Questionable Facebook Tactics at Work to Promote Upcoming Summit

It appears a new business summit is deploying some of the very techniques it hopes to teach to reach the masses about its inaugural event.

The ads have been abundant on Facebook and through GoogleAds for the Sky Sprout Summit, a two-day digital marketing conference hosted in Columbus July 16-17, 2019.

The website and video have the look of an established event that is coming to Columbus: 1,000+ attendees, 20+ sessions, 2 days – not one that is being hosted for the first time.

The Sky Sprout Summit is hosted and financed through entrepreneur Nick Francis’ digital marketing agency, Sky Sprout. It’s the first business conference for Francis and his company and a departure from the kinds of live event clients they typically work with. Previous event experience has been in the entertainment industry, including haunted house company 13th Floor Entertainment Group, Great Room Escape, Dahlia Nightclub, Seven Nightclub and Rare Magic.

Tickets for the inaugural event went on sale Friday, March 15, but thus far, concrete details about major facets of the event have been limited.

A ‘Sponsors’ tab on the website directs visitors to fill out a form about being a sponsor for the Sky Sprout Summit. No additional sponsors are listed. Francis says sponsor info, like speakers, will be announced over the coming weeks.

Only five speakers have been confirmed for the event, which according to an online agenda, includes five keynote presentations and various other panels and discussions on Facebook ads, event marketing, ad buying and more. Current speakers include:

  • Nick Francis – Sky Sprout Marketing & Sky Sprout Summit Organizer
  • Drew Murray – Drew Murray Magic
  • Zachary Traxler – Traxler Printing
  • Alexander Rogers – Facebook Community Leadership Circle Team Lead
  • Emily Smith – Pelotonia

Francis says they are keeping the tickets at a very discounted rate until speakers are announced. As of Wednesday, March 20, a two-day Summit Pass is $499, a discount from the original $999, and VIP passes are $699, discounted from $1199.

The Metropreneur first learned of the Sky Sprout Summit through a Facebook ad on March 7. Further investigation found ads and posts for the summit linked to a number of pages. Event ads for the Sky Sprout Summit are running through two pages, Columbus Buzz and Sky Sprout, with posts heavily featured on two others, Business Buzz and a verified page for Nick Francis, organizer of the event.

Taking a closer look at the followings and posts of these pages raises questions about their legitimacy.

Columbus Buzz and Business Buzz are listed under the category of ‘Media/News Company’ pages, but neither link to external media/news websites. Columbus Buzz has nearly 4,500 ‘Likes’ with the oldest post on the page appearing to be from March 8, 2018. Business Buzz has just over 5,300 ‘Likes’ with a slightly longer history – the oldest post dates to February 24, 2017. Comparatively, The Metropreneur’s Facebook page was launched in 2010 and has nearly 4,300 ‘Likes’ and 5,000 plus ‘Followers.’

When asked, Francis confirmed that Sky Sprout owns and manages the pages.

“We are running ads to these pages and posts so that we can build valuable, long-term assets that can be used for our future business ventures and our clients,” Francis says. “All of our pages that we run, especially my own personal page, we use to test lots of out of the box tactics.”

Francis’ verified page has over 103,000 ‘Likes’ and ‘Followers’ and comparatively low engagement – most posts teasing out the Summit have a handful of likes. A similar discrepancy exists on Sky Sprout’s page with exactly 94,439 ‘Likes’ and ‘Followers’ each at the time of writing. (The number of ‘Likes’ and ‘Followers’ on a page are rarely the same.)

For comparison, currently reality TV star Nina West’s Facebook Page is in the 8,000s. Jeni Britton Bauer of Jeni’s fame is in the 7,000s, and local author, vlogger and public speaker Amy Landino has amassed over 31,000 ‘Likes’ and 32,000 ‘Followers.’

When asked about the discrepancy, Francis said, “We also ran these campaigns to prove how ineffective focusing on the number of page likes is. Since Facebook decreased the organic reach of posts I encourage all of our clients to focus on bottom line KPI’s and not worry about vanity metrics like page or post likes.”

It may be one thing to not worry about vanity metrics, but Facebook pages that appear to have inflated numbers can lead to questions of legitimacy – the opposite of what any business would want for their Facebook page. While Facebook certainly has declined the organic reach of page posts, high likes with low engagement is a red flag for either purchasing ‘Likes’ or having a large number of fake followers.

When asked if purchasing followers was one of the tactics used, Francis responded “No.”

For more information, visit skysproutsummit.com.

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Susan is the editor of TheMetropreneur.com and associate editor of ColumbusUnderground.com, and also covers small business and entrepreneurial news and the food scene in Central Ohio. Susan holds a degree in Communication with a minor in Professional Writing from The Ohio State University. She sits on the board of the Central Ohio Pro Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists and loves coffee, whiskey, cooking and spending time with friends and family.