Last month, I covered the newly updated Facebook content distribution algorithm and the fall in engagement (14% on average) that page managers have been experiencing as a result. This month, the spotlight falls on Facebook once more. The industry has been buzzing with reports of mystery ‘likes’ popping up across third-world countries on legitimate and well-known brand pages.

Many of you will likely have an account manager and a line in your marketing budget dedicated solely to ‘like’ generation. Unfortunately, ‘like’ fraud is also big business. Facebook fraud detection algorithms have now reached a high level of intelligence, making automated Facebook ‘bot’ accounts easy to identify and delete. However, fraudsters have set up click farms across the developing world housing real people paid pennies to literally ‘like’ page after page every day.

At this point, you may be keen to ask your social manager or agency for a breakdown of your Facebook insights. You might discover a significant percentage of your audience is based in a country like Egypt or India.

“Fraudsters have set up click farms across the developing world”

But you don’t buy fake likes and you certainly aren’t targeting Egypt or India. So where do they come from? Well, the bad news is that in all probability they are generated indirectly as a result of your legitimate campaigns. Facebook has dedicated significant resources to fighting ‘like’ fraud, identifying and deleting some 83 million fake accounts in the process. The regular pattern of activity from ‘like’ bots is a dead giveaway, but people in click farms will often ‘like’ legitimate ads to stay under the radar - so detection isn’t always easy.

There are a few worrying consequences of this activity. First of all, you are paying for meaningless clicks per like. Secondly, the overall engagement quality of your audience depletes the greater percentage of fake ‘likes’ you have, which means you will have to pay more to boost your post reach. Thirdly, Facebook has no facility to allow you to identify and delete fake ‘likes’ en masse.

So what can you do? In the absence of a more efficient solution from Facebook, our team at Testify manually reviews new likes from suspicious locations and deletes them from the communities we manage. They are relatively easy to identify, as you will find they may like thousands of pages across disparate verticals.

As for the cost of a fraudulent like, for now Facebook is neither formally acknowledging the problem nor offering a solution - which means your Facebook activity is going to become less effective and more expensive as your ‘like fraud’ problem escalates.

John Barton is managing partner and co-founder of TestifyDigital