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Business  13, Mar 2014

Dubious Likes of Facebook ads: Will real Ricky Tay please stand up?

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Author of ‘Ridiculously Simple: 2nd Income from Social Networks’ shares his experience of buying promotions on Facebook and the dubious likes he got

I am a small time entrepreneur. Like many other lean startups trying to market their products on social networks, where else to start but Facebook?

I’ve advertised before to drive traffic to my Facebook page and website, and I was happy with the jump in the number of views and new likes every time I ran a campaign. After a while, I started to realise that sign ups are not happening. Tough, maybe it’s because the website was sucky (it was), and needed improvement.

As with all startups, I went back to the drawing board, revamped it and even created a product that I could actually sell. I wrote an eBook, Ridiculously Simple: 2nd Income from Social Networks. Granted, I am no famous wealth guru like Robert Kiyosaki, but the very topic of an easy and very simple way to make money on the Internet MUST be interesting enough for anyone to part with just $10 to earn thousands.

With renewed hope, I parted with $15 to boost a post to my link on my Facebook page.

I targeted my audience to be anyone between the ages of 21 and 50 living in Singapore who have an interest in wealth, money making and passive income. Turns out that my budget would reach about 4,000 people. That’s good enough for me.

When the views started to increase, I was mildly excited. When I saw the Likes increase to about 10, I started to get curious. Ten people like what they saw! I should follow up with a personal message and more information as they are warm leads. Go get them!

To my disappointment, the names were Indonesian sounding. No offence to anyone, but many of them had pseudo-names. Then I spotted a few local names, which seem to be my target audience. Ricky Tay, Tansweehuat and a few others. Here’s where it all starts to unravel.

Ricky Tay, as it turns out, looks like a 40 something taxi uncle. Great! He would be interested in learning how to make some side income in three simple steps. However, when I saw his Facebook cover, it was of a pretty young SYT (Sweet young thing). A K-pop fan, maybe?

Curiosity got the better of me and I started to see what his “friends” where like. This is what they look like.

Oh. My. God. Taxi uncle has many hot chicks as friends. Taiwanese, Vietnamese, Thai, Malaysians… Ricky Tay must be driving the night shift and plying Joo Chiat and other KTV bars.

I then checked out the other “warm lead” – Tansweehuat. Tansweehuat, according to Facebook, works at SBS and went to the National University of Singapore.

tansweehuatProfilePic

He too, has many, many hot girls on his friends list.

I really should consider a career in public transport if I was single and looking for a hot girlfriend. From Vietnam. Or Thailand.

I then checked out the other leads. The Indonesian ladies could be working in Singapore. I don’t judge. Maybe my eBook can help them make extra income to send home. One of them is a fan of K-pop boy bands. All her wall photos are some blond-haired Asian young men, with androgynous looks. Pretty-faced boys.

Their posts are in Bahasa, and all their friends hail from some province in one of the many Indonesian islands. Yet they live in Singapore. They must be the lucky few domestic helpers where their “mums” allow them to use handphones. Lucky. As in Lucky Plaza.

I guess I will not be using Facebook paid ads anymore for my marketing campaigns. I mean, there are dubious click farms making tons of money by generating fake likes and views for your page, but I wouldn’t expect such scams to be carried out when I pay directly to Facebook. All the big data analytics that they possess, and I’m getting Likes from Ricky “Romeo” Tay and Tansweehuat (I can’t even squeeze in a nickname here)? If the Likes are fake, I would also begin to doubt the numbers of views which practically are not verifiable.

Read Also: Would you pay to identify fake Facebook profiles for your safety?

Surely there are better and more effective ways to spend your marketing budget that ACTUALLY converts to sales. Marketing, as they say, guarantees exposure, but not sales. And that is why I built my own platform, Tell My Friends – the world’s first social network marketing site. I was on 938Live recently to share this idea. Why not pay your customers who help market your products for you instead of paying an agency or company that resorts to dubious faulty analytics? Word of mouth is by far the most effective way to sell your products. You only incur a marketing cost when a sale occurs. Every marketing dollar you spend should result in a sale. No sale, no cost.

What is social network marketing? In the increasing adoption of online shopping, people are making buying decisions based on what influencers say, and friends are powerful influencers. A tweet or a repost is an endorsement. What Tell My Friends does is to generate a personal link for every purchase, and this link can be shared with friends, either through social networks, or through chat apps, email or SMS. When your friend buys the same product that you bought earlier and recommended, you earn a commission. This commission is part of the marketing budget that is already worked into the selling price. But that’s not all. You will receive another commission when a friend of your friend buys from your friends’ link. And it goes on for 10 tiers. It sounds confusing, like the Inception movie, but the bottom line is, you get rewarded many times over for being a customer, and sharing your link with friends through whatever means you can.

Sounds like MLM, which indeed it is. But when you think about how sought-after “going viral” is, it is the same thing. One spreads the news to friends, and friends spread on to more friends. The only difference is that you actually get PAID when you share. The verdict is still out whether the motivation behind things going viral is a good thing. The fact is either the money for the viral campaign goes to a company like Face “Ricky Tay” book, or to your customers who paid and were kind enough to recommend it to more customers.

The views are of the author, and e27 may not necessarily subscribe to them

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Ben Looi

Ben Looi

Ben Looi is an ex-civil servant who gave up an iron rice bowl to become an entrepreneur. His delusional passion for solving the pain points of online piracy and “money no enough” situations of the squeezed middle-income drove him to write an eBook, Ridiculously Simple: 2nd Income from Social Networks, and built a platform to sell it, while commendable, is downright crazy. But he’s loving every minute of it. He currently is bootstrapped, teaching entrepreneurship enrichment classes at Creative Spectrum, but continues building Tell My Friends with a team of 3 in Singapore (The me, myself and I), and some very talented coders in India.

  • Tay

    Ben, what your platform is actually a referral marketing platform. That’s the name of it being called in the west. Notable platforms include Clickbank and Hasoffers.
    Next thing is that social media marketing is not to generate sales but to facilitate discovery. That is why Facebook abandons F-commerce when they realized that.
    Thirdly lean startups are called lean not because they spend little on advertising. Using Lean cycle of build, measure and learn to get to product market fit fast. It is not about the viral growth or marketing hacks as that is address only when they have found customer and product fit.
    I would recommend you to read the Lean Startup book by Eric Ries to understand this better so as to help your startup journey.

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