My son wants to use Facebook to raise funds for college
April 23, 2010 3:14 PM   Subscribe

I am asking this on behalf of my son. He has set up a Facebook Group titled something like, "If a million people join this group, it will help me go to college." His idea is, once he has a lot of people in the group, he'll have a URL set up with ads on it, which he can tell his group to click on. His question is: what's the next step? He doesn't have a bank account yet, he's not sure how best to stake out a URL, how to parlay clicks into his college fund, or if there are other, more effective ways to implement this. And I am of little to no help; what steps can I take to help him?
posted by not_on_display to Computers & Internet (21 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
He probably wouldn't get far with Google.
posted by Burhanistan at 3:16 PM on April 23, 2010

I'm pretty sure that any setup that works against the purity of a genuine ad click does fly very well. I know for sure that this is the case with Google, but I'm assuming that it's the case for other ad providers, as well.
posted by SpacemanStix at 3:18 PM on April 23, 2010

I just realized that I made some assumptions here that may not have been warranted, so if it doesn't include ad clicks, never mind.
posted by SpacemanStix at 3:20 PM on April 23, 2010

There's really no way to cheat this enough to get any significant funds for college. Advertisers are very much aware of false hits, and getting a million people to click on something will not earn him this "free money." (How many success stories has he run into?) I think this effort is a little misguided.
posted by Tequila Mockingbird at 3:22 PM on April 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

I would tell your son that it's a really good idea, but it's unlikely to make him much money. There are a couple of problems with his approach:

1. Pay per click advertising doesn't generate much money - think pennies per click

2. Therefore, the cost of hosting the web site and registering domain name are likely going to mean that he doesn't even break even

3. It's a cool idea, but in his peer group, there are a lot of people who are saving for college themselves

4. The "million people" groups are already so stale that there are tons of people who ignore them

5. Without a bank account, how can he deposit the checks that he gets from the advertising? It costs a lot of money to go to one of those check-cashing places

6. There are skeptical, selfish dudes out there who will see the group and think, "Why would I contribute money to send this guy to college?" If he was disadvantaged, maybe, but if he's a middle class kid, I don't know if you can work the charity angle.

7. Many computer savvy young people now are using Firefox / AdBlock or changing their hosts files to reject advertising in the first place

Like I said, it's a good idea, but the implementation comes up short - if he has a product to sell, this could work, but PPC advertising and SEO techniques have become so common that the margins are really low - the volume you need to turn a profit is massive.
posted by Despondent_Monkey at 3:24 PM on April 23, 2010 [2 favorites]

Is he planning on getting people to click on an advertisement link, or on a page that may contain advertisements that those people might click on? As people above have said, the former is counted as defrauding advert revenue folks, while the latter is the intent of ads. Here is Google's AdSense Help site, and the AdSense blog with more handy links and info.
posted by filthy light thief at 3:29 PM on April 23, 2010

This sounds borderline fraudulent to me. The advertisers will figure out what's going on--if there's one group that can recognize scammers, it's advertisers. I would strongly recommend that he does not pursue this.
posted by salmonking at 3:32 PM on April 23, 2010

From reading the plan as proposed, I don't see how the plan would work, but I will assume this is a very young child, so kudos to him for at least trying to think outside the box.

Can he use his FB group to advertise other things, though?

For example, can he write a story, ebook, whatever, and put it on ebay. Make it obvious that it is written by a child with the goal to go to college. Or maybe he can make a craft and put it on etsy. If he has a decent size group, he may get a hit or two and someone may buy something he creates or makes. So he can use his FB page to tell people about his projects.

I don't think that he will fund college this way, but maybe he will slowly learn what he can sell/how to sell, etc., and that experience is woth something. Maybe he can eventually pay for his college books
posted by Wolfster at 3:34 PM on April 23, 2010

I'd suggest something more along the line of a blog with the Amazon affiliate program; he can use the Facebook page to recommend books/music/video games/whatever, provide Amazon links, and earn a small percentage of any sales that it generates. Blogger accounts are free and have ready-made Amazon affiliate tools.

He might not make a red cent, but he at least he would learn about e-commerce and blogging.
posted by bgrebs at 3:36 PM on April 23, 2010

This is click fraud.
posted by anon_for_this at 3:45 PM on April 23, 2010

The plan as stated is unlikely to work, but it's a good opportunity to learn something.

A few things to start with:
0. He needs a savings account so he can start saving for college, or something.
1. Breaking the problem down: How much money does he have to save for college? If he gets 1 million people to join his group, how much does he have to make off each of them to reach his goal? How many ad clicks of views will that take?
2. Why advertisers pay money out in the first place.
posted by Good Brain at 3:50 PM on April 23, 2010

In terms of the advertising plan, the real problem is that he would have to get the audience to go there consistently. He doesn't have to rely on clicks; he could sell ad space on a CPM (cost per thousand impressions) basis, using the demographics of the people in his group as a selling point. CPM advertisers don't necessarily care why the eyeballs are on the site, as long as they are the correct type of eyeballs.

