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Why You Are Already In A Facebook Like Farm

Laura Phillips

by Laura Phillips on 6th August 2013

Fake fansLast night Channel 4 aired a Dispatches based around fake profiles, fans and click farming, naming and shaming companies and celebrities as they went. While this is hardly ground breaking news from the ‘award winning investigative current affairs programme’, it seems a huge number of us are still being duped on a daily basis.

Back in October of 2012 I wrote a cautionary blog post aiming to help Facebook users define between genuine charities, those seeking to help others, and those who were simply seeking financial gain by poking at user’s hearts with a pointy stick so they would ‘Like’ their page.

My mayday call was my most well received post to date, however this ship is still sinking. Every day real people are being suckered in to becoming part of like farms, dispelling the myth that this type of thing is only done with fake accounts. In fact a lot of fake followers are real people, tricked in to following.

Over the months since I wrote that post the landscape has changed, and I have built up a vast collection of new, equally spammy and pointless examples for your delectation (*you may find some images disturbing), plus an update on what Facebook and their users are doing to combat this most tedious and sometimes dangerous behaviour.

Facebook Spam

What Has Changed?

Actually, very little, apart from the terminology. The term ‘Like Farming’ seems to be banded around a lot more now. The fact that the term is becoming more common leads me to believe (read: hope) that more users seem to be coming to the realisation that liking a picture of anything from a baby to a Transformer doesn’t actually make a blind bit of difference to anything, and just serves to annoy your Facebook contacts.

What Is Like Farming?

Facebook Pages For Sale

Let’s quickly run through this again. A person creates a page, and posts images to pull at your heartstrings in order to get you to Like the image and/or page. Sometimes this will be pure emotional blackmail (kittens, babies, soldiers etc), sometimes they’ll mix it up, allowing you to Like or comment depending on your thoughts about the subject matter.

They then share this page throughout social media to gain as much exposure and as many likes as possible. More often than not the page will then be sold for a pretty penny, thanks to all the Likes it has gained from those unaware of such practices or just too keen for the world to know that they love fruit or hate child abuse.

I kid you not, look:

Like If You Like Fruit

Yep, 26,000 likes and 191 comments because people like fruit. The fruit thing comes from a ‘public figure’ page called What Girls Like, I refuse to link to it but for giggles look it up. The latest post is dated March 15th and has managed to gain 124,008 Likes and 1,702 comments to date by asking if you would ‘Like’ to go to Heaven. Others posts include questions such as “Would you text God back?”, and a spot the difference where you are to ‘Like’, comment or share depending on if you think the odd one out is number one, two, or three.

Another great example comes from the ‘community’ that is ‘Girls and Boys.’ Where you will find 300,000 followers and little gems like this:

Like Farming on Facebook

The full Facebook URL for both of these pages contains the term ‘FirstAndOffcial’ (sp), indicating that they are part of a group of these types of pages run by one company or individual to gain as many Likes, comments and shares as humanly possible…for what purpose? To sell you and all the other ‘Likers’ to slippery marketers, who rebrand the page and start spamming you with all sorts of rubbish. Either that, or the scammer themselves rebrand the page to promote yet another of their leaves of drivel, get paid to use it to spread malware, or promote something completely unrelated.

Here’s a handy chart to help you remember…

Facebook likes Flowchart

Combatting Facebook Spam

Common Sense. Use it.

Common sense is the greatest threat to Facebook viral spam as we know it. If you think that Apple are truly giving away 4,623 iPad 2s because they cannot sell them, would you also believe that Samsung are giving away Galaxy S4s if you Like their page and Sony are handing out Playstations for comments and shares? You would? Why?

Facebook Like Spam

Competition and Giveaway Spam

Ask yourself these questions before selling the soul of your little blue and white thumb:

  • Does it sound too good to be true? It probably is.
  • Is the reasoning sound? Giving away iPad’s because they are ‘unsealed’ is somewhat unlikely.
  • Is the page genuinely affiliated with a brand or company? If not then step away.
  • Are there terms and conditions? If not, keep stepping away.
  • Are there contact details? If not, keep stepping away until you the page is just a dot to you.

