Veritasium Video Response: Should You Use Facebook Ads to Get Likes?


“I never bought fake likes. I used Facebook’s legitimate advertising. But the results are as if I had paid for fake Likes from a click farm.”

A recent video (gone slightly viral) has come out from Veritasium discussing the flaws in Facebook Page Promotion. As someone who writes on an almost daily basis about how awesome Facebook Ads can be for your business, I feel somewhat obligated to respond.

In this article I’ll give you my take on the video and then give you strategies for how sponsored page ads can work for your business.

Let’s get started.

Initial Thoughts

Before I go any further, let me give you my thoughts on the Veritasium video.

Don’t get me wrong – at all. It’s very well done and, as far as the research goes, I believe everything he’s found. The points its creator makes are well-delivered and well thought out.

That doesn’t mean he’s coming to the correct conclusion.

Okay, buying 1,000 Facebook Likes for 70 dollars is exactly as pointless and detrimental to your Facebook marketing strategy as the video says it is.

If you’ve read my articles, you’ll likely know that at no point in the history of my social marketing career have I ever, for a moment, said buying Facebook Likes from click farms was a good idea. If you want an in-depth look at why it’s a prodigious waste of money, just check out this article on ‘ Should you Buy Facebook Likes?

And okay, yes Facebook does have a bit of a racket going on with promoted pages:

“Facebook makes money twice over, once when you [pay to] acquire fans and then again when you try to reach them. I mean your organic reach may be so restricted by the lack of engagement that your only option is to pay to promote the post.”

But social media marketers who are paying for page Fans that don’t engage are, in my opinion, simply uninformed social media marketers.

That’s where this article comes in.

A Quick Video Breakdown

Veritasium’s video focuses on the flaws of not only the ‘click farms’ (based primarily in India, the Philippines, Egypt and Indonesia) but also the flaws of Facebook’s own sponsored pages. As you likely know, with sponsored pages, businesses on Facebook can pay to promote their Pages to users.

The video dives into how even when a business excludes the countries typically associated with click farms they can still get Fans who don’t engage. It mentions how paying to promote a page and getting more Fans can actually drop overall engagement, as people who were engaged before the sponsorship lose interest.

Veritasium quotes two case studies, one from 2012 (Virtual Bagel) and one that was made the day prior to the video going live (Virtual Cat). Both of these pages used Facebook’s legitimate paid promotion tool to buy Facebook Likes.

And both pages found that the Likes on their pages increased. But their Fans didn’t engage, at all, and were therefore worse than useless. They were a waste of marketing and advertising budget.

The reason that those promoted pages generated Likes is the same reason those Likes were useless. As Facebook themselves say, they target your Facebook Page at people most likely to Like it (within the bounds of your targeting. These are very rarely the people you want to like your Page.

And there’s where Veritasium and I part ways.

‘Within the bounds of your targeting’ is an incredibly important part of this whole equation.

Facebook’s sponsored page link says ‘get more Page Likes from the people who matter to you.’ Veritasium’s video cites this sentence for its irony, I’ll cite it for its accuracy.

Targeting is the be all and end all of Facebook Ads. It’s the only reason the ROI makes sense. It’s also the only reason why the Veritasium video is misleading, something we need to sort out before it gets out of hand.


Here are 5 Concrete Reasons why Facebook Ads can be Great for Generating Facebook Likes:

1. Custom Audience Targeting

Custom audience targeting is where targeting by individual Facebook user started. Before custom audience targeting we were simply trying to get as tight as possible with precise interest, broad category and demographic targeting.

Custom audience targeting changed all that. Suddenly you could target your Facebook Ads at people who you knew, 100%, were interested in your business. This is because custom audience targeting allows you to exclusively show your Facebook Ad to people who have already bought from you or given you their email address.

However, these same customers or leads may not be your Facebook Fans. Immediately, without any argument, targeting your Sponsored Page Ad at a custom audience excludes all chance of receiving Fans who have no chance of engaging


I took an extensive look at custom audience targeting in a previous post for Wishpond. Check out ‘ How to Target Facebook Ads Based on Custom Audience’.

