The Business of Fake Followers in Social Media
Are you promoting your company on social media?
If your answer is YES then you have probably received many offers to get more followers, more likes…more and even more.
There is a great temptation BUT is it really an effective approach for your company?
How does it work?
Let me take a minute to provide a small reminder for those who don’t pay attention to these offers. Some websites specialise in the business of fake followers in an attempt to increase your social presence. The competition for popularity, initially reserved for Facebook and Twitter, has recently been extended to all other social networks. You can now buy +1s for your Google+ circle, Views on YouTube, or Likes on Instagram and Pinterest. What is their main argument? “Nothing attracts a crowd, like a crowd”.
Many websites such as the one described exist and they also broadcast their attractive offers via private messages or Twitter accounts. They will even follow you to catch your attention. You can get new followers/likes on Facebook for a few pounds or dollars which they use to sell it per pack. Here is an offer I came across that was selling YouTube Views:
The price depends on the quantity and on the quality (if the account looks real or not) of the fake followers. Sometimes, you also have the option to choose the country of your future followers for which the price is more expensive.
Where do all these followers come from? Well it’s mainly ghost accounts. The easiest fakes to identify are those with few friends, few pictures or news on their timeline and seem to have a passion for one particular company. There are also some fake accounts that are more complex and more difficult to identify.
The extent of the phenomenon
A new report from two Italian security consultants, Andrea Stroppa and Carlo De Micheli, estimates that there are now as many as 20 million fake follower accounts. Some companies claim they can make $1 million in one week and can create up to 100,000 new Twitter accounts in just five days. And this is just some data for Twitter. Imagine the amount if we sum it up for all social media platforms!
On the other hand, it’s clear that many companies (large and small) buy or have bought fake likes/followers but it’s difficult to estimate how many have done this because nobody wants to confess.
Some social media sites like Facebook have started to crack down on fake fans and accounts. This has become such a problem that you can now find tools on the internet to check how many of your Twitter followers are real and how many are fake. This website for example, calculates the percentage of fake followers that you have.
There are some limitations to such tools. For example, there may be real people who have joined Twitter purely to follow others. Also, some fake accounts can be difficult to recognise and the tool may not pick up on these. For this reason, the tool should only be used for estimate purposes.
Purchasing fake likes/followers is a big mistake
Social media is often seen as a difficult avenue for companies to handle because they are required to be transparent on such sites. They have to interact with their customers or prospects in front of other users and in some cases, they could be receive negative comments. With the business of fake likes/followers, they will not have this problem. You may even get lovely comments from fake accounts and some companies don’t even bother updating maintaining their social media pages because know that they can have hundreds of likes within a few seconds?
Some people defend this practice by saying that it is a good way to get your page noticed initially because more the more likes/followers/views you have, the more you will attract others. In my opinion, I don’t think people are that naive. If we take the example of a restaurant; although you may be drawn to it if you see lots of people through the window, if the food isn’t up to standard, there is no reason to come back.
Without the "quality" factor in your strategy, your social media offering will be of no interest to anyone. Your followers are looking for added value, a platform that allows them to get advice, access to promotions or stay up to date with the latest news at the company. But with fake followers, this point is completely ignored.
In reality, you really can build a trust relationship with your followers but relying on fake likes/followers is a bad way to start. Companies like Orangina were criticised for such practices which brought negative publicity. This is very difficult to recover from.
Having more followers doesn’t necessarily entail strong engagement. You can easily find how many people are talking about your Facebook page i.e. people that are commenting, liking or sharing your social media content. This is the real value of your social media and without this, your efforts will be in vain.
Finally, don’t forget that one of the main rules in marketing is to identify your target market. Where is the target market in a crowd of fake followers? It also means that all the tools available on the social media platform, whether statistical or promotional tools (for example if you want to promote a post on Facebook) will be totally useless.
To conclude, social media has fallen prey to some companies determined to sell you more “exposure” with the wave of a magic wand but this has no benefit for your real followers which in turn impacts on your business. Maintaining an engaging social media plan is not easy but it’s still the best strategy.
By Anais Meyer