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Are You Being Duped? Fake Followers & Click Fraud

Fake followers, or computerized social media accounts, and click fraud have been prevalent across social media since its genesis. Companies and individuals can purchase batches of followers comprised of fake accounts in an effort to increase social clout.

Some reports cite 48 million of Twitter’s active users and 60 million of Facebook's active users are automated accounts designed to simulate real people.

These fake accounts are designed to engage, like, comment, share, and retweet content. Fake followers and click fraud can sway advertising audiences, generate fraudulent revenue, reshape opinion, and interfere with years of built brand credibility. However, even with these threats, social media remains extremely valuable for companies in driving positive brand perception and increasing consideration and purchase intent. A recent study from Engagement Labs found that even “a small improvement in online and offline social performance can have a big impact on a brand’s bottom line.”

What Can You Do About Fake Followers & Click Fraud?

Brands, companies and individuals who have not purchased fake followers should not be overly concerned about fraudulent activity or large skews in social engagement. Fake followers need to be purchased by the user, and as long as you stay away from this trap, there is no immediate issue or concern as far as your own brand meeting ethical standards. We primarily see this as an issue when direct competition is overshadowing your brand with purchased followers.

Fake followers can still have an impact on brands by way of influencer partnerships. When considering influencers to represent your brand, the influencer should be carefully considered and properly vetted. This process will help the brand avoid paying to work with partners who use fake followers and spending precious media dollars on empty engagements, which don’t result in loyalty or purchasing power. Thankfully, there are platforms and methods to ensure influencers are being selected thoughtfully.

Several tools can help assess whether an influencer receives a high amount of fraudulent engagement. Before linking your brand with an influencer, the individual should be evaluated on influencer networks that asses the ratio of bot followers to real followers. Networks are always changing, however brands are currently leaning on platforms like Influential, Speakr and Captiv8 to provide a detailed analysis of influencers’ audience composition. Through a combination of detailed research and online tools, fraudulent followers can be detected and removed.

Avoiding Fake Followers: An Influencer Checklist

  • Ensure influencers sign a contract that dictates that any use of bots or a nondisclosure of bots will result in contract termination and void payment obligations.
  • Review influencer’s followers manually. Watch out for unusual usernames, liking / commenting on varied topics in multiple languages, extremely high follower counts.
  • Make sure to take the time to review influencer content manually to see if comments seem bot-like and out of place.
  • Keep a close eye on the rate at which an influencer gains new followers. Any large jumps in follower count could indicate that the influencer has purchased followers.

Avoiding Click Fraud

Click fraud is often carried out by competitors who are sparring for the number one ad spot. It can be done manually, by a competitor physically clicking on ads to drive up clicks, or through the use of bots. There are a few key indicators to look for to ensure your brand is not a victim of click fraud:

  • Watch for unusual spikes in clicks and pay attention to the ratio between clicks and conversions.
  • Measure visitor engagement on your site and trigger key performance indicators which will signal whether users are engaging with the site legitimately.
  • When looking at clicks and traffic, cross-reference with Google Analytics and look at every accessible reporting channel to monitor for fraudulent behavior.

What’s Next?

The jig is up for fake followers as brands and consumers are increasingly moving toward a model that celebrates quality over quantity. We think fake followers will become a concept of the past, but in the interim we recommend being proactive to protect clients, partners and ourselves from fraudulent accounts and clicks.

If click fraud and fake followers are of major concern to your brand, Room 214 can work with you to identify where to start, share benchmarks, red flags, and teach you how to use tools like Google’s Ad Traffic quality team to help detect fraudulent behavior and make sure your brand message is delivered to real people.

Related Resources

Facebook Algorithm Changes: What Marketers Need to Know

Interactive Digital Trends Report

How to Rescue Your Failed Influencer Program

Vanessa Kahn

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