Lessons from a Virtual Bagel

The BBC's Technology Correspondent, Rory Cellan-Jones set up a Facebook page for his small business to test how people would interact with his ‘meaningless brand'. He then ran a targeted Facebook advert in a number of countries (Egypt, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Russia, UK, USA).His Facebook page described no products and was designed to have ‘no interesting content' yet Virtual Bagel had been ‘liked' 1600 times in the first day.  Within four days this number had increased to 3,000, many of which were from clearly fake profiles.  Despite being ‘liked' his Facebook page had a ‘close to zero' engagement level.The story, covered in detail by Cellan-Jones here, has been hotly debated.  Social media marketing experts have complained Virtual Bagel's campaign was poorly targeted and that ‘chasing likes' is no longer best practice.  As information professionals know only too well, it is the value of conversation and engagement - and any positive actions/activity that follow it - that are important.Since publishing the story, Virtual Bagel has added just a few hundred additional likes, but the levels of engagement and activity have increased significantly.Key messages

  • Likes alone are losing their value
  • Social spammers are a potential problem for Facebook's advertisement driven revenue forecasts
  • Click-through rates were lower for the US and UK - the Facebook advert drove interest from other countries
And if this is not simply a story of social media spamming and the value of social media advertising, perhaps it's also a story about information literacy.  How many people clicked ‘like' either because they did not read past the brand name or they did not understand that what they read was utterly meaningless.(Thanks @marydeeo)