The wrong way to build Facebook Likes (& what to do instead!)

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The wrong way to build Facebook Likes (& what to do instead!)

The wrong way to build Facebook likes

If you've spent any time in business-focused Facebook groups you seen these threads: “let’s share the Facebook love” Like fests, or “I’ll like your page if you like mine” Like trades. Whatever you want to call them (like circles, like ‘ladders’, like ‘parties’), they seem like a fantastic idea: a community supporting one and other, a free way to spread the love and get Likes without having to pay for ads and great exposure for your new page.

HOWEVER, you’re actually sabotaging your Facebook Page if you jump into this kind of like-trading. (Seriously. I’m not trying to be sensational here.)

But how am I ever going to get over 100 Likes if I don’t ask everyone-and-their-dog to like my page?!?

I hear you. When you first start a Facebook Page and you only have 13 likes, it sucks. I've been there. I know it’s tempting to participate in one of these Facebook Like Fest threads (and I know Page owners who have been able to grow their Pages well over 500 likes in a very short space of time using this tactic). But–and I *know* you've heard me say this before!it’s not your number of Likes that matter, it’s how active and engaged your community is.

This is true on any social network (and even for your email subscribers list!) but it’s especially important on Facebook.

How you are hurting your Facebook Page

There are two big problems with these schemes on Facebook:

1) you may be building your sheer number of Likes but you are not building an audience of ideal clients so they probably aren't going to be worth anything business-wise (because they'll probably never hire/buy from you and let's face it, there are no prizes for the number of Likes you have nor does Facebook pay you money for every 100, 1000 or 10,000 Likes) and,

2) these non-ideal-clients are not likely to engage with your Page’s content (because they aren't actually interested in your business) and their inaction will actually work against your Page in the Facebook algorithm.

While problem #1 is relatively harmless it’s problem #2 that really bears repeating: an audience of non-ideal-clients will actually HURT your Facebook Page.

Why you need a super-targeted audience to be successful on Facebook

Everyone complains about the Facebook algorithm and while I think a lot of the panic is overblown, the algorithm does determine how many fans see your posts. And one of main components of the algorithm is how much ENGAGEMENT a post is getting.

Facebook basically shows your post to a couple members of your audience and gauges their interaction with it: Are they clicking on the link? Liking? Commenting or sharing?

(And by the way, out of all those actions commenting seems to determine a post’s reach the most — check out this super helpful experiment from Derek Halpern of Social Triggers for more.)

SO if the post is getting a lot of interaction, Facebook says, “huh, this must be good content” and puts it into even more of your fans’ news feeds.

BUT if the people seeing your posts are NOT targeted (and as such not interested in the content you are sharing) they probably won’t interact with it and Facebook will say to itself, “huh, guess this content must not be that great” and limit your reach.

The RIGHT way to build Facebook likes


  • Participate in Like circles/Like fests, etc.
  • Ask your friends and family to like your page (I *know* Facebook encourages you to do this when you first setup your Page but only invite those people you know are ideal clients)
  • Buy Likes from scammy like-farms


I’d love to hear from you

Have you been tempted to participate in these kinds of like trades before? Did you even realize having un-targeted likes would hurt your Page?

And please, please, please share this with a fellow Page owner today. (Especially if you see them participating in these Like Fest threads!) Let’s spread the education so every Page owner can grow the kind of helpful, active community that makes them proud–and actually works *with*, rather than against, the Facebook algorithm. There are social share buttons right below : )

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>> In this free training you'll learn:

  • The number one mistake people make when it comes to their social media content
  • How to generate a month’s worth of content in a few short hours(using the same system I use AND teach my private clients)
  • What works (& what doesn’t) on Facebook and Twitter (with TONS of real examples)
  • How to automate this piece of your social media presence so it works hard getting you noticed while you’re busy doing other stuff


31 Responses to The wrong way to build Facebook Likes (& what to do instead!)

  1. Jenny April 17, 2014 at 12:35 #

    Love this! I’ve never been tempted to buy/ask for likes, simply for the sake of looking popular. I’d rather put my time into listening to my ideal clients and finding answers to their problems. Oh – and I get most of my clients through word of mouth, not Facebook.

