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Thousands of fake Facebook likes have plagued the prog-metal community of late


Or is it?

I’ll be the first to admit that I probably spend more time looking at Facebook than is strictly healthy. I think it has become something of a Pavlovian reaction to a moment of free time and an internet connection to fire up the Facebook app and see what the world has been up to in the last twenty minutes.

So I’ve been reading with increasing concern reports from a number of sources about frankly ludicrous numbers of ‘fake likes’ being attracted to band and label pages.

Most notably, Bristolian hopefuls Red Seas Fire took the step of making a video about the situation, cunningly folding in a cheeky bit of self-promotion in the process. Well played, sirs. Here is that video:

Now, I think most of what they say here makes sense. Fake profiles are a big problem; not just for bands but for Facebook itself. Like pretty much any internet enterprise, it lives and dies on its capacity to generate advertising revenue. If fake profiles become too prevalent, advertisers simply won’t bother. Fundamentally, fictional people don’t buy anything. For this reason alone, fixing the problem must be a top priority at Facebook HQ.

However, I do want to take issue with one common misconception that Red Seas Fire reference in that video, and I have also seen elsewhere, which is to do with ‘reach’. The misconception centres on the notion that facebook deliberately withholds posts from a large proportion of fans to induce page owners to pay for wider circulation – and I don’t think this is quite the whole case.

In fact, I think a big part of the reason behind low reach numbers lies in the behaviour of two types of ordinary user. For obsessives like me, it can be almost surprising that casual users exist – people that may not even log on from one week to the next, and when they do they don’t scroll down all that far. Unless a post is loaded by their newsfeed, it won’t get counted in the stats.

Secondly, there are users who accumulate fantastic numbers of ‘friends’ and page likes. 1,000+ friends and as many likes makes for a very busy newsfeed indeed. If they aren’t refreshing on a minute-by-minute basis, they’re going to miss stuff too.

I’ve conducted some low-level and rather unscientific experiments, and I haven’t found a post yet through looking directly at band timelines that hasn’t already appeared in my newsfeed. And I’ve never hovered, clicked or unclicked anything. The only thing I do is make sure my feed shows the most recent posts, not just the ‘top stories’. Check it out for yourself to see what I mean.

I have to admit that it has crossed my mind that if Facebook wanted to manipulate any part of this equation to convince page owners to go the Sponsored Post route, the most straightforward way to do so would be to simply manipulate the stats on the analytics page, rather than fuss about with physically stopping posts appearing on thousands of walls. Maybe your reach is greater than you think.

But what this whole furore is really showing me is that perhaps we have all just gotten a little bit over-attached to our like-counts. I’m guilty of this, too – the count is invariably the first thing I look at on every visit to The Monolith Facebook page, and perhaps we are reading too much into it.

A personal bugbear of mine is bands promising to release something a new tune once they have reached a certain big, round like milestone. I find myself resenting bands that resort to like-begging. Just release the damn tune; if I like it, I will share it, and your reach will grow.

It seems to me that more and more effort is being expended on ‘optimization’, and I just worry this is putting the cart before the horse. The primary concern, at least for bands, should always be writing kickass tunes; everything else follows from there. Of course even with the most kickiest, assiest of tunes, success is never guaranteed. There is always an element of pure, dumb luck in the equation. Certainly, from what we have heard recently, that luck is all Red Seas Fire are going to need once these new tunes properly drop.

I am also a little bit worried about unsupported assertations of bands ‘buying’ likes. I think that could be poisonous. I would certainly be interested in seeing any evidence that purports to back up the theory, though. I certainly don’t understand how these companies can claim to provide up to 1,000 new likes a day from genuine fans, but I’ve never once seen these companies promoting bands or pages. I’ve emailed a couple of them to see what they say.

So where do we go from here? Facebook will undoubtedly find a fix for the fake profile problem, and we should probably all accept that this may mean we need to periodically verify our own existence. It will be a small price to pay.  I gave up any dreams of being a rock star a long before social media even existed, and I would have killed to have it back then.

For punters, we just need to ask ourselves if we really need to have liked all those pages and accumulated all those friends. Nobody really needs to see 2,000 people’s updates unless they are terminally nosy.

For bands, I think the focus should always be on the music. Social media has been amazingly successful at convincing us that we are all connected – but there really is a whole world out there beyond it. If you do write a genuinely good song, there is now more chance than ever of people other than your mates and your mum actually hearing it. If you build it, they will come.

And I think we probably all need to get over our obsession with wanting to see big, round numbers in our ‘likes’ box.

I probably do have more to say on this, but 1,000 words is more than enough for anyone to read right now. If you are so minded, tell me what you think in the comments and we’ll go from there.

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