We discuss Facebook like-farming, explain what it is, what variations it can take and why you should never engage with such posts if you encounter them on the social networking site.
Facebook like-farming describes the techniques that spammers use to accumulate as many followers (reach) on Facebook as possible using manipulation, exploitation or deception. Essentially this means posting content that is specifically catered to attract engagement such as likes and shares by exploiting or deceiving other Facebook users.
Why do spammers use like-farming?
One common question is why do spammers engage in like-farming, and what is their ultimate objective. This can vary between like-farming posts, but commonly we find that like-farming posts exist because of any of the following reasons –
– To attract followers to page that will be later used to initiate more serious scams. Like-farming content that goes viral will inevitably result in the page that posts the content attracting followers. These followers can now be reached, meaning they are vulnerable to Internet scams such as identity fraud or exposed to links leading to sites containing malware.
– To lure followers to marketing websites that are designed to harvest the personal data of visitors. This is especially true with fake competition scams that claim you need to visit a link to claim your prize. Those visitors to go to such websites and give out their details will be bombarded with spam and marketing calls.
– To commit advance fee fraud. Users who, for example, comment on a post, can then be contacted by the scammer who can use a variety of social engineering tricks to steal money from a Facebook user. For example, the spammer may claim the victim has won a competition but needs to pay a small upfront fee to claim their prize.
– Attention seeking. Many like-farming posts exist simply because the spammer wants to attract as many followers as possible, with no real “end game”.
What different variations like-farming can take
Facebook posts that attempt to guilt readers or provoke an emotional reaction while simultaneously urging them to engage with a Facebook post can be considering Facebook like-farming posts. Such posts will typically contain any of the below statements (or variations thereof)
People are ashamed of her disability…
No one wished this little girl a happy birthday…
Type Amen if you hate cancer.
1 share = 1 prayer for this sick child.
Don’t scroll if you have a heart.
Like if you think she’s beautiful
Such posts will frequently steal photos from elsewhere on the Internet and use them to exploit Facebook users. Such photos can be of injured or sick children or animals, and they are stolen to help a spammer attract engagement and/or followers to their Facebook page.
Facebook Competitions or Giveaways
One of the most prolific variants of Facebook like-farming is the fake competition. Such posts claim to be offering high value prizes or gifts to those that interact with a Facebook post, or will claim to be from a celebrity giving away high value prizes to their followers. Such posts may claim things like…
Like and follow us to win a free Range Rover…
We’re giving away 5 tickets to Disney World for those that like and share…
Win free tickets for South West Airlines, just like and share this post….
We have 20 unsealed Playstations…
While genuine promotions on Facebook exist, such fake posts will not be posted by the official Facebook pages of any reputable company (While real Facebook promotions will.) Fake competition like-farming posts are usually identifiable through their use of unrealistically high value prizes for simple interactions (e.g. win a free car for sharing a post.) This variant of like-farming is also prolifically used to lure Facebook users to spammy marketing websites. You can read more about detecting this type of like-farming in our post here.
Charitable donations to sick children
Facebook posts that falsely claim that money (or prayers) are given to help a child in need each time a post is liked or shared is another example of like-farming. For example, a post may claim –
Facebook will donate $1 per share of this photo
$5 donated per share, $1 donated per like
Such posts will always be fake. No companies donate to provide important medication or medical procedures based on how much engagement a Facebook post receives.
Facebook posts may falsely claim that if they acquire a certain amount of engagement, then a third party company (or Facebook) has agreed to a desirable consequence. For example –
Mark Zuckberg has agreed to give us a dislike button if this post gets over 500k shares
Burger King has agreed to give me free burgers for life if I can get over 100k likes
Such posts may claim to offer “proof” that the third party has agreed to the wager, but this proof will be faked.
See What Happens
Facebook content may urge readers to click or like on them to “see what happens” without specifying what will happen. This is designed to bait users into engaging with a post. However nothing (or at least nothing unusual) does occur but by this time the user has already engaged with the post. For example –
Comment “blue” and hit like and see what happens to the image
Spammers will exploit a reader’s religious or political leanings to lure them into engaging with a Facebook post. For example, Christian themed like-farming is very popular. For example –
Share if you’re a child of God.
While the spammers may or may not share this religious or political leaning is irrelevant, since their motivation lies purely in their aim of obtaining engagement.
Facebook Removing “Offensive” Images?
Often used when attempting to spread politically themed propaganda, this variation of like-farming is designed to deceive Facebook users by falsely claiming that the social networking site is actively attempting to remove or censor a particular image or group of images, while simultaneously urging users to share the photo in a form of protest.
Facebook is banning military emblems. Share this to show you disagree
Facebook finds this saluting veteran image offensive. Share if you disagree.
The spammers likely know their claim that Facebook is trying to remove the content is fake, but claim it regardless to lure Facebook users into sharing it.
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Facebook posts that falsely purport to offer impossible quizzes, or puzzles that only geniuses can solve are essentially just capitalising on human nature, since many users will engage with a post to “prove their genius” or disprove the “impossible” nature of the riddle or equation.
Only 1% of humans can solve this puzzle
Posts that claim you will suffer misfortune for not sharing a post are a type of deceptive like-farming.
7 years of bad luck if you don’t share this post
Don’t fall for like-farming scams
Knowing how like-farming works and why spammers use it – as you now do after reading this post – is the most important step when it comes to detecting and avoiding such content on Facebook. The reality is that much of this type of content is potentially dangerous, and we don’t recommend engaging with it at all.
For more information about like-farming, we recommend reading the below articles too –
Related articles –
3 ways to identify a like farming page.
5 Facebook posts you SHOULD NOT be sharing.
A case study – Jordan Embry – how a Like Farming Page works.
Repost if you have a heart. Emotional exploitation on Facebook.
Originally published on November 2012. Updated October 2018.