A friend likes to do a simple exercise - he takes a printout of the Facebook Wall of a popular (in terms of 'likes') fan page. He then starts circling conversations which are relevant and meaningful to the brand. Doing this he gets an idea of the impact level of conversations happening on the page as compared to the number of fans who have liked it.
Doing the above exercise my friend realized that pages with thousands of fans are generating absolutely worthless conversations and are probably fake or concocted by the facebook page manufacturers themselves. This reflects the quality of 'likes' on the fan page. These 'likes' are probably coming from thousands of little shops around the world manufacturing facebook ids and 'liking' pages.
Buying Fans is now an option many marketers consider in thier desperation when clients put the pressure on them to improve likes on the fan pages. The truth is that genuine Fan building is a steady incremental process and rarely does it accelerate or 'go viral' as they say. But clients who measure success in terms of 'Likes' drive marketers into the arms of the Facebook black market.
As with any dubious industry it attracts the wrong kind of people to it. Opportunists who want to take advantage of desperate marketers rarely deliver on their promises. Marketers take a risk everytime they try and buy 'likes' and most times end up dissappointed with the delivery and quality. Since its all under the table there is no accountability or redressal for marketers gipped by a scam artist.
Facebook structure and privacy settings make it difficult for clients to verify whether their marketer is giving them geniune 'likes' or not. Although the quality of conversations can indicate the quality of fans on the page. As my friend does, a check of relevance to the brand can reveal a lot about the types of 'likes' you are getting on the page. However the sad truth is most clients dont care as long as the 'likes' counter keeps going up.
Many clients are to blame when they excessively focus on 'likes' on the fan pages instead of reviewing other parameters such as quality of conversations, profiles of fans etc. Giving your marketer leeway to engage people on Facebook in a constructive manner - by a genuine marketing and advertising effort - is a good way to ensure that you do not become a victim of the buying 'likes' market.
Some sites that explore this further
Overall I would say its a fraud and should be avoided no matter how desperate the marketer is. The long term results are terrible and the short term risks are high. If your client does not have the patience to build a geniune community then its probably time to move on or if the client is indispensable, try and change thier minds.
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