zuckerberg trust factorThe story was almost so sensational as to be straight out of a Fox News report. “Facebook Accused of Click Fraud!” the headlines roared. The Internet let out an audible gasp.

And then we read the actual story and saw that there wasn’t much more than just that: an accusation that wasn’t even leveled at Facebook.

One thing we didn’t get from the accusers was much in the way of data. Most of us online marketers are skeptics to begin with, so add a healthy dose of no data to this and you’re going to find someone in this group who needs to find out a little more info. This story probably does a lot to debunk most of what was said – or does so, at least, until more data is shared.

I guess the question is, who cares? Or, more precisely, why is this even a story? Why wasn’t this completely ignored?

I’ll tell you why: Because Facebook seems to do everything it can, at every turn, to prevent us from putting our faith in them.

Seriously, Facebook, it’s hard enough to get anyone to look over here at our ads without you making it harder.

The concern is really about how Facebook is handling these allegations. The thing is, we know so little about how Facebook handles click fraud, and what little we do know is information that we got ONLY because this story went viral.

Google tells us what they do, and we can see it in action. In fact, you’ll see a discrepancy in your Analytics because at the end of a 24-hour period, Google cleans up what it perceives to be fraudulent clicks on AdWords, and these changes are not reflected in Analytics, resulting in a discrepancy. That’s actually a good thing. It shows you it’s working. Google is very transparent about how they handle click fraud. So is Yahoo!/Bing.

It’s evident that Facebook does something of this nature; we know they have the mechanics in place, and we can be reasonably certain that they’re telling the truth when they say they have a click fraud algorithm of some sort, but why so mysterious for so long?

Why hasn’t Facebook always told us exactly how they’re handling click fraud from the beginning? This is something that every online marketer is concerned about, and with each passing day Facebook’s stock is declining, due, one might imagine, to a lack of trust of the product. What Facebook needs to do is start giving us more reasons to trust them.

This is going to, I believe, be a huge part of whether or not Facebook can succeed now and into the future. Facebook needs to start understanding the real power of their advertising platform, and start selling their product based on actual statistics, not on ethereal promises that can’t be quantified.

We live in a digital world in which every aspect of what we do online can, in some way, be measured. Perhaps a Facebook advertising campaign doesn’t garner, on its own, an ROI that one could be proud to report on. But follow the individuals that saw that ad, interacted with it in some way and didn’t convert, and see if they don’t convert somewhere down the line because they ended up searching for the product later on.

This is a measurable result, and part of a larger strategy that Facebook needs to get on board with. They should not be promoting themselves in a vacuum, but giving us a reason to advertise based on our overall marketing strategies.

There’s a long, long road ahead for Facebook. They’re doing a lot of things right for marketers, but trust is not something that Facebook has been good at acquiring – and that’s because of their own actions. This click fraud story would be no story at all if Facebook weren’t so much fun to take shots at; if people weren’t so bound and determined to find a way to bring the giant to its knees; if people didn’t revel in the failure of Zuckerberg and Co. so very gleefully.

The job for Facebook is to start getting us to trust them. They are going to have to open up and be a little more transparent about how it is that they’re protecting, not just the users of their product, but the advertisers who give them money. Because we all know that the first step in getting a sale is to establish trust.

Marc Poirier, Acquisio

2 Comments

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Marc Poirier is co-founder and EVP of Business Development at Acquisio, a leading performance media platform for marketing agencies.