The Shockingly Low Cost of Influencing an Election Using Facebook Ads and Fake News [DATA]


It's been some time since fall of 2016, in which the Russians bought Facebook ads promoting fake news stories to influence the outcome of the American election.

In this post, WordStream founder Larry Kim explores this topic, showing you how to set up fake news and broadcast propoganda via Facebook ads.

He also shows how to quantify the cost and impact of distributing that news, and explains if this influence peddling strategy is still viable today.

Really interesting read.

Last week I ran an experiment to see if it’s still possible to become a fake news media mogul on Facebook, nearly an entire year after the 2016 US presidential election which first brought attention to this issue.

TLDR: the entire effort took less than an hour of work and just $50 dollars of Facebook ads. The results were appalling.


It’s now known that the Russians bought Facebook ads promoting fake news stories with the intent of influencing the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

It isn’t every day that my profession (Facebook & internet advertising) makes international headlines.

So today I’ll provide a comprehensive overview of the Russian’s Facebook advertising playbook for fake news.

Specifically, I’ll cover:


  • How to set up fake news and broadcast propaganda via Facebook ads, step by step.
  • Quantify the cost and impact distributing fake news via Facebook ad campaigns.
  • Explore if this influence peddling strategy is still viable today, and how effective (or ineffective) Facebook is at combatting ads that promote fake news.

Let’s get to work!

Step 1: Create a Fake News Website

This is super easy:

This is a completely fake article.



  • Sign up for a free blog hosting service and customize a template. In my example, I went with “Citizen News Network” and used a backwards CNN logo.
  • Create a fake news story. The most effective fake news stories exploit the most divisive issues within society. In this case I just re-used a popular fake news story about a protester that purported to be paid to protest Donald Trump rallies.

The reason for using a well-known fake news story and a ridiculous-looking website was to make it super-easy for Facebook to recognize the fake news.

Step 2: Create a Fake News Page on Facebook

This is also ridiculously easy to do. Go to Facebook. Create a fake company page. Upload your fake logo and fake news stories, like this:HOW TO MAKE A GREAT LIVING ONLINE DOING SOMETHING YOU LOVE, EVEN IF YOU HAVE NO IDEA WHERE TO START!

My Fake News Page on Facebook


Step 3: Create a Facebook Ad, Promoting the Fake News on Your Fake Page

Facebook makes it super easy to promote posts. Just click on the “Boost Post” button, as shown here:

Boosting my Fake News Post with Facebook Ads


Next, we must target the Facebook ad to people who we think will be interested in seeing it.

Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton spent a combined $6.8 billion in their bid to become president in 2016. But the U.S. election is remarkably easy (and cheap) to hack. That’s because the outcome of presidential elections often hinges on just a few thousand votes (just 11,602 in Michigan, for example) in key battleground states, as we saw in 2016.

To hack an election, you’ll want to target the swing states of Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, all of which had reasonably close outcomes. Had all three gone the other way, we’d have a different President in office today.

Next, we must target the Facebook ad to people who we think will be interested in seeing it.

Targeting my Fake News using Facebook Ads


You must also include “Detailed Targeting” corresponding to the interests and demographics of the people we think will eat this stuff up. That could be:

  • People who donate to conservative political causes.
  • People who are likely to engage with conservative political content.

Based on this criteria, Facebook has identified 4.4 million people. Their suggested ad targeting criteria is fantastically granular: HOW TO MAKE A GREAT LIVING ONLINE DOING SOMETHING YOU LOVE, EVEN IF YOU HAVE NO IDEA WHERE TO START!

Detailed Fake News Ad Targeting Using Facebook Ads


Once you’ve done that, specify a budget (e.g., $50 for this experiment) then click “Place Order”.

Step 3: Analyzing the Fake News Facebook Ad Campaign’s Results

Within minutes of placing the order, the ad was approved and my Notifications pane lit up with alerts of people engaging with my fake Facebook ad.

High Post Engagement for My Fake News Post Boosted via Facebook Ads


All in, the post reached 4,645 people and generated:

  • 44 “Likes”
  • 3 page likes
  • Approximately 200 website clicks
Very High Post Engagement


The comments were quite engaging:

Lots of Post Comments


Every Facebook ad is given a Relevancy Score, a number between 1 and 10 that basically works as its ad quality rating system. This is how Facebook grades your ad performance.

Facebook rewards advertisers with highly engaging ads. If a high percentage of people engage with sponsored Facebook content, the reach (or visibility) of that campaign will be even greater. And the amount the advertiser pays will be lower.

