Why the FSA Should Create An ‘Innovation Unit’

This article was published 28/08/2012 in Real Business Magazine

The FSA should create it’s own innovation unit with a seat at the top table. They should do it now. Here’s Why.
I think it may have been P G Wodehouse that described someone’s use of the English Language as "Like nothing more than watching a Chimpanzee handling a Ming vase". Suddenly I know how he felt.
I received a rash of tweets and emails after I criticised the FSA for their proposal to restrict Crowdfunding to just “sophisticated investors” - to take the ‘crowd’ out of Crowdfunding. 
'A little harsh' was the general tenor of some of them (although they were mostly thanks for raising the issue, offers of, and requests for, help. Not to surprising I suppose - these are crowfunding people after all). The FSA only want to protect the small guy said others. What they really mean is Crowdinvesting, they explained. 'Crowdinvesting' is a much smaller sub-species - a cousin of crowdfunding, which involves a promise of shares in the company. Normal Crowdfunding is for small stakes and does not involve shares - so is low risk. Perhaps I had misunderstood - or they'd been mis-reported?

Where the FSA misquoted?

"Inexperienced investors should be aware of the risks in using crowdfunding websites that help small businesses raise money directly from members of the public, the Financial Services Authority (FSA) has warned.

"We believe most crowdfunding should be targeted at sophisticated investors who know how to value a start-up business, understand the risks involved and that investors could lose all of their money," the FSA said -according to The Independent  Saturday 18th August 2012

Being a generally affable sort of chap I had already started to pen a courteous apology when I decided I better check again. What I found was a Ming vase with a nasty crack in it already. Their first public response to a really promising innovation with great potential for the nation and the economy made a very nasty jarring sound and caused some entirely unneccesary damage.
What I found on their website was this:

…Unfortunately, where money is changing hands – and especially where it is all done online – there is a risk of fraud, so investors should take care to protect themselves.

How to protect yourself

Make sure you sufficiently understand the business or project, how and when you might get a return, whether you will receive an equity share in the business and the risks involved before investing in a crowdfund.

But do not invest any money you are not prepared to lose – remember that most startup businesses fail…

A sample from the FSA’s public take on CrowdFunding (They must mean CrowdInvesting, surely?) 

The whole piece is clearly talking about Crowinvesting while using the word Crowdfunding. Can the FSA really not know the difference? If they don’t wouldn’t that amount to something approaching professional negligence. Especially since they’re spent three years in discussions before actually authorising (rather reluctantly one can only imagine) the UK’s first and only regulated Crowinvesting platform (it’s called Seedrs - and is clearly the result of a lot of hard work and extraordinary persistence)? Or would it be unreasonable to suppose that they’d rather it would all go away so they can get on with ‘business as usual’?
Of course I understand they have a responsibility to limit the activities of those who would prey on the unwary when the stakes get above a certain level. But to make such recommendations before I put down £10 or £20 on something I’m quite happy to support in the hope of helping make something happen? That I - and the suggestion  man-in-the-street - is not capable of making such calculation, when we all do it every day in various forms? Isn’t that more than faintly ridiculous. And dangerous.
It’s not just that the whole tenor of the piece is skewed and wrong - it’s factually incorrect as well. From the title ( “Crowdfunding: is your investment protected?”. Well no. But only a demented fool in a hurry would think otherwise) to “Crowdfunding investors will usually receive shares in the business or project they contribute to… ”. No chaps that’s CrowdInvesting! and “The risks: Many crowdfunding opportunities are high risk and complex”. A few minutes spent surfing the corwdfunding sites (of which there are many times more than Crowdinvesting sites) will quickly give the lie to this - and much more that the FSA say and insinuate. It really does begin to sound like ‘a scare story’ the more you look at it.
But an innovation unit within a regulator? Isn’t this just gibbering nonsense? Chalk and cheese I hear you say? But that’s the point. Innovationis absolutely vital to our economy and our recovery - and Crowdfuning is the spearhead of that, or soon could be. Which means that our economy has to be able to encompass both good regulation - to limit the predators - and real innovation over a wide area. With as little of the first and as much or the second as possible.
This is no small matter and could be crucial to our future as a nation. So why shouldn’t the FSA, as an organisation, encompass both? To have a smallunit who’s job it is to challenge and balance the thinking of the regulator right in there at the start of things could (it they do a decent job of it) make a huge difference to the outcome by tempering the early thinking and bringing a new perspective right to the table where the key discussions are. A voice to champion the needs and concerns of starups and entrepreneurs. To ensure that changes are not purely regulation-driven and reactive but are balanced and - as far as possible - innovation friendly. To actively seek ways to tweak existing regulations and regimes to support innovation and entrepreneurs. It could make a huge difference.
This is not a call for ‘light touch’ regulation either - but for a well tempered approach and well balanced, thoughtful regulation.
I confess that when I saw those initial reports about taking the crowd out of crowfunding it was pretty much what I was expecting - and I very much doubt I’m the only one. I winced becuase of damage the  that’s been been done. I suppose we may never know how much. Perhaps thousands of people who had barely heard of Crowfunding until now will have heard first from the FSA with scary language missaplied and about their intentions to regulate it away - creating a bad taste and ‘damaging the brand’ in it’s infancy. That’s just the kind of thing that could be avoided by the move I’m suggesting.
The more I think about this the more I’m thinking that the FSA could use some innovative thinking in the way they approach things in-house - and not just on Banking licenses and Crodfunding - or is that Crowinvesting?
PS
Since writing this article I’ve heard from Simon Dixon of Banktothefuture.com who, independantly, has made the same suggestion. It’s our nation, our economy and our FSA - not that banks - let’s make this happen. Get Tweeting!

