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usersIf you’ve been buying likes to make your brand look better on Facebook, be afraid. Be very afraid.

Because on December 21 last year, Facebook quietly added the ability to segment fans by region in the API it provides to analytics firms. Which means that social media monitoring companies like Socialbakers are finding all kinds of juicy oddities in the fan counts of major brands.

“We looked at airliners,” Socialbakers chief exec Jan Rezab told me. “For example, Lufhansa does not fly to Indonesia or Bali or Jakarta … but they have a lot of fans from there. And Pakistan is their number four fan country, and they also don’t fly to Pakistan.”

Twelve percent of Lufthansa fans are from Indonesia, Rezab said, and another eight percent are from Pakistan, meaning that a full fifth of the brand’s fans are from places the airline doesn’t serve, and never has.

Which isn’t exactly proof of fraudulent behavior or buying of fans. But it is a little suspicious.

In August 2012, Facebook estimated there were 83 million fake accounts. And the world’s biggest social network has already made attempts to cut back on fake likes and fake users, which resulted in some brands and celebrities losing over 100,000 likes in a single day in November, 2012. Unfortunately, the scammers have gotten smarter too.

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Of course, not all regional fan discrepancies are automatically cause for alert.

Over half of global consulting giant Accenture’s 157,000 Facebook fans are from India, but the massive outsourcing multinational also employs 80,000 people in the country. And only 47 percent of Obama’s Facebook fans are U.S.-based — which helped him beat out Mitt Romney in the social media presidential race — but he’s a global political figure and has global fans.

Massive regional oddities can raise eyebrows, however.

Regional fan counts also reveal marketing realities and opportunities. For example, Rezab mentioned that in the overall gaming console fight for fans, PlayStation 3 beats Xbox. But not everywhere.

“PlayStation wins globally,” Rezab said. “But Xbox wins in U.S., Canada, UK, Australia … essentially all the English-speaking countries, while PlayStation win in South America, Russia, France, Spain, and Germany.”

Social analytics firms have only just gained access to regional Facebook data, and not all of the three million Facebook pages that Socialbakers tracks have been updated with the new information yet. But Thursday the company will be unveiling a new social power ranking of brands with the most U.S.-based Facebook likes.

“This is the first time where you can actually see the US ranking,” says Rezab. “Before, it was cluttered with fans outside the U.S.”

photo credit: striatic via photopin cc

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