It is sad but true: In any given time and any given industry, there are always people who try to fool other people by not playing with the rules and faking numbers, KPIs, and metrics. It is no surprise that Digital Marketing is suffering from that and specifically Social Media. Especially that more and more big dollars are engaged.
Why fake followers, and what are they?
Imagine your business Social Media accounts with hundreds of thousands of followers. Imagine your business Facebook page with hundreds of fans liking this page only because your brand name is on it and because they don’t want to miss anything you would share! It’s Super tempting, right? Nothing is as tempting as fake followers. But to get there, you need tons of work, Creativity, energy, and some people just won’t go through all that and prefer the shortcuts.
Today there is nothing easier than buying fake followers for any social network. Whether it is Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram, all you need to do is google” Buy Social Media followers”. Hundreds of websites will pop-up offering fake followers and fake video views, fake engagement, and much more, starting as low as $2! You can even buy targeted followers with specific demographics, geographic location, and specific centers of interest too! Some of these companies offer a Follower Retention Policy and 1 Year Retention Guarantee! Companies that sell fake followers are becoming more sophisticated and regularly hire people to update these accounts, so they look just like real accounts.
These fake followers are nothing more than empty shells and shadows. They are fake accounts that have been created with the only purpose of selling their ability to follow someone else’s account. Unfortunately, some brands, influencers, and public figures fall into that practice.
How can you detect fake followers?
You need to answer this question: Where is the engagement coming from? Is it from the actual followers or from followers outside the account? If it is the latter, then it is very likely that engagement is just bought from the outside!
Suppose a brand or influencer is more local. In that case, posts are in a specific language, and the followers are mostly from another foreign country (sometimes not even speaking the posting language); you know what it means!
One way to guess if fake followers are involved is to look at the followers’ growth curve. For Facebook pages and accounts with natural organic growth, the growth curve tends to be a consistent line of follower growth. Accounts that have purchased followers can see the growth jump to crazy numbers overnight in a very unexpected way.
Do they help your business?
Buying fake followers, engagement, or views does not only not help your business, but it also harms it, and this is how:
- Your KPIs and metrics don’t mean anything anymore: You will not be able to tell if the awesome Social Media content you created and published was really successful! You will lose track of all the amazing data that Social Media provides you with regarding your customers.
- Real engagement rate will drop: As soon as you stop paying, all you bought will immediately start losing value. Fake engagement will stop, and fake views will stop. Real customers and followers may think that your product is not good anymore or out of fashion and will engage less over time.
- As soon as the social network starts to clean up the fake followers, you will see your following drop dramatically, and your “investment” go
- Focusing on vanity metrics: number of fans, followers, likes,..will prevent you from focusing on the real deal: the actionable metrics that actually can drive sales like clicks, using your call to action buttons ( call, fill a form, ..) and more
Fake engagement or following is even more of a problem than the solution. If you go for it and discover later that this was not a smart decision, it will be very hard for you and costly to delete the fake accounts one by one. Some companies decided to delete their former account after buying flowers and engagement. Nothing is real anymore, no room to grow, learn or know your audience since everything turned to fake!