Like Farming Page

Create Lists

Daylan Pearce has written a great post on ways to combat seeing this garbage in your news feed. By creating lists and setting different permissions you have more chance of eliminating viral spam type posts from appearing in your news feed, because, let’s face it, it’s usually the same people over and over. You can read the full post over here on Daylan Does.

Can’t See What The Problem Is?

I get it. If people are stitching themselves up like that let them, they’ll learn. No REAL harm done, right?

Wrong.

In my last post I pointed out a few examples where people had fraudulently gained a vast amount of money via these means while posing as a charity.

This time I’m going to talk about the people. Like Terri Johnson who thankfully managed to keep her daughter, Katie, blissfully unaware that her image was being used to farm Likes. Katie has Down Syndrome and her image was stolen, renamed Mallory, and Likes were to be given to ‘show her she is beautiful’.

Facebook Spam Exploiting Children

I don’t care how they got the image, the exploitation of children is vile in any form and examples like this are the reason this ‘business’ needs to be stopped. You can read the full story here. PS that ‘you’ like is not me…

How about this little cracker of cuteness?

Buying Likes

A page dedicated to showing the world that Autism is ‘different, not less’, that IS used by people and families of people with autism, which is good, helping raise awareness and building a community.

However some things are a little weird. For example the only contact detail for the page is the email address: sendbusiness101@gmail.com. This email address is also linked to pages entitled ‘I AM A PROUD MUMMY!’, ‘I HATE CANCER!’. To be fair these two pages do link back to what appears to be a bona fide charity called Sevenly. The autism page does not. I’m torn on this one because ‘Autism: Different, Not Less’ is adding value, even if the only intention was to gain Likes.

What Are Facebook Doing About This?

At present there is not a lot they can do except rely on vigilant users to report and block these kinds of pages. The Facebook algorithm is not yet advanced enough to be able to tell which bits of content are popular for the right reasons and which for the wrong reasons. They see these pages getting Likes, comments and shares, just the same as the big brands and genuine pages do, so it’s really down to us.

So the next time you want to show your hate for cancer, donate to one, some, or all of these guys:

Cancer Research UK
MacMillian Cancer Support
Prostate Cancer UK
Breast Cancer Campaign
(or other cancer charities)

The next time you want to wish a sick child better, save your spammy click and donate to one of these:

Great Ormond Street Hospital
Southampton Children’s Hospital
Starlight
(or other children’s charities)

And if you REALLY feel the need to tell the world you like fruit, my Uncle has a great little stall on the High Street.

Photo Album of the Best and Worst Viral Facebook Spam Posts
As a reward for reading the entire post, follow this link to my Viral Like Spam set on Flickr see the best and worst examples I have found on Facebook. I warn you, you may find one or two distressing, and the rest very annoying!

If you have any to add please do send the link in the comments section and I will add them to the collection!

Our very own Koozai_Ali has written a post about the same annoying behaviours on Twitter, which you can read here.

Image Credits

Facebook Image from Bigstock

Laura Phillips

Laura Phillips

Laura has experience of SEO, PPC and Social Media both in-house and within an agency environment. Having worked across a variety of industries from travel to law, and retail to education she is always looking for new and innovative ways to improve the search and social visibility of her clients across various platforms.

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25 Comments

  • Lucinda 6th August 2013

    Good work :) Really well written and I have been infuriated by these pages for ages. “Like if you enjoy breathing…” People need to stop liking such fatuity.

    Reply to this comment

  • Ruth 6th August 2013

    Oh, Laura, you have hit the nail right on the head! I have to admit to actually considering unfriending folk on Facebook when they get endlessly suckered in by these things and then clog up my feed with their “Oh well worth a try lol” reposts, especially the “like and share to win something completely implausible and probably illegal if it were real” things for iPads and the like. #facepalm.

