OPINION: Lies, damned lies and Facebook likes

Glenn Mabbott
By Glenn Mabbott | 3 October 2012
UNOmarcomms director, Glenn Mabbott.

Who would doubt the integrity of a well-known national brand? Have you seen the posters around town shouting the amazing statistic that three million Australians visit one online real estate site to find a home? That’s three million every month.

If you work in marketing you’d know it’s illegal to make unsubstantiated claims in ads, so it must be true. Mustn’t it?

Online ad figures often come in mind-boggling proportions. In olden times when advertisers still cared about print, they relied on audited circulation figures, and the somewhat higher, somewhat more rubbery readership figures. You know the method – 200,000 Sydneysiders buy the Saturday paper. As 60% are ABs and they share it with 2.5 people it means my real estate ad will potentially be seen by 300,000 tertiary educated people who want to buy a flat in Woolloomooloo.

Now I’m asked to believe we’re better off advertising online because every month three million Australians can see a virtual tour of my humble flat. Who are these three million real estate obsessed Aussies? If they’re anything like the people who visit CareerOne I’d be worried.

For quite a while now CareerOne has been fishing for eyeballs with monthly prizes of holidays plastered over Facebook. Many people I know have entered. Then follow up emails prompt them to enter the next month, and so on. They like the odds so they click through, as I suspect hundreds of thousands of others do.  Every month.

These offline friends of mine are typical 30-somethings. They have good jobs and are renting, with no prospect of ever having the deposit for a two-bed cockroach castle in Chippendale for $850,000, let alone the mortgage repayments. They don’t visit online job sites to find a higher paying job, they do visit CareerOne with dreams of winning a holiday for two somewhere more appealing than their $500 a week studio. But companies paying for employment ads probably don’t know that when they look at the stats of how many impressions the site gets.

I’ve always been wary of statistics. Some things never change, even media metrics on Facebook aren’t to be taken at face value.

Buying eyeballs comes in many forms. And it comes cheap. What’s the price of 1,000 likes on Facebook? Buy yours on eBay today for $19.99, free shipping, or you can bid from $12.99. With a small budget you can have tens of thousands of  “friends” for your start up online “insert category” community. Then you simply sell adspace and sponsored articles on the basis of your massive engaged audience that’s just waiting to have an interactive conversation with Australian brands. Before you know it you’ll be an online entrepreneur with a Sydney waterfront and enjoying holidays in the Bahamas, all paid for by marketers who plan by numbers. The same marketers who as you read this are paying Aussie dollars for gazillions of hits from “friends” in India and the Philippines.

Glenn Mabbott
Creative Director

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