Facebook’s ad platform assigned this ad a score of 7 out of 10 (pretty good marks!) to my fake news campaign. Why? Because fake news pushes buttons — it gets people all worked up. People can’t resist engaging with the content!

Over 6 percent of people who see the article are engaging with it. This meant that I could generate post engagements for a relatively low cost of $0.23 per post interaction (e.g., clicks to the article, Likes, comments, post re-shares, etc.).

Facebook Ad stats for my Fake News campaign


All in, it took about an hour to set up my fake news operation on Facebook.

A Snowball Effect

I paid an average of $0.23 to drive hundreds Facebook engagements such as likes, clicks, comments and shares.

When users engage with a sponsored post, it creates a free snowball (or multiplier) effect, as follows:

  • Friends of the people who engaged with the sponsored post may see the interaction in their feeds and engage with it.
  • The added post engagement generates even more post visibility and engagement (around and around we go)

Repeat this cycle a few times and a hot fake story can start trending on Facebook — for free.

Like gravity, fake news just needs a little push (even just a few dollars in Facebook ad spend) to get the ball rolling. Once set in motion, millions of people can end up seeing this stuff for very low cost.

Typically, we observe this snowball effect (or multiplier) to extend the reach of a catchy sponsored post by 2–10 times — for free!

While Facebook has recently disclosed that 10 million people were exposed to Facebook ads from Russian operations promoting fake news, our analysis leads us to believe the total reach, including unpaid visibility and engagement via this snowball effect, would have likely been somewhere between 20 to 100 million people.

Data Analysis: The Shockingly Low Cost of Buying an Election

We took our example data and plugged in two additional variables:

  • We know that Facebook ad costs were about half as much as they are today, due to increasing popularity of the Facebook advertising platform over the last year.
  • A year ago, the election topic was much hotter. The exact same ad run a year ago would have gotten much higher engagement rates, which means more visibility at less cost. How high would the engagement rates have been? We used average ad fatigue data to model and extrapolate what a likely engagement rate would have been a year ago.

Based on this data we computed the cost to reach and the cost to engage with a number of people equal to the margin of victory in the swing states of Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania using Facebook Ads and fake news, as follows:


Facebook: Profiting from Fake News

The total cost of this test: $53.58.

Minutes after the campaign exhausted its budget, this receipt was sent to me by email.HOW TO MAKE A GREAT LIVING ONLINE DOING SOMETHING YOU LOVE, EVEN IF YOU HAVE NO IDEA WHERE TO START!

My Facebook Fake News Experiment: Closing Thoughts

a) It’s still way too easy to become a fake news publisher on Facebook. They have a monopoly on determining the news that people see and have become a de facto news source. We regulate the other ad venues like radio and television via campaign finance laws. Facebook claims to have done work in combating fake news issues but very big loopholes remain wide open today. (My experiments were conducted on October 6, 2017.)

b) It’s remarkably cheap to push fake stories because they generate unusually high user engagement. The Facebook ad algorithms reward fake news with greater exposure and lower costs. As a result, we believe Russians were buying ad impressions for approximately $3.48 per thousand impressions, or 1.6 cents per user engagement (clicks, likes, shares, etc.)

c) Fake news is effective Facebook claims that their ads can have a profound impact on a user’s searching and purchasing behavior. It’s not hard to believe that it could impact voting behavior and even an election outcome in battleground states where the margin of victory was just a few thousand votes. Facebook ads were and remains to this day, a highly effective vehicle for the distribution of fake news intended to alter public opinion both in the USA and in other countries worldwide where Facebook advertising costs are substantially lower.

Fake news via Facebook Ads is not a US partisan issue as fake news can come in any form. It exploits incompetent/greedy platforms, algorithmic loopholes and gullible users to amplify divisions within society and is a threat to global democracy.

You can read the original article by Larry Kim on the Medium Blog right here.


Larry KimLarry Kim is the CEO of MobileMonkey, a mobile marketing software company. Over the last decade he’s managed billions of dollars of ad campaigns across thousands of customers worldwide. Larry won top marketer of the year awards from PPC HeroSearch Engine Land and the US Search Awards.





Facebook ad and fake news






Marketing Ideas For Small Business

marketing ideas for small businessThere are many kinds of marketing ideas for small business no matter the size of your budget or the kind of business you run. The important thing to remember for any business is that internet marketing is a must these days.

But you should definitely not neglect real world promotions, especially if you hope to gain a local following for your products and services. In fact, a combination of these ideas should give you a well-rounded promotional campaign for your business.