So the real issue becomes, how will he get those people to become website regulars? And the answer is probably that he is going to have to put something on the site besides ads. But perhaps if he spins the facebook group right, he can get its members interested in whatever that site becomes... say, a blog about raising money for college.
posted by bingo at 4:03 PM on April 23, 2010

Get him a bank account, a lawn mower, and some free time. Then thoroughly explain to him how we pay for college - it's not paid in a lump some in cash if you can't afford it, you will qualify for several loans, choose a school wisely, and explain the difference between loans and scholarships and grants. It's a crime that most high schools don't really address the college funding issue in a serious way.

In other words, there are no miracle solutions left in social networking. Those days are over. Start saving money.
posted by Think_Long at 4:04 PM on April 23, 2010 [17 favorites]

If he has a standout skill that he wants to develop in college, and he is very sophisticated about publicizing it, he might be able to set up some viral campaign whereby he gets thousands of people to give him very small amounts of money for college via Paypal, but it won't work with ads. This will only work if he is REALLY unique and he can tell a very compelling story, that's good enough that people naturally want to tell all their friends about it. It will have to have a clever gimmick, donation matching, whatever. He needs to think fundraiser and not ad fraud.
posted by slow graffiti at 4:06 PM on April 23, 2010

I would tell your son that it's a really good idea

I'm trying to think in what bizzaro world this could be considered a good idea. Because it's not. It's a terrible idea.

There's almost zero chance (for a multitude of reasons already mentioned) this will ever work. It's just going to cause a lot of resentment about a kid wanting to sit on his butt and watch the money roll in while others are busting their ass to make it.

The only good thing is you'll never have a better chance to teach him that shortcuts rarely work.

(I'm not saying that if he had a brilliant idea he shouldn't sit on his butt and watch the money roll in, but this isn't that idea.)
posted by Dennis Murphy at 4:49 PM on April 23, 2010 [8 favorites]

I agree with bingo, help him find a part time job.... it is the realistic way to encourage him....
posted by HuronBob at 5:14 PM on April 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

Maybe he's thinking of the orignial the Million Dollar Homepage, wiki link to the original one hit wonder Probably the first and last time that this idea worked.
posted by limited slip at 5:43 PM on April 23, 2010

Most advertising suppliers prohibit people from telling their readers to click on ads. Exhortation can result in clicks being invalidated.
posted by rhizome at 6:10 PM on April 23, 2010

2. Therefore, the cost of hosting the web site and registering domain name are likely going to mean that he doesn't even break even

Those usually only cost a few dollars, maybe only $10-15.

But yeah, it's pretty unlikely that 1 million people will join this group, that's one out of every 300 or so people on face book. Why would they care? He probably won't get more then his friends joining up. After Save Karyn lots of people tried doing the same thing, and none of the them got the publicity needed. After the million dollar homepage got started, there were tons and tons of clones, but as far as I know no one else ever got popular.

Setting up a group doesn't seem like it will attract much money. If he wants some, he should try setting up a facebook game or some other application that people will actually enjoy working with.
posted by delmoi at 8:04 PM on April 23, 2010

filthy light thief
"Is he planning on getting people to click on an advertisement link, or on a page that may contain advertisements that those people might click on? As people above have said, the former is counted as defrauding advert revenue folks, while the latter is the intent of ads."

To clarify: He wouldn't be telling his readership to click on the ads linked to on his URL; rather, he would just be telling his readership to go to his URL/blog/whatever, where the ads would reside. It would be up to each reader whether or not to click on an ad. He's interested in the CPM type of advertisers.

However, in any case, he's already come to to terms that getting a part-time job, a bank account, and a good academic profile is the best road to take to college.

He also thanks you all for the thought you've put into answering his question.
posted by not_on_display at 8:47 PM on April 23, 2010

When I went to college, savings in my name decreased the amount of aid I was eligible for. The published $$ cost of a college has little relationship to how much you pay due to financial aid. You should probably look into the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid), and how "financial need" is calculated. My parents were expected to pay a large but manageable chunk of their income. IANA college funding advisor, you might want to find one with knowledge of the rules. saving a few % on interest by having savings in the kid's name might not make up for the greater % that must be paid every year due to less financial aid.

If your son could provide some real value to clickers (some electronic art/media/creation that people actually want to look at for its own sake) that could attract readers...what he's talking about sounds scam-ish. Games are hard to program and the market is overcrowded. He should share what he loves.

For being a star student and possibly earning more financial aid, this advice from cal newport, an MIT PhD and author of a few books on effective studying is worth considering, along with all his other writing. Avoid the part-time job unless it's what the student loves or if it's needed for paying expenses.

Good luck!
posted by sninctown at 9:36 PM on April 23, 2010

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