2. Lookalike Audience Targeting

Lookalike targeting was where it got even more exciting. When Facebook released it, many Facebook advertisers had to take a breather. It was a revolutionary (still is) step forward in the advertising field.

Lookalike audiences allow you to get in touch with those Facebook users who are similar to your existing customers, but aren’t your existing customers. Yet.

Targeting a sponsored page ad at a lookalike audience is like showing a Facebook Ad only to people who you know are likely to be interested in your business. Lookalike audiences are actually somewhat similar to the Facebook Ad targeting strategy of ‘Friends of Fans’. Except, imagine these are ‘Friends-of-Fans-Who-Have-Said-They-Agree-With-Their-Friends-In-Every-Measurable-Way’.

3. Website Custom Audience (WCA) Targeting

Website Custom Audience targeting is a bit more complicated than traditional custom audience targeting, as it requires you place a small amount of code in the back end of your website.

When this bit of code is ‘triggered’ by any traffic whatsoever, it sends a specific signal to Facebook.

I’m not going to get into the technical details (it involves cookies) but just trust that your Facebook Ad tool will generate a list of people who have visited your page. It will then track those people to their corresponding Facebook profile (yes, this is both 100% creepy and 100% awesome.)

You can then target this list of Facebook users just as you do with a normal custom audience.

Let me repeat that in bold letters for those of you not paying attention:

Facebook will give you a list of all the Facebook users who have visited your website and make it incredibly simple to target them with a Facebook Ad designed specifically for them.

A Top Strategy for Using the WCA to generate Page Likes:

  • Target your website traffic (perhaps those who bounced at the pricing page) with a ‘Like-Gated’ contest.

  • Users who enter get a chance to win a prize you know they’re interested in

  • You create a Facebook Fan who you know is interested in your content.

4. Lookalike Website Custom Audiences

This is something that has only been rolled out in the past couple days. However, it could be as effective for lead generation and Facebook Page growth as traditional lookalike audience targeting was, if not more so.

With lookalike audience targeting, you’re able to target your Facebook Ad at people like your existing leads or existing customers. With a lookalike WCA, you can target your Facebook Ad at people similar to your website traffic.

Like custom audiences, you simply ‘create a lookalike audience’ to your existing WCA.

5. Facebook Ad Strategies to Generate Facebook Fans

For all of these strategies I would recommend using them with Like-gated Facebook contests. Like-gating a well-targeted Facebook Ad that promotes a well-targeted contest and prize is, pretty much incontrovertibly, the best option for generating brand reach on Facebook.

Let me break that one down for you for a second:

  • Create a Facebook Like-gated contest with a prize you know your customers would like (something, perhaps, that’s been selling very well recently).

  • Create a Facebook Ad with optimized appeal

  • Target that ad at a lookalike audience (or a WCA audience generated from that particular product’s page within your website).

In short, you’re offering a chance to win a product you know these Facebook users want, and all they have to give is a Facebook Like in return. And plus, they’re probably interested in your brand profile anyway – which means they’ll engage with your posts and enjoy being kept up to date on your business’ developments.


Veritasium made some excellent points. If you target your sponsored page ad as they have, don’t be surprised when you get the results they did.

The chief point they make which I agree with is that Facebook is benefitting from people’s assumption that hitting ‘promote my page’ will generate them amazing Facebook Fans immediately.

This is not true.

Facebook Likes are valuable (some researchers say as much as $174). So they’re worth putting some effort into. Don’t be an uninformed Facebook Advertiser. Find out everything you can, then make your decision. Watch Veritasium’s video with this article in mind, and then let me know your conclusion.

Have you paid to promote your Facebook Page? What were your results? Have you seen the Veritasium video? Start the discussion below.

About the author: James Scherer ( @JDSCherer) is a content marketer and author of the ebook ’ The Complete Guide to Facebook Ads.’ Wishpond creates online marketing tools that make social promotion easy for small businesses.



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