Barry E James

CEO AngelRevolutions

© Copyright AngelRevolutions, August 2012 

Our Future At Risk: Crowdfunding – It’s Us or the Banks

Some things in life are about as predictable as death and taxes. One of these is that the UK’s FSA would oppose Crowdfunding if it so much as showed it’s nose over here in the UK. It’s an innovation and not part of the status-quo after all. 

It has proved wildly successful in the USA in helping get projects off the ground that people actually want to see happen. A new, successful, kind of democratic capitalism. With platforms such as KickStarter.com it has provided a new way for people to come together and support projects that interest them at a level – usually a very small level of  $10 to $100 or so – that they are comfortable with. Sometimes they get a reward (such as a copy of the product if/when it appears, or a tee shirt, special thanks in the book etc) and sometimes just the knowledge that they did-their-bit towards something they believe in or just want to have a chance of happening. 

Even in a litigious country like the USA – the world capital of greedy lawyers and silly litigation - there has been surprisingly little (if any) carping or attempts to pretend that people don’t understand that the ventures are all speculative to some extent or another. Because it’s obvious. You would have to be a fool in a hurry not to understand that. A fool in a hurry that risked more than they could afford while deliberately looking the other way in fact. 

No one is compelled – or put at risk - other than by their own choice for an amount, usually a very small amount, of their own choosing. 

Yet the FSA think that the British Public must be protected from this? Simon Dixon is CEO of ‘BankToTheFuture.com’ who are busy bringing a version of crowdfunding to the UK (very, very carefully with more caveats than even the FSA can shake a stick at – so that only a blindfolded and wilfully negligent fool-in-a-hurry could miss the clear, and somewhat overdone – but who can blame them – warnings of RISK when you try to sign up). Simon’s blog warns"The FSA has given indications that they want to restrict CrowdInvesting to sophisticated investors only."

Or to borrow Richard Branson’s words deliberately restrict it back to being a ‘rich man’s game’. Restore and preserve the status-quo. This is, of course, as predictable as it ridiculous. It’s also dangerous for our future. We are already lagging behind the USA in this and far too many similar areas. In fact funding of business (let alone entrepreneurs, innovation and invention) is a keystone to so many others we must resist this. 

It is ‘The British Way’ of course. It’s up to the bureaucrats to come up with these bone-headed edicts and it’s up to the crowd to make an outcry in the interests of common sense when it gets bad enough. It’s crucial we do just that if we are not to continue to have all our finances and our future governed by an out-of-control and discredited banking sector. 

It’s not that they are really protecting anyone from a real risk. If they wanted to do that they’d shut down the betting shops (or restrict them to ‘sophisticated punters’) and regulate the online gaming industry that exists to ensnare the weak and unwary. 

Crowdfunding is a little like a lottery. The stakes are small and self selected. Though there’s significantly more risk of getting something out of it everyone understands that if they get a return then it’s  best regarded as something of a bonus. Yet it has inestimably more power to benefit our economy at a time we badly need it. Way more than National Lottery. 

