also gets exposure on the friends of the engaging followers’ walls.

If any of the likes are fake, Facebook’s algorithms will distribute the posts to fake people. This way you’ll get less engagement, which will result in less exposure.

Derek says that Facebook can make money double. Once by selling you new fans, and then via the boost post method, when you’re trying to reach them. He also provided us with the information that the US State Department Bureau spent over a half a million dollars on Facebook ads, but the engagement was less than 2%.

Not only the likes can be fake. You’ll often find situations like this, where the clicks on your ad are actually fake.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying Facebook is a fraud or that they sell fake likes on purpose. But fake likes have been reported many times, so they are a reality.

One possible explanation for this could be that Click Farms actually use the fake accounts to click the ads so that they seem more legit.

Ok… I think I’ve trashed Facebook long enough. Time to say something good again. Despite all this, promoting on Facebook can be extremely profitable! That… is if you do it the right way.

Remember, it’s a good platform. If it wasn’t, we wouldn’t all be using it. It’s not like there aren’t any alternatives. We as marketers might see things differently, but regular users don’t always notice these subtle things.

It’s really hard to keep a platform like that alive, with all the bad things happening. Zuckerberg had a really hard time dealing with the US Government’s suspicion that the campaigns were rigged through Facebook.


There are some steps you can take in order to really profit from Facebook. A friend of mine, Paul Ramondo made a fortune out of Facebook and he swears by it. Here are some tips to help you do advertising right and save money:

  1. Focus all your efforts on building a real audience and a real brand. Spend time analyzing what posts do best and never buy likes, not even from Facebook itself. You can boost posts to your current audience or competitors’ audiences, but make sure their engagement rate is high. If they have 100.000 Likes but their posts receive only 2-3 likes per post, you will definitely waste money to ‘reach over 100,000 people’. Avoid targeting your ads by user interests alone, as this can dilute your reach.
  2. You can also create a custom audience. To do this, you have to import an E-mail list into Facebook. Some of those E-mails will have active Facebook accounts, and Facebook can create a custom audience based on the activity of your imported users.
  3. This makes sense, as two people who act alike are probably interested in the same things. So, basically, you will create a profile of your ideal customer and search that profile on Facebook.
  4. Another thing you shouldn’t miss out is the Facebook Pixel. Facebook Pixel is a tracking code you add to your website. It is a form of remarketing and can be really, really useful.. It tracks the users’ browsers when they enter your site and if the users are also logged into Facebook, it will record them. Then, only those users will see the ads. And this is golden, as you know they’re interested. They did just visit your website, right?


I hope you found this article interesting and useful. If you want to engage in conversation or share your opinion, feel free to leave a comment below, using Disqus.

Adrian Cojocariu on LinkedinAdrian Cojocariu on Twitter
Adrian Cojocariu
Adrian is a young, passionate SEO and Internet Marketer. He is also a professional piano player, therefore his legendary typing speed. His skills range from technical SEO and link building to creating high quality content in any niche.