At what price? Social media fakes are all, too, real

By Rachel Harner/ Social media pro

Sure, it’s impressive when you come across a social media site with a large number of fans, followers or “likers,” but what percentage of that number represents live people who are truly interested in the brand?

With the ever-increasing popularity of social media, brands are looking into a myriad of ways to grow their network and expand their virtual influence. Methods such as contests and fan exclusive discounts are regularly used, but lately, a more deceptive method has emerged: buying fans, followers, or likers. A recent Gartner study predicts that by 2014, some 10 – 15 percent of all social media reviews and engagement will be fake, paid for by the companies being endorsed.

All is fair in love and social media you say? Not true. Think about it this way:

It’s ineffective. Fake followers have zero interest in supporting, publicizing or purchasing anything from your company.

It leads to a lack of trust. The consumer has no way of knowing if a tweet, like or review is authentic or if the person is simply the social media equivalent of a walking sandwich board. This shows a lack of transparency. Plus, a huge increase in fan numbers in a very short amount of time may seem suspicious to a savvy consumer.

And finally, it could end up being a waste of money. Both Facebook and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) are cracking down on fake fans, “likes” and reviews. A 2009 FTC ruling held that paying for fake reviews is false advertising and may be prosecuted as such. Facebook’s security team also recently announced a new system for recognizing and removing fake “likes”.

Here’s what it boils down to: If your company chooses to buy fake “likes” or reviews, the best-case scenario is that your money is wasted because Facebook will systematically weed out newly purchased “likers” or your Facebook account may be shut down for violating Facebook’s Terms of Service. Worst-case scenario: your company is sued by the FTC for false advertising, resulting not only in monetary loss, but a huge public relations nightmare.

The bottom line is that growing your company’s social media network organically will result in a much more engaged group of fans who truly care about supporting your brand. Remember, it’s not all about the numbers.

If you’re curious to find out how many followers are fakes, spam or simply inactive, check out a new tool called Fakers.


1 Comment

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One response to “At what price? Social media fakes are all, too, real

  1. Mark Burrows

    I am a strong advocate of internet education, understanding and protocols. Since there are no real rules, everything is a grey area. I believe that a social site should be as it says it is. A site to socialize with friends, acquaintances, relatives, and make new friends. It should not be confused as a dating site or a match making site. It should not be used for profiteering, scams, or phishing. As you pointed out some commercial sites offer social sites as part of their makeup in hopes it will provide a community that will share the same interests, such a music download site. Paid members are aware of this and understand it. Yet the site is overrun by the free members who are limited to downloading public domain music, but they don’t even bother, they are there to tell you they are a citizen of the USA but now living in Ghana with their mom because their dad is dead and they want to fall in love you if you send them some money. Okay, that’s the Readers Digest version, but the scam is basically the same. The other popular one is the young woman who will be all sexy on webcam but you have to go to a site and enter in a special password, and it is free. Fat chance. It is not free, when you try to explain that they take your credit card number they say that is for proof of age. Using a credit card online is not proof of age, any teenager or child for that matter can provide the same information off their parent or older siblings card with simple ease. You might get 30 seconds free video, because in your eagerness, you don’t bother to read any very finely printer terms and conditions, and end up paying $35.00 a minute. For what? To watch a young woman prance around in her underwear? Oh by the way, you will never see the girl you chatted with, they are only sales staff. Look, if you want a relationship, then pay to join a reliable dating site that screens the applicants. Don’t think you will find your soul mate on a social site. Actually one of the nicest and more simple social sites is out of Argentina and is more supportive of the Latin languages of Spanish and Portuguese, but it also supports English. Yes, you will still find a few nuisance users there, but otherwise it is clean and friendly. It’s I have met several intelligent artistic people on this site that share many of my philosophies.

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