Social media and digital marketing is an ever-growing industry which many believe is overtaking more traditional marketing campaigns. It’s no wonder therefore that using platforms such as Facebook and Twitter for the purposes of gaining attention is common practice for both start-ups and established brands. You may have noticed that the majority of sites come equipped with a social media counter widget to show in plain view just how many people believe their brand to be reputable. But did you know that many of these supposed likes could come from falsified fans and fanciful followers?
There are a few ways of faking your followers; the first of which is buying Facebook likes. All you have to do is type ‘buy Facebook likes’ into Google to find a list of companies offering such services. They provide social media package deals for as little as $27 and claim to market your sites to ‘real’ people until you achieve the desired number of likes for your page. One of the many problems with this is that there is no way of knowing whether the service is genuine or not i.e. whether the accounts are indeed ‘real’. An episode of Channel 4’s Dispatches called ‘Celebs, Brands and Fake Fans’ looked into such sites and revealed how many were so-called ‘click-farms’ based in Bangladesh which used fake Facebook accounts to generate likes.
In researching this phenomenon, I came across one hugely illegitimate site which generated an amass of likes in just a few simple steps. All you have to do is type in how many likes you would like along with your site’s url, then hey presto, it creates a fake button with your lucky number. I also found a blog which gave instructions on how to falsify Facebook followers using an app. Then there are sites which offer unholy amounts of followers for free, which use bots to increase your social media presence.
This all seems terribly unethical don’t you think? Yet even big stars such as Diddy and 50 Cent, and big brands such as Pepsi and Mercedes have been accused of using ‘Burst campaigns’ in which they have purchased Twitter followers. Though unethical, this type of abuse isn’t quite as harmful as instances of Facebook hacking which have been highly damaging to the individuals concerned. An example of this is when Mark McAndrew decided to advertise his charity fundraising project through Facebook, paying a small amount each time someone clicked on his ad. The total costs of this added up to £10,000 altogether, yet he found that many of the half a million fans that the project had amalgamated were fakes. So, despite McAndrew paying for Facebook’s services, the charity obviously gained nothing from having hackers like the advertisements.
In August of this year, Facebook released a statement reaffirming its dedication to eradicating fraudulent likes, improving the site’s integrity systems and providing authentic pages. Yet with all of the fakery and practices which mislead consumers that I have described above still being in existence, is Facebook trying hard enough to dissolve this problem?
Image available under a CC License from Rosaura Ochoa.