    I compare having loads of likes to owning a shop with lots of people milling about inside. For example, my hubster works in a shop, selling expensive audio and TV equipment. The company’s shops are NEVER sited in the middle of busy shopping centres, because that would mean they would get a lot of browsers. Instead, they’re just off the main areas, so that the people who come in are more likely to be potential buyers. To have a shop full of people all browsing and asking a few questions is not what my husband wants – he’d rather have a few people to deal with who are in the market for buying a new TV, surround sound etc. He can then focus his energy on dealing with these customers. A winner all round!

    Facebook pages are the same – I’d rather have potential buyers than browsers, even though that means having less likes on my page.

    Great post – thank you! Will share out with my people :)

    • Jackie Johnstone April 17, 2014 at 12:38 #

      Jenny, I LOVE this comparison to a shop with lots of browsers who are just killing time — genius! (So interesting to think of strategic store placement within a mall too, I’d never thought about a mall’s layout like that, very cool.) Glad you found it helpful and thanks for sharing!

  2. Elizabeth April 17, 2014 at 12:42 #

    Jackie you’re a star! I really needed to hear this. I only set up my FB page at the end of Feb so I was desperate to get more likes. I invited all and sundry – I thought that was what you were supposed to do. I’m still learning about FB and this is such a valuable lesson – I definitely want to keep my audience high quality rather than increase its quantity!

    • Jackie Johnstone April 17, 2014 at 13:01 #

      You are so welcome, Elizabeth! It doesn’t help that Facebook actually encourages you to invite your friends, either… so don’t blame yourself! Now that you know, you can actually remove some of those likes from your Page if you choose: it’s hidden in the ‘See Likes’ link in the bottom left corner of your Admin Panel. It’ll bring up a stream of your Likes and you can use the wheel next to each of their names to Remove them.

  3. Jess April 17, 2014 at 15:02 #

    Such good advice! This is what you and I talked about during our call a few weeks ago :) I can atest to the “friends and family” fans messing up your algorithm. I listened to that interview a week or two ago and went to find some local Facebook groups to join! We’ll see if it helps!

    • Jackie Johnstone April 17, 2014 at 16:01 #

      Yes, this was a recurring theme with clients the last little while — I just had to write this blog post! Let us know how the Facebook group tactics work out!

  4. Leah April 17, 2014 at 15:28 #

    Oh thank you so much for this explanation! It makes so much sense. I definitely invited my friends and family when first starting my page. Luckily, there are quite a few of them that engage often, so won’t hurt my reach AS much…..but there are a ton that don’t, lesson learned for next time!

    • Jackie Johnstone April 17, 2014 at 16:03 #

      You are so welcome — Facebook pushes you to invite family/friends when you first start because I think they think you’ll get discouraged if you Page has so few likes in the beginning… but then it’s so counterproductive in the end! And I have nothing against fam & friends you know are interested in your biz! I have those peeps on my biz page too, but usually because they saw me share stuff from my biz page onto my personal timeline.

  5. Farideh April 17, 2014 at 15:38 #

    YES! I’m so glad you said this.

    When I started my page as a musician. Definitely everyone and their dog I invited to the page.

    When I transitioned into a marketing strategy I had an “Unlike me” campaign. I asked people to unlike the page. I was at 400 and I wanted to get down to 200. Sadly only 10 people unliked.

    My engagement isn’t as great as i’d like it to be, but I know over time I can weed people out.
    Thanks Jackie!

    • Jackie Johnstone April 17, 2014 at 16:04 #

      Welcome!! It had to be said. I couldn’t turn a blind eye in those biz Facebook groups anymore because it just hurts the amazing Page owners in the end. And guess what — you can actually ‘force unlike’ or remove people from your Page if you like! (Under the ‘see likes’ link in your Admin dashboard)

  6. Amber April 17, 2014 at 15:44 #

    Thanks so much, Jackie. I always felt that the “like parties” were a waste of time but didn’t know for sure. And I’ve never been tempted by the like-farms but I manage a page for an animal rescue and the founder is really concerned with the number of likes we have, even though we’ve doubled that number in the last six months providing good content. I keep telling her engagement is more important than numbers but I don’t think she believes me.

    • Jackie Johnstone April 17, 2014 at 16:05 #

      YES! Keep pushing engagement over Likes — because seriously, with the algorithm, it will *NOT* help anyone to buy likes/get untargeted likes. Feel free to send her this article ;)

  7. Siedah Mitchum April 17, 2014 at 15:44 #

    I totally agree Jackie. I think after sometime of marketing your business on social media you stop thinking about numbers and start thinking about quality, value, and connecting with your ideal clients.

