Fake Followers are Useless
Fake social media fans. They're a plague that have long eaten away at the legitimacy of many major brands on Twitter, Facebook and Yelp. Following Facebook's announcement in early August that they would be tightening security on the network, thousands of duplicate profiles, profiles for animals and spammers have suddenly disappeared from the network. Some business pages lost hundreds of thousands of likes overnight as a result of the new standards. While we can't speak for every brand, we're glad that Facebook is taking a step towards making social media more of a network we can trust, and here's why:
1. It Filters Out the Spammers
According to Facebook's own estimate, around 1.5% of all members are objectionable and were created with the sole purpose of disregarding at least one of Facebook's Conditions and Agreement Terms. In layman's terms, that means they're spammers and Facebook is actively working to shut them down as soon as possible. Treatment of these problematic members is pretty harsh once they've been asked to leave - if your account is permanently disabled by Facebook, you have to formally request permission before you can return.
2. It's Better for Business
Facebook's recent actions really aren't about picking on anyone - not even the companies who have lost nearly 200,000 in the past 48 hours. It's more about keeping Facebook a trustworthy platform for companies, according to the network. Gartner research analyst Brian Blau states the network is just trying to stop Facebook from becoming a ghost town of fake profiles and spam.
3. It Even Protects You
Even if your company has earned Facebook likes the hard way, through really innovative social media campaigns or outstanding visual content, there's a chance you, too could see a dip in followers over time. BBC Technology Correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones ran an experiment back in June 2012 to see just how many fans he could earn for a fake business page titled "Virtual Bagels" through Facebook advertising. He gained 3,000 followers in 4 days, a large percentage of whom were apparently fake consumers from outside the US or UK with little activity other than following brands.
These fake followers won't purchase your product, comment on your content or share statuses within their own networks. They offer no value other than adding some "legitimacy" to your brand. While your percentage of fake followers will largely depend on where you've targeted ads, the good news is that brands who haven't actively purchased likes shouldn't see a significant loss of likes in the coming weeks.
4. It Protects Consumers
As humans, we're wired to rely on word of mouth. In our digital age, social media reviews count big. A study by University of California, Berkeley found that restaurants noticed an increase in reservations with just an extra half star rating! Due to the fact that social media reviews work, some companies have turned to offering rewards for positive ratings or even more concerning - paying professional reviewers to leave fake, glowing comments. Gartner research has estimated that by 2014, a full 10% of online reviews will be fake. The Facebook network has always been a community based on real, verified identities - something difficult to prove and maintain online. If the social media network manages to make it difficult for companies to hide real feedback, it's going to protect consumers from purchased feedback.
5. Social Media Can Become Currency
Marketing visionary Seth Godin has long-predicted that social credibility may matter more than cash in the future: "Debit cards will be tied-in directly to your social media accounts. Loan approvals will be dictated by your Klout Scores. Yes, this is the beginning of the end for the dollar as we know it."
It seems the future is closer than we think, particularly following the mid-September announcement that Bank of Americas would be partnering with the US government and the National Business Stimulus Association to start working on a plan in which small and medium-sized businesses could use their social media reach as a substitute for cold hard cash. Companies who were struggling to repay loans could maintain positive credit just based on their sheer number of followers.
The announcement was exciting, but it left quite a few of the smartest marketers we know, including Dan Moyle and Marcus Sheridan, downright puzzled. It was an unfortunate reality that social media followers just wasn't a sufficiently reliable metric to cash in on. If a company needed an additional 5,000 Twitter followers to avoid action on a defaulted loan, what was going to stop them? If Facebook's steps inspire Twitter to similar action metric, we're excited to watch as social credits become increasingly value. Maybe in the future, you can eat a Facebook like!
image credit: stuart miles/freedigitalphotos.net