A little while ago, Australian-based company, Viralee, announced that it was getting into the Facebook Fan acquisition and selling game. There was some scepticism about the practice, mostly because of other similar services, like uSocial, that were alleged to be using nefarious tactics to get fans.
Despite this, Viralee insisted they were doing everything above board, they would continue to provide their service and they would even be launching new services in the space.
“It's both terrifyingly interesting and interestingly terrifying”
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Well Viralee has now released one of these new services, opening up the process of selling Facebook fans to the public by launching F.anpag.es, a site founder Dominic Holland describes as “The World’s first public marketplace for Facebook Fan Pages”.
F.anpag.es varies from the main Viralee site in that they’re helping people who have accumulated fans, or who administer fan pages with attractive URLs, to sell them.
I caught up with Holland to ask him a few quick questions about Viralee, f.anpag.es and the idea of selling fans more generally:
KH: Hey Dominic, thanks for taking the time to talk
DH: No worries.
KH: You mention throughout your marketing that you’ve had some success already selling /kisses, /hugs and /pizza fanpages. How much did you get for them?
DH: I signed agreements that disallow me from revealing the prices; however, I can say that I start the bidding on all of my pages at 1c per fan. Also, the most I have sold an existing fan page for is very close to 6 figures.
KH: How do you get the fans you sell?
DH: There are now a few services like Viralee on the Internet, I can only speak for my company when I say that we do not use fake accounts, lure people into clicking on links or becoming a fan of something that was not what they expected or any other less than scrupulous methods. Rather, we use online and offline marketing methods to promote a page. Hence it is the consumers choice when presented with the page as to whether or not they become a fan. It is for this reason that exact timeframes for each campaign are not given as it is not a precise science.
KH: Is there not an issue with the fact that people are signing up as fans of one thing and could suddenly start to get marketed to/spammed by a company who now owns the page without having given consent?
DH: Well firstly, Facebook will block the publishing rights of any page they deem to be inappropriately spamming their users. Additionally, every user has the ability to remain a fan of a page yet block that page from appearing in their live stream. However, this does not really differ to any form of marketing, every newspaper article, blog, tv show, and so on are either accompanied or followed by an ad from a company that reader/viewer gave no consent to be marketed from.
KH: In some of our earlier discussions, you’ve mentioned that you have a flood of interested admins looking to have you help sell their fanpages. When you say “flood”, what type of numbers are we talking about?
DH: At rough count I have pending requests totalling over 18m fans for sale across the combined pages.
KH: Any last comments to those people who think that what you’re doing is wrong/should be banned/has no value etc.
DH: Facebook pages and fans are truly one of the greatest investments any company or marketer can purchase. That is not to say that Fan pages should be the only investment one makes, as it is not. Fan pages are a way to easily engage a population of consumers never before reachable at such a low budget; yet, this ability to connect should then be harnessed to drive consumers to other web properties or to perform actions.
Whilst viralee.com and our other websites sell fans, pages and twitter followers I myself also take contracts from companies both large and small on how to successfully engage the online audience, and convert this to sales. This is the step most companies miss, as they create a page or a website that serves no real purpose other than brand awareness. For example a company such as Toyota continually promote their new products through facebook with images, reviews and press material. Yet with a link that said “Click here to be taken for a test drive in the new 2010 Yaris in your lunch break”, and then taken to a form where they could book in a timeslot for a test drive would be an extremely good post and result in consumers getting hands on with their product.
To summarise, a company may run an ad during the main 7.30 slot on commercial tv at night for over $200k and reach maybe 1M people who may not even know ho your company is, with a non-interactive video. Yet less than 100k you can buy a 1m fans at viralee.com who have intentionally became a fan of your company on facebook and are expecting updates from you. Of which will be delivered into an interactive format they use regularly use, as often as you like.
From the sounds of things, it looks like Holland, Viralee and F.anpag.es are trying to do the right thing by helping organisations kickstart social media campaigns. It also looks like they’re trying to do it the right way.
So now it’s up to the market to determine if there’s value in numbers and whether it’s possible to convert bought fans into high-quality social interactions.
That, of course, is the big question and the one that will determine whether f.anpag.es is destined for massive success of imminent failure.