    Love it!

    • Jackie Johnstone April 17, 2014 at 16:07 #

      Siedah — yes! I think we are most vulnerable when we are new and a bit self-conscious about our numbers. I’ve totally been there. I mean how great does a social media consultant with 13 Likes look?? BUT, we ALL start from zero and I decided to make it an ongoing series for my audience, watching my page grow and sharing what I’m doing to make it grow. There are always creative ways to handle being new!

  8. Rebecca Gruenspan April 17, 2014 at 16:14 #

    So goes against our instincts to do anything to “grow” your page. Of course I asked all my family and friends to like my page. But I’m learning so much so fast…from people like you! I’m all about the groups now. Thanks for the reminder.

  9. Anna Long-Stokes April 17, 2014 at 16:41 #

    I’m always trying to explain this to my client and once again, you save the day and write about it in a way that will get through to them! Thank you!

  10. Doug Pitchers April 17, 2014 at 17:53 #

    Thanks for that. I too started out by asking friends! Quality over quanitty is always the way to go!

  11. Sandee April 17, 2014 at 17:56 #

    Great post! It’s funny how when you join a FB community or paid program, there’s inevitably a reciprocal like and follow thread. I occasionally do participate, but I only like pages in which I actually have an interest, and because of that I can genuinely interact with their content. Great reminder!

    • Jackie Johnstone April 17, 2014 at 18:02 #

      Sandee, that is absolutely the way to go! No problem to check out Pages you might actually be interested in following but I never put my own page in those threads because I’m worried people will like just to ‘do me a favour’ — and they often expect you to like their page back and I really don’t like that.

  12. Emma April 17, 2014 at 18:42 #

    Fab article! I’d be interested to know what your opinion is on using Facebook’s paid feature to share your page with people within your ideal customer demographic to find new customers? I’ve tried it recently and had success – my page is shared on newsfeeds of people within my ideal customer age group, in the geographic area I target, who are women and have an ‘engaged’ status (my biz is a wedding stationery business). I seem to have successfully attracted new customers quickly who fit my ideal customer profile, but unless they engage quickly with the page or sign up to my email list I seem to lose my chance of reaching them due to the algorithms. Do you have any advice?

    • Jackie Johnstone April 20, 2014 at 13:36 #

      Facebook Ads can be valuable when they are super-targeted, for sure. I am not an Ads expert but I personally find promoting relevant content from your Page or Ads that lead people to sign-up for your newsletter list by offering your free opt-in, video series or a free event like a webinar work better for me than ‘Page Likes’ ads that just ask people to like my page.

  13. Beth April 18, 2014 at 04:14 #

    Jackie, I’m glad I found you. I’m just starting out and you are saving me from some rookie mistakes. Great info!

    • Jackie Johnstone April 20, 2014 at 13:23 #

      Beth, you are so welcome! There are a lot of moving parts as a biz owner and we can’t be experts in all of them ourselves, right? : )

  14. Nat, Website Superhero April 18, 2014 at 08:21 #

    I SO agreeeee! And am happy you wrote about this! Will share :)

  15. Rebecca April 18, 2014 at 16:01 #

    Sharing, sharing, sharing- with my community and whenever I see a like fest thread! Thanks Jackie!!

  16. Michelle February 8, 2018 at 00:20 #

    Fabulous article Jackie!

    It’s important to help all these small businesses using social media platforms. The like for like frenzy takes a lot of time as well as precious focus from a business page. I had a little test of it a while back to see what it did but I knew the outcome wouldn’t be so fruitful really. What irritates me too is that people are now trading empty or false comments. I did test that too, it was time consuming and… forgive me I can’t find a more fitting word than sad. I did get a couple of orders though and met some lovely crafty folk but it’s definitely not a route to take. I would be embarrassed to have a bunch of comments on my FB page that just said, “Oh that’s nice.” “That sounds nice.” “Wow that’s great.” Blah blah.
    Like Jenny says at the top of the thread here, word of mouth, getting out there physically to events and markets, having a good product/service are the key to success. It’s taken me just over 5 years of blood, sweat and 24/7 and I have a slow but good expanding reputation.

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