Measurability is one of the key factors that draw business owners to online marketing.
While it’s difficult to tell how many people will see a television ad or billboard, it's easy to find out how many people have viewed or, more importantly, clicked on, a Web ad. When a Web ad takes the form of a Facebook fan page , the number of people regularly viewing it — its fan count — is available for all to see.
Given that marketers want their brands to appear as popular as possible, it makes sense that many companies offering to "deliver" Facebook fans or friends to company pages have sprung up over the past few years.
One of these companies, uSocial, offers packages that promise to deliver between 1,000 and 20 million fans to a Facebook page , for fees that vary based on the number of fans delivered. For example, 1,000 fans cost $197; 250,000 fans cost $8997.30. Clients seeking larger packages must contact the company for a quote.
The website of GettyFans, another company offering to deliver its clients Facebook fans, includes a pledge that the fans it delivers are "real people."
"GettyFans works with real humans who interact to your material. It's simple…no dummy accounts," the site states. It also promises "targeted followers," fans who seem appropriate given a client’s location or industry.
Social media experts warn that paid fans may not be real fans.
Ben Grossman, a communications strategist with Lambertville, N.J.-based Oxford Communications, said that before a business owner signs on with a company that promises to deliver fans or friends, she should consider her Facebook objectives.
"Is [the Facebook page] a tool to trigger online purchase, customer service, in-store traffic, or something else of value to your company?" Grossman asked. "Knowing what you and your business expect out of your fans can help you decide whether the fan-bolstering tactic under consideration is right for you," he said.
Grossman also said a business owner considering hiring a Facebook fan delivery company should insist on seeing current examples of the company’s work.
Jon Bond, CEO of the social media marketing firm Big Fuel, said that a large quantity of fans does not necessarily translate into the type of devoted online following companies should seek.
"Fans aren’t necessarily worth anything just because they’re fans," Bond said. He added, "It’s not about the number of fans, it’s about the number of engaged fans, and you can’t buy engaged fans."
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