The effectiveness of Facebook advertising is drawing more scrutiny, this time at the hands of the BBC. Companies shell out big bucks on ads designed to get users to "like" them—but many of the users who do so may be fake. One marketer who helped firms garner Facebook attention describes many of the companies' so-called fans: "They were 13 to 17 years old, the profile names were highly suspicious, and when we dug deeper a number of these profiles were liking 3,000, 4,000, even 5,000 pages." One was apparently a manager at Chevron—though his birthday indicated he began that position at age 13.
Such fake accounts can be used to "spread dangerous links and spam," says a security expert. The BBC followed up on the marketer's report by creating its own fake firm seeking "likes." A disproportionate number came from the Philippines and Egypt, as had been the case for the marketer. Facebook doesn't appear too concerned about the fakes. "We've not seen evidence of a significant problem," said a rep, noting that Facebook's marketing data lets the firms see who's liking them. (The BBC notes that it stated earlier this year that about 5% to 6% of its accounts, or up to 54 million, could be fake.) Phony accounts aren't the only concern for advertisers: An exec at a top UK firm says Facebook ads have "brought us very little return on sales," echoing others' worries.