Marketing Ideas For Small Business: Business Cards

Networking and making real life connections with potential contacts and clients is crucial in any business venture. This is why you need to have business cards made with your contact information on hand.

You may find a potential client at the grocery store or you may attend networking events such as a conference or a trade show. With a business card, you need to make sure you include crucial information such as the name of your business, the person of contact, phone number and/or email address and a website.

Marketing Ideas For Small Business: Your Website

These days every business needs to have a website. Just like with business cards, you need to include crucial information on the website.

marketing ideas for small business

Furthermore, you also want to make sure the site is set up in a way that is attractive and will keep potential clients and customers on your site so that they will eventually buy a product or service.

While images can be important for a website, it is very important that you have clear and focused text about your products and/or services.

Marketing Ideas For Small Business: Social Media

Social media marketing is also becoming a necessity for any kind of business whether a work from venture or a small bricks and mortar shop. More people are getting their information from social media these days, so creating a social network presence is a must.

Not only are social media great for promotions and other marketing campaigns, but they can also help you create a stronger following since social media tend to have a snowball effect that can grow exponentially.

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Marketing Ideas For Small Business: SEO

Whether on your own website or a social network, you need to think about marketing ideas for small business that will help you gain prominence on popular search engines.

marketing ideas for small business

If you are unfamiliar with SEO, search engine  optimization, you may consider working with a company that knows how to help businesses create text that is informative enough for your business. This company should also know how to make sure you make it in the top rankings for popular search engines such as Google and Yahoo.

There are many other kinds of marketing ideas for small business you can use that will help your business. The important thing to remember is that you need to tailor your marketing campaign to your specific business and the type of niche you hope you attract.

When you are looking to use the most effective marketing ideas for small business you should also make sure that you do not neglect more traditional forms of promotion in favor of internet marketing. Rather you should try to incorporate a combination of the two.

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Marketing Ideas For The Internet

marketing ideasMarketing ideas are the lifeblood of any business. If you do not know how to retain your current customers and drive in new business, you will never turn a profit.

To be successful in marketing to todays consumer, you have to make effective use of the internet.  Internet marketing is usually a bit less expensive than traditional marketing, but it is no less complicated.

If you want to make sure that you can drive a bit more traffic to your website, you might want to consider the marketing ideas below.

Marketing Ideas: The Social Special

One of the quickest ways to get a real following is to use a social media website to promote your business or website. Unfortunately, those “likes” and page views do not necessarily convert into business profits.

If you want to market while making money, you should consider offering online “social specials” for your business. A small discount offered only to those who follow your business online can help you to drive customers to your product while also allowing you to market to them even on days when the special is not offered.

It is a fairly common practice in the business world today, but it is also one that works.

Marketing Ideas: The Newsletter

Newsletters are one of the more interesting marketing ideas, as they require a great deal of effort for little monetary return. What they do create, though, is a connection between you and your customer base.

marketing ideas

Marketing ideas are no always about today's sales but are rather often about making sure that there will be a sale tomorrow. Creating a company newsletter with updates about sales, specials and the world of your business is one of those marketing ideas that can help your customers feel connected to you.

Marketing Ideas: Bring Them Online

One of the best marketing ideas to bring your real-world potential customers to your website is to target the area in which your potential customers live and use a small advertising campaign to direct them to your website. If you have a physical location, this can be done quickly by announcing a promotion and directing your customers to the website for more information.

If you do not have a physical location, the very simple process of distributing flyers or taking out a newspaper ad can do the trick. These marketing ideas are somewhat more expensive than current internet marketing, but they can help you to drive more hits to your website.

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These are only a few of the basic marketing ideas that can help you to increase your customer base as well as your customer retention. Every business has its own unique strategies, but the three above should help you to ease into the idea of marketing on the internet.

In time, you will be able to use more complex strategies and perhaps even develop your own. What you have to remember, though, is to never stop working for more – the day you stop using effective marketing ideas and ignore the need for new customers is the day that you should give up on the world of business.

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Understanding Network Marketing Advertising: An Introduction

network marketing advertsingUnderstanding network marketing advertising is essential to grow your home-based business. Naturally, advertising your network marketing business will cost money at some stage – how else could you possibly effectively market your product without it?

Many network marketing consultants fail to even budget for advertising and consequently they miss out on the chance to earn money. Advertising really is an investment, but only if you advertise in the right places and these places should be selected sensibly and monitored continually to see if they work.

Ineffectual advertising can put you into bankruptcy!

Just like any business online and off, network marketing advertising is one of the keys to success. It can be confusing online particularly with the other millions of internet sites, blogs and advertisements all competing against you.

