Businesses Buy Facebook Fans

Businesses can garner instant -- if not genuine -- popularity by buying Facebook fans.
Author:
Publish date:

BOSTON (TheStreet) -- Taking a new tack on the adage that nobody wants to eat in an empty restaurant, small businesses are taking big steps to increase the number of fans on their Facebook pages to garner attention and potential revenue.

Facebook "Like" pages, formerly known as "Fan" pages, allow Facebook members to declare, via the click of a virtual button, that they approve of a particular product or company. About 11.8 million Facebook users "like"

Starbucks

(SBUX) - Get Report

; the company's "Like" page includes information about a Facebook app that lets customers monitor their Starbucks spending habits.

Coca-Cola

(KO) - Get Report

has 9.6 million fans on its "Like" site -- which was created by fans outside the company -- easily trumping

Pepsi's

(PEP) - Get Report

848,269.

Kraft's

(KFT)

Oreos have 7.9 million fans, although Kraft itself has only 359,409. Skittles have 7.8 million fans (while parent company

Mars

has only 146).

The need to be liked has become important enough that some businesses are willing to pay for Facebook popularity.

Advertising Expert

, a small firm in Boynton Beach, Fla., is among a growing number of companies in the popularity-sales business. Others include

USocial

and

Socioniks

. Through a network of outsourced Facebook users, Advertising Experts garners fans for its customers, ideally those who already "like" products or companies in the market that the customer is looking to serve. Customers can order 500 "likes" for $55 or 10,000 "likes" for $900.

"The cost of this is insignificant compared with the cost of a postcard," says Joel Arberman, president of Advertising Expert. "The acquisition of the fan is less than the cost of a stamp."

He notes, though, that Advertising Expert charges a premium to find geographically viable fans.

"An ice-skating rink in New York isn't going to want a bunch of fans in Egypt or Mumbai," Arberman says. "That's not helpful."

Arberman says his firm makes a point of trying to get fans who are actual people. Other firms have been rumored to create millions of "likes" simply by creating phony Facebook accounts. That's why Mike Corrales steers clear of buying fans directly.

"I would rather have 2,500 real, authentic people than have 250,000 fake ones," says Corrales, vice president of marketing at

BillMyParents

, a company that helps parents manage their kids' finances and helps kids spend their parents' money. The "teens" section of the site has a target audience of 13- to 18-year-olds. In other words, those for whom online popularity is especially important.

The BillMyParents Facebook fan page has about 2,500 fans so far, and Corrales says plans are in place to boost membership by offering fan-only discounts and other incentives in the future. He also garners publicity by hiring celebrities to endorse BillMyParents on their Facebook fan pages. The company's three celebrity endorsers -- skateboarders Rob Dyrdek and Ryan Sheckler, and motorsports champion Travis Pastrana -- have a combined total of 2.68 million Facebook fans. Efforts to boost the Facebook fan base have paid off, he says.

"We've seen our teen requests for debit cards increase five-fold since we started promoting the fan page," Corrales says.

-- Reported by Carmen Nobel in Boston.

>>Facebook Ad Model Is a Friend to Small Firms

>>Business Names Make or Break a Company

>>Four Ways to Avoid Small-Business Fraud

Follow TheStreet.com on

Twitter

and become a fan on

Facebook.