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What is up with Facebook ads?

We're a small startup, with a niche product, of interest only to people who use Hibernate. That's a good number of people, but don't expect to see our commercial during the next Superbowl.

So after setting up our Facebook page, and getting a few people to friend us, we decided to experiment with Facebook ads and see what (if anything) that would get us. We created a simple ad using Facebook's well-thought-out interface, with the following target:

  • people over 18
  • in the USA, Canada, Europe, India, China and Brazil (the list clearly could be longer, but this is an experiment)
  • who have expressed interest in Java or Groovy (Facebook doesn't list Hibernate as a specific interest)
  • at $0.31 per click
  • with a click-through going to a special page on our web site

That's about 300,000 people, per Facebook. We set a maximum of $20/day to get started, and submitted it. Not the sexiest of ads, but it'll do:

Much to our surprise, the very next day, over 200 people had "liked" our Facebook home page. That may not sound like a lot to you, but for us, that's quite a crowd. According to Facebook's demographics, they were:

Well, that kinda figures: Facebook is used mostly by young people, and men are a large majority in the software field. So far, so good.

The geographic distribution was more puzzling, though:

While we'd love to have more users from India, the distribution seemed strangely skewed. India is obviously very active in the software field, but they're not the only country with that distinction. We looked at a sample of these people, but could not see any obvious trends. Their Facebook pages look real (so far as one can tell anyway).

Even stranger, this was a 2-day burst, which immediately (and completely) subsided:

Even worse, we're only seeing minimal traffic from Facebook on our web page: a total of 56 referrals from, per Google Analytics.

What does it all mean?

None of this seems to make sense. The only people who stand to benefit from clicking on our ad are Facebook, but I can't imagine that they would use click farms or anything similar. That would be illegal, unethical, and just plain suicidal.

The only other thing that occurs to me is that we're collateral damage in the click wars: that somehow our ad has been clicked, and our page liked, by some sort of clicking/liking monster that inadvertently included us. Now we're out $100, and we still have no idea whether we've gotten anything for it.

What do you think?