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Social Fakers: What Do Numbers Mean these Days?

By: Guest | October 18, 2012 | 
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Today’s guest post is by Hessie Jones

All hail Facebook.

ONE BILLION USERS!

Quite a feat…or is it really?

As Zuckerberg pointed out,“We have this ethos where we want to be a culture of builders, right? We don’t want to overly celebrate any particular milestone.”

Wise words, Zuck!

Shortly after this momentous media celebration, the following article appeared, “Most of Facebook’s Billion Accounts Are Fake.”

This article suggests, although it didn’t reveal relative percentages, only a very small percentage of Facebook accounts were indeed “real people.”

In fact the article goes on to imply:

  • Nearly 168 MM bot accounts were created by Zuckerberg, dating back to 2004 to present day.
  • Most are fake accounts used to stalk, hide from others (spouses, parents employees etc.).
  • Another small allocation of accounts created for pets.
  • The rest are duplicates.

Facebook Fakery

This is not surprising considering the information that surfaced prior to this milestone. Mashable actually had a more favourable statement indicating only 83 MM Facebook accounts were indeed fake.

Facebook goes on to say, “….it bans at least 20,000 accounts daily and estimates about 600,000 accounts per day are compromised.”

Yeah right!

For a company that supposedly sets the social precendence for “ensuring” the preservation of community, as mentioned above, Facebook has more than revealed it’s culpable in the very things it’s staunchly declared to defend Facebook users against. It looks like Facebook doesn’t have world domination after all.

Fake Numbers Mean Nothing

We were always led to believe social media success rests on the number of fans/followers; the number of views/impressions a piece of content generates as it carries across an ecosystem; and the number of positive mentions, ratings, and reviews.

But as we’re seeing, numbers are very easy to game. This article from Whats Your Tech notes, “In a new report, study and survey from U.S.-based Barracuda Labs, analysts say fake social network profiles are at the centre of a vibrant and growing business.”

Barracuda Networks says the underground economy consists of sellers or dealers who create and sell thousands of fake social accounts; and the abusers who buy followers or likes from these fake accounts to boost their perceived popularity, or to sell advertising based on their now larger social audience.

I did a quick search for “buy Facebook likes.” The results showed more than 600,000 URLS linking to services that promised things such as:

Companies such as Get-LikesGuerrillr, and SocialBuzzer are the beneficiaries of this pent-up demand. But services like these only fuel an increasing advertiser coup to stop purchasing ads on Facebook, questioning the true reach and visibility.

In response to this, Facebook has admitted it has started eliminating fake Facebook Likes, “…caused by compromised accounts, deceived users, malware, or purchased bulk likes.”

Top offenders included Texas Hold-em Poker, which lost 96,000 likes; Rihanna lost 28,000; Shakira 26,000; and Lady Gaga dropped 34,000.

There is Hope

For years, Twitter and Facebook have touted the value of the number of fans or followers. Today, that has proven to be a fallacy.

Ev Williams, co-founder of Twitter indicated recently, “The thing I think would be more interesting than followers is… retweets,” clarifying a simple measure of followers “doesn’t capture your distribution…the dream metric is how many people saw your tweet.”

This result, as some other journalists have speculated, came about because of the increasing attention to fake follower-for-sale accounts. Twitter is playing this cautiously because they’ve always advocated the follower count as a highlight from the beginning.

I think they’re on the right path and are equating the movement of a message to how many views it receives, how many people share it and how many interact/click it. I argue social needs to go further and track true message consumption in order to identify “fake retweeters.”

But that’s another story for another day.

My only hope is these underground practices will not ruin what value social has built up over the last few years. That would be truly sad.

Hessie Jones is a marketer, digital media strategist, speaker, blogger, and podcaster. Her experience with companies such as Ogilvy, Yahoo!, Absolut Vodka, LCBO, 3M, Adidas, CIBC, Lexus, Esso, Jugnoo, and Overlay.TV, has resulted in performance-driven programs encompassing direct marketing, database management, sponsorship marketing, loyalty/CRM, social, and evolving media.

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59 comments
marknicholson
marknicholson

I've heard many of those fake accounts belong to affiliate marketers...

3HatsComm
3HatsComm

FB - I've got friends who have accounts for their pets, though it's not like they do anything w/ them that would skew the works. Twitter is a weird creature; I've got more than one (work vs. play). But I would not consider them duplicate or fake accounts; different tweets, posts, RTs, almost entirely different audiences. Do you kick us off, ban these kind of accounts? IDK.

 

I'm right there w/ you @hessiej  on wanting to oust the real fakes - i.e. bots, plants, alternate life forms, sock puppets, even brands and businesses that somehow managed to get in as 'people' to be friended rather than liked/followed. And when you block the fake clicks, bogus RTs, sign me up. Faulty metrics are screwing the system; and hurting small businesses who get bamboozled into buying into this crap. The numbers are never gonna add up; but it is important to try to get them as close to right as possible - and always take a closer look. FWIW.

 

rdopping
rdopping

Dear  @SpinSucks  , I have not resubscribed and my Google Reader still picks up your new posts! Just FYI. I must be special or something.

 

 @hessiej I really enjoyed this post but it leaves me a little sad. I am not a social media giant but I  proud of the connections I have in the small community I am part of. To think that most of my "followers" are fakes makes me sad so I will bury my head in the sand and plod on.