    Reply to this comment

  • Paul 6th August 2013

    I think we all know a few people who should read this. They should make it compulsory before you’re allowed to have a Facebook account.

    Reply to this comment

  • Izzy 6th August 2013

    I get a lot of these types of websites and competitions clogging up my news feed by hopeful and well intentioned friends.
    It makes me want to bang my head on the wall because it’s all so moronic and obviously spam.
    Good comprehensive article.

    Reply to this comment

  • R Phillips 6th August 2013

    What I would like to know is how can companies sell Facebook ‘likes’ and twitter ‘followers’ .. You can buy them both should you want to. Makes a total mockery of having them, then again I suppose advertising is advertising. After all Im still waiting for Redbull to give me wings! Im starting to realise it doesn’t!.. But how do they sell them, do they somehow collect them and then transfer them..Any idea?

    Reply to this comment

    • Laura Phillips

      Laura Phillips 6th August 2013

      Hi Ray, the cheap ones are often fake, produced by software, the more expensive ones might be ‘real’ via a network of people recruited to do so, the slightly more proper ones are sometimes part of a marketing list which invites people (usually via email) to Like a page, with some sort of incentive, or exchange points etc. None of them are any good if you actually want to reach a targeted audience that might actually be interested in what you have to offer. Bought followers and fans often drop off very quickly… @koozai_ali wrote a great post about this recently: http://www.koozai.com/blog/social-media/100000-follower/

      Reply to this comment

  • Jen Colvin 6th August 2013

    Thank god for articles like this! Hopefully by sharing this across my news feed I may reduce the amount of complete bobbins that currently clogs it up…we live in hope! A well written and researched piece Laura

    Reply to this comment

  • Susannah 6th August 2013

    What a great post! I get so frustrated with these ‘like this picture of a dog being mutilated if you think animal cruelty is wrong’ posts. OF COURSE it’s wrong but me clicking a button on the internet isn’t going to stop it.
    If only we could get the people without the common sense to read things like this blog!

    Reply to this comment

  • Tony Dimmock 6th August 2013

    Hey Laura,

    Awesome post – so needed to be said!

    I watched the C4 programme last night and observed the deluge unfold on Twitter..

    Are we now a society that needs to be “liked”, “followed” or “connected” to (at any cost) to feel worthy, complete or accepted?

    People need to grow the hell up and stop thinking that they need outside validation and acceptance!

    Worrying about (and faking) online “social” profiles (whether you’re a business or individual) is futile and amounts to wasted energy.

    People: go visit the friend you’ve been promising to visit and have a beer; visit your parents that haven’t seen you for donkey’s years; spend the evening writing up your business plan that you’ve been threatening to do all year; better yet, go and work out all that pent-up “social frustration”..

    The “social media guru” industry is at epidemic levels (you know the type – all the ego and none of the engagement..) and I blame them and other so-called “digital agencies” for the mess we’re in today.

    Stop telling every business owner that “social media is the new silver bullet” and that they MUST tweet or post a FB update every 2 hours. Stop telling every individual to Tweet about what they had for breakfast or where they’ve just “checked” into.

    And while they’re at it, stop outsourcing your “Strategic Social Media Management Consultancy ROI Platinum Service” to poorly paid laborers in ALL parts of the world.

    But we fuel it! How?

    OUR (rather stupid) NEED: “We MUST be liked & followed! please, oh go on please like me.. please..give us a RT…please… we’ll follow back..”

    SCAMMERS / SPAMMERS OPPORTUNITY: “Right, let’s make ourselves a pot of money. Give them what they want (a gazillion likes or followers – all fake) and we’ll charge them the earth..”

