Disaster! $600,000 Spent on Facebook Advert Goes Wrong

Raaj Kapur Brar runs a small but successful empire of online fashion magazines from his base just outside Toronto. Some of his titles are huge online brands, such as Fashion & Style Magazine, which has 1.6 million Facebook fans. That’s more fans than Elle magazine has. Even his niche brands, such as South Asian Fashion, are huge — it has 1.7 million fans. A typical Fashion & Style post will get 2,000 likes.

His umbrella company, Fetopolis, is exactly the kind of marketer-publisher that Facebook has encouraged to take advantage of its 1.2 billion-strong audience. Fetopolis’ titles post a constant stream of new pictures and fashion ideas, his followers love them, and he gets money from clothing labels to push content.

Recently, however, Brar has fallen out of love with Facebook. He discovered — as Business Insider reported recently — that his Facebook fanbase was becoming polluted with thousands of fake likes from bogus accounts. He can no longer tell the difference between his real fans and the fake ones. Many appear fake because the users have so few friends, are based in developing countries, or have generic profile pictures.

At one point, he had a budget of more than $600,000 for Facebook ad campaigns, he tells us. Now he believes those ads were a waste of time. Facebook Advert Goes Wrong!!!

Facebook declined multiple requests for comment on this story.

Brar’s take is a cautionary one because Facebook has 25 million small businesses using its platform for one marketing purpose or another. Many of them are not sophisticated advertisers — they are simply plugging a credit card number into the system and hoping for the best. This is what can happen if you don’t pay careful attention to contract language, or the live, real-time results your campaigns on Facebook are having.

An unpaid bill of $379,000.

A review of emails from Facebook, ad campaign dashboard screengrabs, and billing records show a confusing, acrimonious dispute in which both sides believe the other acted badly. It’s not even entirely clear what Brar’s total spending was: Campaign budget data seen by Business Insider appear to show that Brar ran at least $489,000 in ads on Facebook. One email from Facebook demands payment of an unpaid bill for $370,000. Brar himself believes he ran up to $640,000 in ads.

For more on this Facebook disaster, please read This Man’s $600,000 Facebook Disaster Is A Warning For All Small Businesses

Brar declined to pay the bill. He told Business Insider that his magazine titles did not generate enough revenue to cover $600,000. His credit with Facebook was ruined. He offered to pay cash in advance for future campaigns but Facebook demurred. Facebook did not sue Brar or pursue him further for the money, however. In the year or more since the campaign, Brar says. He has tried to figure out what portion of his fanbase is fake. “But Facebook doesn’t have a tool for that,” he says.