It’s in no ones interest that this should be discouraged, let alone ruled against by the representatives of the banking industry – except those who seek to preserve the status-quo. Whatever their vested interests or motives. 

So it’s up to us to resist. To provide the voice of common sense – and the common interest. For once we have the option to have a say. What the banks want they make sure they get. Ask Vince Cable. Ask any recent government minister who’s tried to get them to agree to something they don’t find in their pecuniary interest. Merlin anyone? 

What is social media for but to give people the opportunity to say what they think. It’s up to us – if you care, get Tweeting. 

Barry E James

CEO AngelRevolutions

© Copyright AngelRevolutions, July 2012

Civilization 2.0

Civilization 2.0 - A Global Revolution? is a response to Paul Mason’s LSE #LSErevolt lecture “Why It’s Kicking Off Everywhere: The New Global Revolutions” 30th January 2012


Capitalism is in crisis. Democracy - or a new form of it - is breaking out (or trying to) in various of the more chronically oppressed places around the world. World economics is in turmoil, or worse. Politicians, central bankers and everyone else seem at a loss to understand or explain it all - let alone bring it back under any kind of influence or control. The old levers don’t seem to work so well - or at all?

Havoc - the cry has gone up. How do we make sense of this? Where is the new analysis? asked Paul Mason and BBC Newsnight.

Meanwhile there’s another, silent, revolution under weigh that’s changing the ground rules of marketing and business from beneath. More of which later.

Few can doubt that we are at an inflexion point - but how big is it? Are these things isolated – stacked co-incidence. If not what could be at the root of it all?

You better believe there’s some co-incidences because if not then it’s a very big inflexion point indeed - possibly the biggest since the creation of western civilization. Way bigger than the 1930s crash or the industrial revolution. One in which we have yet to understand the causes and the mechanisms. The outcomes are therefore incalculable - and almost impossible to influence. Does that sound familiar?

Short Memories
We have short memories. Little more than a decade ago it was fashionable to talk about the ‘Internet revolution’ re-shaping the world. Now it’s passé at best. We marvelled at it’s potential to re-make the world into a better place - but soon grew bored when the stock markets first lit a fire under it and then lost interest when it failed to live up to their ever inflating financial expectations. For some reasons we all assumed that any such revolution would be of the velvet variety – and that it went away – burst with the bubble.

The web - and ‘Web 2.0’ (in historical terms a minor tech innovation) - have since become part of a world largely unchanged it seems. They have been pressed into service as tools to enlarge and change markets and create new ones. All within the existing paradigms and institutions. Sure governments have lost control at the margins. Global multinationals have become stronger and yet more pervasive and we now see the rise of the micro-multinationals. Tiny companys that didn’t exist a few years ago now spanning the globe and dominating their own niche. Sometimes with fewer people than it would take to man a department in a department store a few years back.

All within the existing paradigm. Governments may have lost control here and there at the margins but the pillars of Civilization and the nation states are still standing, are they not? We neither want nor need an alterative such as a world government - perish the thought. Although it starts to look as though we’re going to need some more global institutions, or connecting points perhaps?

Meanwhile the word ‘disruptive’ has been transformed from a term of censure most often aimed at the bolshiest members of a school to the highest form of praise for a new piece of ‘tech’. ‘Silicon valley’ has becomes the world’s lab for genetically modified economics. A magnet for the world’s best brains, competing to disrupt markets - the bigger the better.

Like an old-style chemical plant – think Bhopal - it continues to churn out it’s viral (by design) genetically modified output - as fast as it can – direct into the global economy. Plus all the side effects, by-products and economic effluent. Products, companies and entrepreneurs that ‘defy capitalism’ - to borrow a phrase. To do this is in the DNA.

So product life cycles have shrunk from fifteen years to four. Company life-spans just as dramatically.

As you might expect, from someone who has already devoted a long career to tech innovation, despite the toxic metaphor I suppose that the toxicity is to the status quo and stability. The ‘brave new world’ that comes next is another matter – and for us to make, once we’ve worked out the new ground rules.

Because you can change the content only so much before it starts to change the structure in which it’s contained. Hydrofluoric acid eats through even glass.

You can kick away only so many pillars before the temple totters. What is economics but the aggregated actions and behaviours of people in markets - and how they think, work and interact? Are it’s rules immutable, like Physics’ laws used to be when I was at school? Or do they arise from the interactions of the fundamental particles - like Physics as we see it today? If the particles or the forces on them change how can that avoid bringing change at the macro scale?

