Facebook Has A Nigerian Problem With Targeting

By Guest Writer 

No, I didn’t receive an email from Princess Zuckerberg asking me to save her family fortune from the hands of the rebel forces. This is not the typical Nigerian 419 scam. In this version, Facebook is unknowingly misleading its advertisers about its vaunted targeting abilities. If you buy ads targeting the U.S., it is now very likely that you are getting traffic from Nigeria and other parts of Africa, as well.

These leads are unable to purchase your products or services because most merchant accounts and PayPal block these countries due to massive fraud claims. Facebook appears to be unaware that there is a back door into its advertising network.

Facebook’s advertising platform has come under attack since it was forced to gear up revenues for its Wall Street supporters.

Limited Run last year reported that 80 percent of clicks on Facebook advertising were coming from bots. Facebook responded by claiming that it was “fighting back” against this practice. Both Google and Yahoo paid multimillion-dollar settlements in response to click fraud charges, yet allegations have persisted.

Here is the reason you are buying Nigerian leads even if you are targeting and specifying the U.S. with your Facebook advertising: Airtel Nigeria has recently begun offering free Facebook connectivity to its subscribers without using the Internet.  Just by dialing *688#, the Nigerian Facebook user has free and unlimited access to Facebook.

Apparently, Facebook’s targeting does not detect Airtel’s Nigerian subscribers who click on ads and subscribe to lists they are interested in. But since they are unable to pay for the products or services they have signed up for, it is putting a drain on the advertisers’ accounts.

I advertise a fitness product called Just 4 Minutes using targeted Facebook ads. Prospects take surveys and enter their email addresses to get the results. In email exchanges with the prospects, my customer-support representative discovered that a significant number of prospects had email signatures “provided by Airtel Nigeria.”

She began questioning the prospects  aboutwhere they lived and discovered that significant numbers lived in Nigeria, South Africa, and Swaziland.  In the course of the discussion, most stated that they had clicked on ads they saw on Facebook.


Since the leads were collected by Aweber, my email delivery service, I wanted to check how many leads had come in with IP addresses indicating Nigeria, South Africa, or Swaziland.  Surprisingly, the answer was none.  A significant number of leads were from an “unknown” country.  It is possible that the leads coming from Airtel Nigeria are bypassing all Facebook detection.

The ads in the campaign targeted U.S. women, aged 25 to 40, who like various fitness or weight-loss programs on Facebook.

In one ad, which generated 1,168 leads, 20 percent came from outside of the U.S. In another ad, which generated 301 leads, 17 percent came from outside of the U.S.

In a moment, I watched my smart target marketing begin to crumble as I realized that I was paying Facebook for worthless, unsellable leads.  Some of my email prospects complained that they do not have credit cards and cannot purchase my product.

If you’ve wondered why your Facebook leads don’t convert, perhaps there’s a Facebook Nigerian scam in your bank account.

Readers: If you’ve detected any fraudulent clicks in your advertising account, please share your experience below.

Dr. Harlan Kilstein is the founder of Just4Minutes.com, a fitness program based on Tabata’s high-intensity protocols. He is also a well-known direct-response copywriter who helps people grow their businesses. He lives in Florida with his family and his Boo-jealous Pomeranian, “Kalba.”