Facebook “Promoted Posts” have primarily foreign “Likes”: Why?

Something is not right here…

I am not saying this is necessarily Madoff-level fraud or that the black helicopters are about to come get us all.  That being said, I have been doing online work long enough to know when fraudsters and data thieves are up to something. 

They are up to something using Facebook right now.

To set the background, my wife is co-founder a successful blog/business based in the southeastern United States.  StyleBlueprint.com has had rapid growth over the last two years and their Facebook Fan Page has been an active part of their community.  

Recently they have experimented with “Promoted Posts” for key updates to increase distribution (to be clear, they’ve been forced to because Facebook has tightened EdgeRank which dramatically reduced reach without paying).  

A strange thing happened on the last two Promoted Posts - both have received a ton of foreign interest resulting in Likes:

Post 1:

Post 1

(Please note only 25 shares but 3,562 Likes? Not a normal ratio.)

Likes:

Post 2:

Likes:

Sorry, but there is no way a ton of people from Indonesia, Saudia Arabia, etc. have suddenly and amazingly become interested in a southern women’s blog (stylish as it may be).  Besides, the Likes appear only on promoted posts.

Checking out a few of the FB profiles they all appear bot-esque.  Even if real, there has to be a Mechanical Turk-eque queue feeding these actions.

So the question is why?  Is someone mining Open Graph data?  Is this some sort of click-fraud precursor?  FBX (Facebook Exchange) just launched which gives outside advertisers access to Facebook ad inventory - is this somehow gaming the system?  Are there cookie-pops going on that cannot be easily traced?  Can this be used to create “audiences” for online data exchanges?

This kind of stuff just doesn’t happen by itself.  There is always a reason and it always involves something sleazy (about 90% of the time a company in Boca Raton, Florida is involved but that is a longer story).

I have contacted Facebook about potential click fraud - no response so far.

So does anyone have any idea as to why foreign Facebook accounts are showing interest in Promoted Posts?  Big or small, there has to be a story here…

Update at of 10/15 - 4:00 PM CDT:

  • Lots of Hacker News commentary over the weekend: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=4648982
  • Picked up by Wired Business: http://www.wired.com/business/2012/10/facebook-riddle/
  • I should have more clearly indicated this was limited to “Likes” - there were almost no entries into the sweepstakes from anyone outside of the local region.  The second post was promoted with a much smaller budget which explains the lower number of Likes - but the foreign-to-local Like ratio remained the same.
  • Facebook Engineer responds (which was really cool of him to do): http://philztheengineernotthecoffee.tumblr.com/post/33650957315/whypromotedpostsshowmoreforeignlikes
  • Going with the most benign answer that this is the unintended consequences of 1 billion people on a network (which I tend to believe), the question still remains: If I am an advertiser paying Facebook for engagement, why would I want to pay for foreign traffic for a regional publication?  The settings to localize are buried within the interface and 99% of small advertisers will not find them.  At a minimum, this is a bug that inflates the perception of “engagement” value delivered.  Not click fraud in the classic sense but still not right.
  • Oh, and for the folks selling Likes on Ebay, looks like Facebook is undercutting you…
  1. philztheengineernotthecoffee answered: Hi Jay, I responded to you here: philztheengineernotthec…
  2. aakarpost answered: FB Fail!
  3. freejoe76 answered: Yeah, I did a small test ad campaign for a page I run, and the only like I got came from a clear bot-account, also it appeared foreign.
  4. nosecow answered: Fleshing out bot accounts prior to use in pay-per-click mining activity on self-hosted honeypots?
  5. matt-barrie answered: Looks like they are buying LIKES
  6. dirkmonster answered: Jay, is Liza promoting posts from her personal profile, the SB page or both?
  7. mewsies answered: why not target promoted posts to US only?
  8. philipmorg answered: I don’t know why but can confirm that this also happened with my girlfriend’s facebook page. Same behavior, no easy explanation.
  9. totseans answered: It’s a common sight to see on FB nowadays. Best thing to do is just go with the flow
  10. fetzervalves posted this