Newtonian physics still holds true at the macro scale of course - we just understand far more about what’s going on deep down - and have learned to apply that knowledge to create new technologies. But the fundamental particles of economics are people not particles. What if the charge on an electron changed gradually? 

Changing the Game Changes The Game
The evidence continues to mount that the game has indeed changed. The levers no longer work the same. Ask Rupert Murdoch. He and his companies have been top of the pile for decades - visibly influencing governments. Manipulating the media made it possible to ‘influence’ those in power. When Hacker-gate could be contained no longer the Murdoch reaction was swift and vigorous - to amputate the affected limb. It was an unprecedented reaction. Yet still not enough. Neither were any of the other strategy, tactics or manoeuvres – playing to the old rules - enough to prevent a public humiliation. This was unimaginable not long ago.

Focussing People Power To A Point
The central role - orchestrated by the Guardian and MumsNet among others - of social media in this may be somewhat debatable but this is far from an isolated incident. Last month a concerted effort focussed to one day brought down the latest attempt to tame the Internet (or just clip the wings of the pirates - depending who you believe). GoDaddy’s experience was seminal. Their customer base publicly reversed the company’s publicly stated policy quite literally overnight - from supporting the ‘establishment’ line. They had no choice. Where are the precedents for this?

Cultures with despotism ingrained for centuries and no prospect of change are now struggling to throw off their despots - which turns out now to be the (comparatively) easy bit - and replace them with something the people find at least acceptable. The assumption that this will be democracy-as-we-know-it, or a simple variation on it is callow to say the least.

The rules changed while the game is in-play. It’s happened, so far, largely beneath our radar. No wonder life’s a little confusing right now. 

Stepping back it’s evident that fundamental rules of markets, marketing, economics and democracy are changing before our eyes.

Is this all chaotic coincidence or is there a deeper cause? Seen from my perspective it’s clear that the coincidences are just too numerous and too well structured.

What’s more the fog is clearing. Paul Mason is right to point out that social media does not cause revolutions, but it does change the power-structure – “short circuiting information loops controlled by the powerful”. That changes the game.

For Democracy 1.0 it takes a around a year to focus power to a point from scratch – and you can stand in only one lobby at a time. It takes a decade to build a political party. In Democracy 2.0 power can be focussed to a point almost overnight – and does not need to pass the test of time. It still takes leadership – just a new kind. As for Politicians 2.0 – look around, the prototypes are with us already. Although don’t expect them not to shudder at the thought – or at least the label.

This isn’t just about info-loops or even about the spread of democracy and it’s changing nature. As Professor Sherry Turkle points out we tend to think the Internet is mature because we grew up with it and we are mature. It’s far from mature. As she rightly says “it’s very early days”.

We need to discover, study and understand not just the artefacts but the underlying causes that create the artefacts and effects. Not just where they come from but how they operate, in order to regain any real stability. In order to be able to influence causes for better outcomes.

The origins are increasingly clear and the means to trace cause and effect are tantalisingly close.

This raises some interesting - and urgent - questions. What does Civilization 2.0 look like? What are the new rules - and how stable are they? Change has accelerated - is it still accelerating? Which, if any, of these changes are reversible - and should they be reversed? 

If democracy itself is in the firing line - and if the root of the ‘trouble’ is that the people have acquired a new kind of voice and are learning to use it - then it most certainly is, then who will decide? How?

Meanwhile how do we deal with the fine mess that this has gotten us into?

How do we divine the new ground rules and work with them to shape Civilization 2.0?


© Copyright Barry E James, February 2012 (V1.0)

Barry E James holds a degree in Psychology and Mathematics and has spent most of his thirty year career on the front line of technological change variously as an architect, designer, visionary, activist, speaker, writer and entrepreneur.

He’s currently working on a new book: Civilization 2.0 - The mess we’re in.


His new Twitter account for this debate is @BarryEJames  with #LSErevolt.
He blogs occasionally at AngelRevolutions.Tumblr.com and can also be found on LinkedIn here

What’s in a name - or a job title or Are you an architect, a strategist a social media manager - or just a wannabe?

We are in the days of job title inflation when even those who’s job it is to make the tea are vice-president of something or other (team refreshment services probably). Like lots of things this started in the USA. In the late 80’s when I was working for what is now HSBC and was then the Midland Bank a visiting director told me and the rest of the IT department that if we were in the USA we’d all be Vice Presidents of something - even back then.