Network Marketing Advertising: Set a Budget

Unless your product is completely new and unique, you're going to have to learn where to place your advertising to get sales and recruit distributors.

If you have not already put aside a budget for advertising you should do so right away, and figure realistically how much you are able to afford on a once per month basis. Don't go over that amount – if you notice that your advertising in a certain area is bringing results, you can always raise your budget later .

Most new network marketing specialists only have a little budget, but that should not be an issue. There are many effective places to run ads on the internet for free. You need to experiment with them, and after a set period of time, drop the ones that aren't working for you.

network marketing advertising

Pay extra attention to where you are going to publicize your business, because advertising in the wrong place can damage your image, and accordingly lose you money.

The following are the results that you should attempt to get by looking at advertising your network marketing business:

1. It should be bringing you a flood of leads
2. It is going to be a medium for you to advertise your product or service
3. It will be a strategy for branding your company and growing brand visibility
4. It should be a route for you to effectively close sales.

Network Marketing Advertising: Social Media

By a long way the best ( and cheapest ) sort of advertising is recommendation by friends. Online creating a buzz about your service or product can pay enormous dividends, but it will be up to you how you do this.

Social networking sites, particularly YouTube, are fantastic places for getting masses of eyes on your product. Although this method could be free, you should plan everything you do carefully or it can back-fire.

Twitter has certain laws in it's own right, you can not just jump on there and start screaming about your product. No one will take any notice of you.

Posting on Twitter every 5 minutes will also get you ignored and you will be branded as a nuisance. It's better for you to build a following first.

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In the real world you would not go to your best friend's marriage and start shouting about your product in the reception. The idea is to build relationships in any social media situations.

In the beginning you may have to rely on others for referrals, which is also an extremely valuable method of getting leads both online and off-line. Make a point of forming a relationship with the individual who gives you these referrals. No one is going to hand you what's basically a bowl of money, without getting something in exchange.

Network Marketing Advertising: Direct Mail

Local bricks and mortar businesses often choose to send out direct mail. Though this seemed to die-out in the 21st century this can method can be effective in network marketing advertising.

What many enterprises don't do is collect valuable info from these mail outs and consequently they do not build a list of potential clients. The other downside using direct mail outs is they can be quite expensive.

network marketing advertsing

An effective off-line strategy is to get folks to fill in a card, or leave an e-mail address when they come into your shop or business. Time should be taken to compile these e-mail addresses into a list for future marketing campaigns. The best way is to give something of value in return for their email address or other contact details, which could be a coupon or a free dessert whatever's suitable.

It's hard to run a useful network marketing advertising campaign if you really do not understand how it all works. There is a great quantity of psychology behind selling effectively and if you do not understand the principle of network marketing now is a good time to learn.

Six Figure Mentors and Digital Experts Academy is one of the most trustworthy marketing systems to have come on the market in recent years. It teaches on all aspects of modern marketing so that you can generate targeted leads effectively and cash-in on the digital gold rush.

It covers all aspects of modern advertising and is written in a way that is easy to understand for those new to marketing and those struggling to get their businesses off the ground in the new digital economy. You can learn more Right Here!

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Here Are Some Valuable Free Marketing Ideas

free marketing ideasThere are many free marketing ideas which will help you get your business noticed on the internet. They should also bring you valuable back links and help to move your web site up in the search engine rankings.

There are probably upwards of 100,000,000 web sites and that number is growing every day. So your site starts out as merely a tiny drop in a huge ocean of internet sites. You'll need some free marketing ideas online to help increase your rankings, increase the traffic to your site and subsequently bring you sales.

There are many entrepreneurs who work day and night to ensure that their businesses are going to be a success.The chances are you are one of those people and you are doing it on an especially small budget. Luckily there are numerous effective techniques to get you and your site spotted online, but you have to work consistently and be creative.

Free Marketing Ideas: Off-line Methods

Off-line marketing methods can still be effective if you are willing to get yourself out into the community. Do two hours volunteering, or join clubs or organizations where you can meet lots of people. When you meet and get to know them, you can hand out your business card with your web address printed on it.

There's a method to off-line sales, and this obviously includes not boring people to death with your opportunity. When you become friendly with people they may naturally ask about what you do for a living – that's the time to introduce them to your business.

Free Marketing Ideas: Social Media

There are hundreds of different marketing groups in the social media marketing world, including Facebook Groups. Join one or two and see which ones you're most happy with and have the most handy information and active participants. This way you can interrelate with them, ask questions, share your knowledge and eventually make them aware of your business.