 

Of course if I notice a fake out there I will certainly hurl rotten digital tomatoes at it. That's some scary stuff!

JonAston
JonAston

I think the shittiest part is that presumably "leading" PR firms and/or Brands are willing to pay for fake likes. Check out Shell's FB page for a glaring example. If marketers wouldn't pay, the black market wouldn't exist.

jennapettinato
jennapettinato

@ConstantChanges @samfiorella @ginidietrich If ppl begin conversations with "do you see how many followers I have!?", immediately tune out.

hessiejones
hessiejones

@PhilTsang1 Thanks Phil! Appreciate it!

hessiejones
hessiejones

@martinwaxman thx Martin! I like you worded that! I just hope ppl put less emphasis on the volume of fans/followers when it comes 2 social.

hessiejones
hessiejones

@VoxOptima @Nugenmedia thanks for the mentions:) Happy Friday!

hessiejones
hessiejones

@T_Burrows thanks Tim! Appreciate it! @spinsucks

capricat22
capricat22

@T_Burrows Hey there! Did u get through all your emails yet?

hessiejones
hessiejones

@TedWeismann thanks for the mention Ted! "Peeling back the onion" is right! Social Fakers is so easy to come by these days.

AntonsMaris
AntonsMaris

@LigitaBrodina nujau kāds tur ir safantazējies. :)

josiecino
josiecino

@belllindsay gonna check this out later :)

hessiejones
hessiejones

@belllindsay I like the title - so much more palatable than the first one:) @spinsucks This calls for a drink:)

stevenmcoyle
stevenmcoyle

I'm ashamed to report that I am in fact "friends" with a few pets on Facebook.

KenMueller
KenMueller

There is always someone looking to game they system, and it's sad. I do two things. I report fake accounts when I see them ( and I know of two on Facebook that I've reported, and have been shut down, much to the chagrin of some local business people), and I also educate my clients to avoid all of these scams. The only way to really stop them is for people not to use those services.

 

And it's not just on social media. there are now reports coming out that some of the "undecided voters" at the last debate were not really undecided and were plants. Not surprised. It goes on all over the place.

hessiej
hessiej

 @rdopping  I was as surprised as you were, frankly. I don't necessarily think most of my followers or yours, for that matter, are fake. But certainly there is direct correlation with the larger number of you have, the higher the incidence of fakery. Social media was meant to be niche. There is huge engagement in the smallest and tightest communities. Marketers these days are trying to scale social and fast and that has led to this supply and demand "buy fan" market. I hope it goes away now that FB and some of these suppliers have been called out. But honestly, as long as there is a willing buyer....

 

hessiej
hessiej

 @JonAston That speaks to my point above Jon. Lazy marketers who need to get immediate performance to prove that social works will do anything just for optics and short-term rewards. To think I used to be one of them.

martinwaxman
martinwaxman

@hessiejones I agree - otherwise we just fall into the numbers game, which sounds good but doesn't account for outcome

belllindsay
belllindsay

@hessiejones HAHA! Love you Hessie! :) @SpinSucks

SpinSucks
SpinSucks

@hessiejones @belllindsay As long as Lindsay feels better I'm down...might have to be a Google Hangout or Skype drink though!!

hessiej
hessiej

 @KenMueller What's scary to me is the fact that it's increasingly hard to separate truth from fiction.  Even Twitter bots are hard to figure out. There's a fine line between bot and spammer and I call them both out immediately.

 

 

hessiejones
hessiejones

@martinwaxman btw, we're due for a coffee right?

hessiejones
hessiejones

@martinwaxman I guess it comes down to the "right numbers" that result in the outcomes we seek. The hard part is properly linking the two.

capricat22
capricat22

@T_Burrows Wow...ur doing a great job!! ;)

hessiejones
hessiejones

@belllindsay get better! I wish I had a magic wand so we could just "wish" it all away!

belllindsay
belllindsay

@SpinSucks @hessiejones Oh God, I wish. I'm nowhere near ready for that. Thinking about bed already. :(

hessiejones
hessiejones

@SpinSucks @belllindsay I'm down with that! Lindsay!

martinwaxman
martinwaxman

@hessiejones We sure are. Maybe next week or early Nov?

capricat22
capricat22

@T_Burrows Ha! Ur probably right though. O-O

T_Burrows
T_Burrows

@capricat22 Mind you... I do belive I need glasses now as a result. Oh and printer toner.

belllindsay
belllindsay

@hessiejones SOON!! Let me fully recover from this flu. But yes. Soon. ;)

hessiejones
hessiejones

@belllindsay OK, you and I need a looooong drink together! When are you up to it?

belllindsay
belllindsay

@hessiejones Just a magic wand! Make all our troubles go away! :)

hessiejones
hessiejones

@belllindsay ok now you're being vague!

belllindsay
belllindsay

@hessiejones Me too. Wouldn't that be great, in so many areas of life...? ;)

hessiej
hessiej

 @KenMueller  @Danny Brown  @belllindsay Danny, Ken has a point. I can't wait til' Harper's term ends -- although unlike US rules, Canadians can vote a politician in multiple terms.  If Romney wins, God help you and God help the world!