Social Media

BBC investigation doubts value of Facebook advertising


A BBC investigation doubts the value of advertising on Facebook, suggesting that companies are wasting “large sums” of money in a bid to garner more page Likes.

In their investigation the BBC fabricated a brand, VirtualBagel, on Facebook and created an advertisement targeting the US, UK and a number of Asian and Middle Eastern countries. The page offered no information on products and had no interesting content.

VirutalBagel fake Facebook pageWithin 48 hours, VirtualBagel had received over 3,000 Likes, “nearly all” of which came from Facebook accounts in Egypt, India, Indonesia and the Philippines. Three quarters of these came from users under 18 years of age. Hardly a valued market segment for a Bagel company.

The BBC investigation also doubted the legitimacy of some of the Facebook profiles that had Liked the page. One particular user who Liked the brand called himself Ahmed Ronaldo, listed Real Madrid football club as his employer and featured Cristiano Ronaldo as his profile picture. The account was quite obviously fake.

In fact, many other users were found to have Liked 3,000 – 5,000 other pages, suggesting they were created and administered by spam and malware authors to help spread malicious links. It is estimated that over 50 million, or 5-6%, of Facebook’s 960 million or so active user accounts are fake.

When the BBC retargeted its Facebook advertisement to appear to UK users only, the number of page Likes “dropped to a trickle” and click-through rates fell to 10% of their previous level.


  1. Can they track the follow through of that ad campaign to a purchase or sale? I do think fb advertising can be very effective at targetting your target market – if you know them, know their age profile and interests.
    Also, facebook is now allowing you to promote posts and articles through the news feed – they may realise that the ads are not working as well as hoped, but i think the more creative and engaging you make your facebook campaign the better the return on your ad spend…

    1. If the ad brings them to an external URL then yes they can track conversions. However, the study involved ads bringing users to a brand’s Facebook page for the purpose of gaining more Likes. I personally wouldn’t write off Facebook ads that are well thought-out and targeted intelligently.

      1. . I know that it is impossible to make everyone like me. But, I still cared about any feedback they have given.If I felt dejected or hurt in a relationship, I was easy to jump to conclusions. Perhaps, it wasn’t a right way to deal with my relationship. To me,”communication” is the only way to discover true motives or attitudes.Of course, it needs the courage to step out. I realize that more courage I own ,more chances I have.

  2. @davepeck that article doesn’t prove much. Why would anyone like a fake bagel company that they had never heard of?

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Darren McCarra
Darren McCarra is co-editor of The Sociable. He has a keen interest in photography, all things mobile, and writing about technology and social media. You can follow him on Twitter, Facebook and Google+.