 

So it’s really nothing new. But it’s really taken off more recently for two reasons. First because titles are cheaper than pay-rises (and I’ve heard several well known entrepreneurs recommend this as an alternative way of rewarding and keeping people). Also because it’s ‘catching’. Once others are doing it you are left with the choice to either join the game or, effectively, take a downgrade. If everyone who does what you do says they are a ‘social media strategist’ and you say you’re a ‘social media manager’ then the onlooker (and potential hirer or customer) is entitled to think they have skills you don’t.

 

Social Media Architect?

I noticed the other day that a good friend of mine for whom I’ve long had a lot of respect now titles himself a ‘social media architect’. Now that raised my eyebrows and some interesting questions.

 

I’ve spent decades designing and building new software and IT systems from scratch but I only recently, and rather reluctantly, accepted the title of software architect. In part as a grudging acceptance that job-grade inflation is a fact of life. On reflection however and thinking about what an architect does - as opposed to a bricklayer, a chippy or a master-builder - I could see that it really is a more accurate description.

 

The architect has a thorough working knowledge of the materials, flows, stresses and possibilities that enables him/her to envision and plan (plus usually draw or map out) a whole workable building before a brick is laid. A builder then follows the plans (and argues with the architect over the details of course).

 

Bricky, sparks, chippy or plasterer the title tells you what skills to expect.

 

For this reason I see social media manager, strategist and architect as distinct roles. They are each descriptions for a set of skills. If you don’t know what those skills are - and you can’t describe them if asked-  then one can reasonably assume you don’t posses them, I suppose.

 

I can happily describe the roles of the social media manager and strategist. But are there any social media architects yet?

 

Architects usually have long experience – and this is a pretty new field. Just about anyone will tell you it’s an enigma. This is code for ‘I wonder what the fl**k is going on - I know if I take this action then that result will ensure… but I can’t really tell you why or only in the broadest terms (and even then will probably take refuge in pseudo scientific Googledegook!)  Or ‘If you have a big enough budget our ace creative team can almost guaranteeyou a viral campaign’.

 

To qualify as an architect you need to understand what’s going on - not just be one step ahead of a strategist. I just came off the phone with my good friend - and our conversation answered the question definitively for me.

 

We were talking about a new system my team have been building that builds on the latest techniques pioneered by Facebook and leverages a population of over 100 million users to deliver a new species of social media for business. We talked architecture - what would work and what wouldn’t. My task at the end of that conversation (the one I’m avoiding by writing this) is to document an extension to the architecture I’d suggested as a result of our combined knowledge. So now I know one real social media architect. 

 

Last night BBC Newsnight assembled a team of experts - including Brent Hoberman and Aleks Krotoski - to discuss whether and why Facebook might be worth $100Billion at it’s IPO. It was an interesting conversation with some interesting views and the odd nugget of information - but I still only know of one social media architect - or analyst for that matter.

 

I doubt that there are - as yet - more than a handful out there. Which raises an interesting question: Is Mark Zuckerberg (bearing in mind that architects almost invariably also have long experience…) a social media architect? And if not what’s he doing in charge of the biggest thing in social media and the Internet’s biggest IPO yet?

 

What do you think?



Barry is a visionary technology and social media architect and innovator of long standing most interested in the underlying trends driving the latest innovations.

He can be found at 
LinkedIn http://uk.linkedin.com/in/barryejames and manages… The Effective Social Media Marketing LinkedIn  Group http://www.linkedin.com/groups?about=&gid=4122661
The questions raised are being discussed right HERE right now! Come and join us! 

Toxic Likes and Full-Fat Likes - The Likes you don’t want - and those you do

Last year Facebook gained wide acceptance as a business tool and ‘Likes’ became a target for most organisations. Sadly few people have really understood what Likes are capable of, how they work or what they’re actually for. How they can work for - or even against - you. 

What they’re not for is as a vanity project or measure of popularity. This not only does not work (as anyone who even glances around the web can find places where you can get 1,000 or even 10,000 Likes for $50 or so). No one is fooled - or not for very long.

EMPTY LIKES CAN DAMAGE YOUR HEALTH

What the seller of these empty Likes - the Facebook equivalent of get-rich-quick merchants - won’t tell you is that EMPTY LIKES CAN DAMAGE YOUR HEALTH.

