Should You Buy Your Likes?

Last week, Michigan-based Electablog reported that the campaign for Democratic candidate Steve Pestka had been buying likes for their campaign Facebook Page. The story was picked up by a number of tech-focused outlets, including Gizmodo.

I sympathize with Pestka and his campaign team. In a competitive race, it is important to show “proof points” that your campaign or candidate is a going concern. One proof point available to you is, of course, the Facebook like. The mainstream media only adds to the appeal, when they cover the horserace of likes, with an eye to predict the potential electoral outcome.

Pestka bought Facebook ads. Pretty simple. There’s nothing inherently wrong with Facebook ads to promote your Page and increase your friend count – it is where you put that money that is important. Unfortunately, Pestka went from 1,000 likes to 7,500 in about 3 weeks. Obvious indication that they have ads in the field. And a pretty hefty buy at that.

What the folks at Pestka HQ didn’t likely factor in is that a lot of demographic information (where your fans are located, age, etc) is easily tracked. Turns out, a solid number of Pestka’s community are aged 13-17 and they live in Israel and the Philippines. A far jaunt from Michigan. And they can’t even vote.

So, all of the money and effort Pestka spent on insuring he was competitive in the online space (by vanity metrics anyway) was destroyed because of some hawkeyed observers and pretty darn obvious tactics. In fact, the tactic is now a net negative due to the fallout. A cautionary tale, to be sure.

Should you “buy” likes? Again, it makes a lot of sense to use ads to broadcast to a wider audience. But the wider you go, the less value they have. If these are people who otherwise couldn’t care less about your campaign, they are the equivalent of a candy bar: they’ll give you a quick and immediate boost, but will do nothing for you in the long run.

Target the Facebook community that best reflects who your campaign is actually targeting. Shortcuts in the online space often lead to dead ends. But if you target people who will join and participate in your Page community and campaign, you will be better off in the long run.

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