After reading an article in the New York Times published last week titled ‘The Follower Factor’ it has been uncovered the extend to which celebrities, businesses, politicians, scientist and many other credible figures across the world are working with social media companies to enhance the volume of followers with fake accounts. This article highlights the key facts surrounding the scale of this internet fraud and the implications this can have for consumers and businesses.
The so called social media company in question, generating these fake Twitter accounts is called Devumi, who sells followers and retweets to anyone who wants to appear stronger online and more influential in their industry. A Times article discovered that these fake accounts are not just being fabricated out of thin air, they are taking profile photos, locations and a lot more personal data from established authentic accounts. Essentially stealing users identities and duplicating them.
A CNN article estimated that from Twitter’s 48 million active users almost 15% are the mirror image of authentic accounts but are actually automated fake accounts known as bots. This isn’t limited to Twitter, Facebook themselves disclosed that around 60 million accounts are fake and also being used to generate audience volumes behind any social interaction (like, follow, share, click).
From a Consumer point of view:
Now this news has become mainstream hopefully Facebook and Twitter will work to put measures in place to identify these bots and remove them; Facebook seems to be doing much more work verifying accounts compared against Twitter but hopefully the change is coming after this increased publicity.
Highly recommend if you receive any new followers on any social media platform to review their account to see if they seem suspicious then block them, more blocked accounts will raise red flags to get these fake account positively identified.
From a Business point of view:
Addressing the marketers; ensure the internal or external partners managing organic and paid social media activity know exactly how they work to generate followers and other social media engagements. Are these means genuine? Are there any products on the market that can assist in this verification process. Ad verification is a huge topic in digital display advertising over the past few years and ways of measuring ad viewability, ad fraud and brand safety have only just begun to surface across some social media platforms.
Scientific training teaches you to have a critical eye, to not always take the ‘successful’ results of a new study published at face value and question the study design, to discuss potential confounding variables. It seems now as a consumer we need to apply this same level of critical thinking to our social media accounts; before you decide to engage with a source that might seem credible just looking at the volume of followers alone isn’t enough.