Free Marketing Ideas: Forums

Forums are another way you can network. Find appropriate forums related to your business by simply putting the keyword of your business into a browser along with the word “forum”.

free marketing ideas

Again you should find the ones that interest you the most and have the most active participants. As with any networking site, don't simply jump in and start shouting about your business as no-one will take any notice of you. The way to become noticed and accepted is to supply helpful information and slowly become part of that forum's community.

Ensure you can leave a backlink to your website when you post a question or answer on any of these sites these are called “do follow” links. Share any information you deem appropriate on your blog.

Free Marketing Ideas: Capture Leads

You should have an opt-in form on your site so that you can build a list. A good way to get visitors to leave their details is to offer a free e-book or other product or service of value in exchange for their information.

Always try and offer free things which your subscribers will find valuable. There's a fair chance they're going to share the information with their circle of influence so that you can add to your customer list with referrals.

Offering coupons and discounts to existing customers who do refer others is good procedure. That way they have effectively become your downline earning money for you.

Ensure that your website is SEO (search engine optimisation) friendly by adding well optimized information in the shape of informative articles on a regular basis. If you do not have a blog attached to your website then add one.

You need to use WordPress and get a plug-in called “CommentLuv”, which in effect is a network of bloggers who reward each other with back-links. Add fresh and high-value content regularly such as free marketing ideas.

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Link exchanges are handy but never purchase links from “link farms”. The search websites look on back-links as little votes of confidence, and the higher the PR of the blog who links to you the, more Google and other search engine will take notice. In this way they push your website up through the rankings and so bringing you more traffic as your site become more visible.

These are just a few free marketing ideas and there are dozens of others. But these certainly useful and will help those on a limited budget to start out and continue on the path to business success.

If you want to discover effective free and paid marketing ideas that are so essential to success in business and if you are a determined and inspired individual who is hungry, coachable and willing to learn new skills then the DEA and SFM may be for you.

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Need Fresh Advertising Ideas?: A Must Read for Any Business

advertising ideasToday's Best Advertising Ideas

Are you in the market for some fresh and efficient advertising ideas? A diverse marketing approach is important to businesses of all sizes and genres.

Without reaching out to your target audience in a few different ways, your business will never reach its full potential. That being said, you obviously understand this concept considering you are on my blog today.

Now, let's get this thing rolling and check out some great advertising ideas you can add to your business's marketing arsenal today.

3 Effective Offline Advertising Ideas

While maintaining a web presence is important for any business these days, it is incredibly important that you don't overlook the necessity of offline advertisement; especially if you own/operate a local business of any kind.

If this applies to you, offline advertisement is a great way to increase your exposure among your local target audience. Below are three effective offline advertising ideas.

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1) Direct Mail – Although our society is quickly shifting towards email as our primary source of mail, direct mail is still one of the more effective advertising ideas. Much like email, sending direct mail, like postcards, allows you to inject information regarding your business (coupons, announcements, etc.) directly into the consciousness of your potential clients. Be sure to keep track of existing customers contact information.

2) Radio Station Ads – Believe it or not, not everyone exclusively listens to Pandora or Spotify these days. If you have any sort of marketing budget, airing a radio commercial is one of the better advertising ideas.

3) Business Cards – I have a hard time believing that business cards will ever be outdated. If you are a business owner, always carrying an up-to-date business card is a must. In fact, you'd even be hard-pressed to find an internet entrepreneur that doesn't regularly distribute business cards.

Keep reading to discover some effective internet advertising ideas.

advertising ideas

3 Effective Online Advertising Ideas

It has never been more important for business to maintain an active web presence. Regardless of who your demographic is or what line of business you are in, people in your target audience use the internet.

Be sure to implement these internet marketing strategies:

1) Blog – A blog is a chronically updated website that can be used to share information about upcoming sales, business information, etc. Consistently updating your business's blog content can increase your client base's familiarity with you and your products. In addition, if you learn to blog efficiently you can actually use strategies to target those looking for business in your niche.

2) Social Media – Unless you've lived under a rock for the past decade, you are more than familiar with social media platforms; Facebook, Twitter, etc. These websites are some of the most popular today. They receive insane amounts a traffic. Do your business a favor and set-up accounts on these popular social media networks and incorporate social media marketing as part of your advertising strategy.

3) YouTube – A lot of people lump YouTube/videos in with social media. While this is appropriate, I like to point out the effectiveness of videos on their own. By creating enjoyable video content relative to your business, you can attract tons of business. This is especially useful if you operate an online business.

I hope you find this blog post on today's best advertising ideas.

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