They can damage your business health - and it’s future - as businesses start to gain massive benefits from their proper use and you’ve effectively locked yourself out - or at least increased your costs, maybe many-fold. 

Let me explain why, what they are really for and how you can use them to generate thousands of real prospects which you CAN reach time and again, at will.

From Fishing To Farming

 

Many of the world fishing grounds are showing decreased yield and signs of chronic overfishing. Traditional marketing is also suffering because the ‘fish’ have become smarter, more cynical and more resistant to traditional approaches.       

Likes are part of a new approach based on goodwill, trust and advocacy. In both cases the old approach is no longer sustainable. In this case farming can be not only more sustainable but more profitable for those who understand what’s happening to marketing and the world. 

Let me also say that in this area there is way more hype than most - but this article will be a Hype-free-zone. We’ll be glad to back up what we say here from experience with case studies and more on request. 

What Likes Are For 

In order to explain Why Empty Likes Are Dangerous I need to explain What Likes Are Really For- as nature (or at least Facebook) intended. It’s this: 

Facebook Likes exist to connect your business to: 

1. It’s customers and advocates and 
2. Their Friends. 

It’s the second point that is usually missed and is, in fact, the crucial one. The first reason is sheer numbers. We’ll come to that in a moment. The second reason is Facebook takes the small but significant liberty of turning all your fans (customers, prospects, advocates) into advocates on your behalf. Crucially Without them having to lift a finger. 

This has the dual effect of  

1.Getting you way more attention than you’d otherwise get (because you are being introduced by a friend) and 

2. Short-circuiting the bane of modern marketing - ie traditional marketing hype has ensured that everything a marketer says - especially in an ad - is taken with a ton of salt… UNLESS IT’S CORROBORATED BY A PEER. 

Together this is probably the most potent marketing formula available anywhere - as the numbers reveal.

70% of the online population (UK and USA) are active in Facebook - half of those on any one day spending an average of 55 minutes in Facebook (ie It’s part of their life).  

On average each fan (or ‘Liker’ to coin the term) will have over 100 friends (ie people who are likely potential buyers as they have something in common with your fan - to whom they’re linked by friendship). This is a VERY CONSERVATIVE RATIO. For some businesses we’ve measured it’s over 400 per fan. Let’s use 100 as a conservative figure to make the sums easy. 

If you have 10 Likers you should be able to reach 1,000 prospects - via friends

If you have 50 Likers you should be able to reach 5,000 prospects - via friends

If you have 100 Likers you should be able to reach 10,000 prospects - via friends

If you have 1,000 Likers you should be able to reach 100,000 prospects - via friends… etc 

What’s more you can do this very selectively - selecting just local people for example. In many cases we’ve found that around 35% of the total turn out to be local. So with just 100 FULL-FAT LIKES this will give you a pool of around 3,000 well-introduced local prospects - even on the conservative figures we’ve been using. 

What’s a FULL-FAT LIKE? 

It’s the opposite of an empty Like. It’s a Like from a fan who is genuinely interested in what your business offers - and therefore by extension has ‘friends’ who are likely to have interests in common. Full-fat Likes usually come from customers and visitors - sometimes prospects. 

Getting Likes from such people is not so easy as buying ‘Empty Likes’. The good news is you don’t need large numbers to get things moving and there are techniques and approaches you can learn to get them - capturing customers etc. We been researching in this area and have developed some innovative techniques and proved some new tech - a cloud service.  

Once you have some, and if you know how, you can use deftly ‘breed’ a small number of Likes into a much larger number (we have also developed and proved ways to do this systematically and inexpensively which you can use). Each time you increase your Likes by a small amount you increase your marketing pool of prospects by a much larger one. 

DNA - Breeding is the Key! 

However you can only breed from what you already have. So if you have ‘Full-fat’ Likes you will breed more, and populate your marketing pool with genuinely good prospects.  

The bad news is that if you have already polluted your Like pool with empty-likes to make up numbers then not only has your money been wasted I’m afraid but it may well have created a significant obstacle to marketing effectively via Facebook. Many of those in this situation may be better advised to (quietly) start again. Unless a clever strategy can be devised to work around the empty shells.

Likes are a powerful marketing tool - not a vanity project. But not all Likes are equal and the wrong sort can get in your way and cost you time, effort and money. The right sort (Full-fat Likes) can deliver a really powerful marketing resource for your business that can be grown and used time and again.