Friday Sep 07, 2012

Exposed: Fake Social Marketing

Emperor has no clothesBrands and marketers who want to build their social popularity on a foundation of lies are starting to face more of an uphill climb. Fake social is starting to get exposed, and there are a lot of emperors getting caught without any clothes.

Facebook is getting ready to do a purge of “Likes” on Pages that were a result of bots, fake accounts, and even real users who were duped or accidentally Liked a Page. Most of those accidental Likes occur on mobile, where it’s easy for large fingers to hit the wrong space. Depending on the degree to which your Page has been the subject of such activity, you may see your number of Likes go down. But don’t sweat it, that’s a good thing.

The social world has turned the corner and assessed the value of a Like. And the verdict is that a Like is valuable as an opportunity to build a real relationship with a real customer. Its value pales immensely compared to a user who’s actually engaged with the brand. Those fake Likes aren’t doing you any good. Huge numbers may once have impressed, but it’s not fooling anybody anymore. Facebook’s selling point to marketers is the ability to use a brand’s fans to reach friends of those fans. Consequently, there has to be validity and legitimacy to a fan count.

Speaking of mobile, Trademob recently reported 40% of clicks are essentially worthless, because 22% of them are accidental (again with the fat fingers), while 18% are trickery. Publishers will but huge banner ads next to tiny app buttons to increase the odds of an accident. Others even hide a banner behind another to score 2 clicks instead of 1. Pontiflex and Harris Interactive last year found 47% of users were more likely to click a mobile ad accidentally than deliberately. Beyond that, hijacked devices are out there manipulating click data. But to what end for a marketer? What’s the value of a click on something a user never even saw? What’s the value of a seen but accidentally clicked ad if there’s no resulting transaction?

shady salesmanBack to fake Likes, followers and views; they’re definitely for sale on numerous sites, none of which I’ll promote. $5 can get you 1,000 Twitter followers. You can even get followers targeted by interests. One site was set up by an unemployed accountant out of his house in England. He gets them from a wholesaler in Brooklyn, who gets them from a 19-year-old supplier in India. The unemployed accountant is making $10,000 a day. That means a lot of brands, celebrities and organizations are playing the fake social game, apparently not coming to grips with the slim value of the numbers they’re buying.

But now, in addition to having paid good money for non-ROI numbers, there’s the embarrassment factor. At least a couple of sites have popped up allowing anyone to see just how many fake and inactive followers you have. Britain’s Fake Follower Check and StatusPeople are the two getting the most attention. Enter any Twitter handle and the results are there for all to see. Fake isn’t good, period. “Inactive” could be real followers, but if they’re real, they’re just watching, not engaging.

If someone runs a check on your Twitter handle and turns up fake followers, does that mean you’re suspect or have purchased followers? No. Anyone can follow anyone, so most accounts will have some fakes. Even account results like Barack Obama’s (70% fake according to StatusPeople) and Lady Gaga’s (71% fake) don’t mean these people knew about all those fakes or initiated them.

Regardless, brands should realize they’re now being watched, and users are judging the legitimacy of their social channels. Use one of any number of tools available to assess and clean out fake Likes and followers so that your numbers are as genuine as possible. And obviously, skip the “buying popularity” route of social marketing strategy. It doesn’t work and it gets you busted…a losing combination.

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