It amazes me that there are clients out there in the big wide world in 2019 that still want to buy Facebook followers. Those working in social media marketing know that followers are nothing but a vanity metric.

I go through the motions advising clients this and they nod their heads in agreement, but sometimes they stop me and simply say they have to grow the page anyway.  I can see the predicament and I suppose they do still have a point. The main reason is usually that they want these new Facebook numbers just to show that their brand is respected in its relevant industry and the competition has a bigger following than the competition.


Using social followers as a sign of credibility

The client is one of the key players in their relevant sector and they believe that their follower numbers demonstrate, to their competition, that they are a brand well worth following or even buying from.


Organic reach means it’s definitely pay to play in 2019

It seems that this may be about to change because despite the fact we all understand Facebook likes are now a vanity metric and organic reach has dropped from 100% in 2006 to 0.01% in 2019.  Today if you want any type of reach on Facebook you have to pay for it – paid reach only. This is one of the reasons social media marketers are changing their video strategies from Facebook first back to YouTube first. YouTube can still deliver some free reach.


Just keep on growing the page

It’s been ‘pay to play’ on Facebook for several years now, but clients are still asking us, marketers, to grow their Facebook pages through Facebook likes adverts. As I said earlier I do always point out there’s no point in doing that due to zero reach. In my view, it’s completely pointless and yet some clients say “yes we know that but we still need to grow the page quickly”. I tend to think a better way to do that is to secure engagement on great content and serve that to people that don’t like your page and then invite those that engage with it to like the page – that way you get two bites of the cherry.


Instagram may be leading the way on paid likes

However, this may all be about to change as Instagram, which is owned by Facebook, has been testing hiding likes on posts and hiding the number of followers on a specific channel. This has been tested in a number of countries (started in Brazil) and appears to have worked.

Instagram has decided to do this for a number of different reasons, one of the most fundamental being because of cyberbullying on Instagram which has gotten out of hand. Another reason is consumers chasing that ever-increasing like total – something which has been shown to be detrimental to mental health.


Influencers are genuinely worried

These recent tests on Instagram appear to have proven positive, it’s almost certainly a problem for influencer marketing but it’s apparently far better for bullying and as Instagram is owned by Facebook it doesn’t take much of a genius to think that Facebook might start hiding its own page likes as well.


If it reduces mental health issues and removes bullying from social media it is surely a great thing to do as they have needed to do a lot more in this area in recent times.


My issues with removing Facebook like numbers

All that said I have got a few issues with this. My first issue is social media marketers have been paying for Facebook Page likes for years – how can the company charge for them and then remove them? Ethically I mean? Initially, you paid to grow your channel because the reach of the page increased – so it made business sense. They got rid of that bit but surely, they can’t get rid of the actual numbers themselves too can they?

Social media marketers like me have actually been purchasing Facebook likes for years, carefully spending thousands of pounds dollars in some cases. So how can the platform get rid of Facebook likes?

It is going to cause the company a lot of problems if they do. For instance, should marketers demand a refund for buying those likes and them now being worth absolutely nothing? Or will Facebook suddenly bring back organic reach for certain size pages? So those that have paid to grow those pages on Facebook will give them some sort of organic reach making it up for buying those likes that are no longer valid.

One thing is for sure – the writing could be on the wall for Facebook page likes in 2020 – watch this space.

About Chris Norton

Chris Norton is the founder of Prohibition and an award winning communications consultant with more than twenty years’ experience. He was a lecturer at Leeds Beckett University and has had a varied PR career having worked both in-house and in a number of large consultancies. He is an Integrated PR and social media blogger and writes on a wide variety of blogs across a huge amount of topics from digital marketing, social media marketing right through to technology and crisis management.

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