    OUTSOURCED (CHEAP) LABOUR: “Right labourers, we’ll pay you each X pence per “connection” and your shift is from 9am to 9am (no sleep and 1 x 10 min break). ”

    The same short-sighted mindset exists in online marketing. FAST SUCCESS and BIG PROFIT activities are what have given the SEO industry a bad name (damn them too) but that’s another story ;)

    To grow a brand online, you need PATIENCE! People – stop wanting success without the price needed to pay for it.. aka delayed gratification..

    When I see people on social media platforms begging for follows or “likes”, I often un-follow or un-connect from them. Why? Their desperation turns me off and portrays their “business” in a bad light. Are they really proud of what they do / the service they provide, or have they just jumped on the “social enterprise bandwagon”?

    I now don’t bother accepting invites from people to connect on Linked-In unless I know them (or of them) Why? 9 times out of 10 I get spammed..

    As for Facebook, I try to check in and use it as little as possible – I find it a complete waste of time and full of egocentric’s wanting to gossip, spouting baloney and causing as much controversy as possible.

    Besides, who wants to be “poked”? I sure as hell don’t..

    The answer – we need to stop perpetrating it!
    What would stop a lot of this in an instant?

    1) Using our common sense – learning to spot and avoid spammers & scammers

    2) Our satisfaction at who / what we are – stop looking to social media for fulfillment

    3) Thinking for ourselves – we have will power and a brain. We need to use them..

    4) Controlling our emotions – boy that’s a hard one, but that’s what being all ‘grown-up’ is all about. Seriously, don’t be swayed against your ethics, values and beliefs..

    5) Go DIRECT to the cause you believe in and give, not via a social media platform, unless you KNOW it’s authentic

    Rant over..

    Keep ‘em coming Laura :)

    Reply to this comment

  • Maddy Comrie 6th August 2013

    Really well written article as always! Will take this on board! Well done!

    Reply to this comment

  • James 6th August 2013

    Very considered article and very well written and presented. A great perspective that more people should bear in mind.

    Reply to this comment

  • Emily 6th August 2013

    This is brilliant Laura

    Reply to this comment

  • JDizzle 6th August 2013

    Laura this is brilliant – I had absolutely no idea that this was the reason all those annoying images pop up all around Facebook!?

    I cannot believe that people would exploit such issues to make money. It’s absolutely disgusting.

    Reply to this comment

  • Daniel Valaperta 6th August 2013

    This post is spot on! Nice one Laura! The majority of people have no idea how and why these like farms exist.

    It would be awesome if you made a Facebook page out of this post. You could include all the photo examples and write “SCAM” all over them (just like you did with the Free iPad photo).

    I bet the page would get a lot of attention…and probably a lot of likes…just don’t sell the page to spammers afterwards!! ;)

    Reply to this comment

  • Tom Smith 7th August 2013

    Solid post. Good effort!

    Reply to this comment

  • Mr B 7th August 2013

    Good article. Social media has only really taken off due to it’s potential as a marketing tool. Scammers exploit this. It’s inevitable. I’ll now share/spam my friends with this article :0)

    Reply to this comment

  • Thad James 8th August 2013

    Every Facebook user should read this post! I have seen several pictures similar to the ones listed. Always asking for a “LIKE” and a “SHARE”. People think giving a “LIKE” is harmless. Until their Facebook is filled with spam and other unsavory postings. Thanks for the warnings.

    Reply to this comment

    • Laura Phillips

      Laura Phillips 20th August 2013

      Hi Thad

      Thanks for your comment – that’s exactly it – in some cases it does harm, helps bolster the reputation of fake companies, and lines the pockets of scammers without uesres even knowing…

      Reply to this comment

  • Monty Richards 14th August 2013

    Appreciate this post – don’t forget about the doom’n'gloom chain letters!

    Reply to this comment

  • Daylan Pearce 21st December 2013

    Nice one Laura!
    It’s interesting to see the ways these schemes are devised and carried out, it’s often really clever marketing – but unfortunately it’s for spammy, rubbish reasons.
    Thank you also for the shout out : )

    Reply to this comment

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