In an era where your following is a billboard of your power (or influence), our weakness has become our overwhelming desire to keep up appearances.
A recent Gartner study found that,
“10-15% Of Brands’ Social Media Fans, Likes And Reviews Will Be Fake By 2014…About 1%-4% of social media interactions being paid today. “
But, why? Is there any real power behind the fake following of political campaigns and big brands?
I. What Social Media Users Think About Your Fake Followers
A recent LinkedIn discussion generated this question,
“Is buying Twitter and Pinterest followers a bad idea?”
The question received over 300 comments. The general opinion: quality, over quantity. While some die hard spammers argued, “zero likes = zero reach,” the rest of us paused to answer, “fake likes = no authentic reach.” I put in my two-cents worth with the following,
The conversion of fake followers is zero. With the increasing use of social tools to detect fake followers, you’re putting your brand at risk to be unveiled as a fraud. The ability of this to negatively impact your brand’s appearance is much higher. If your goal is to increase your reach, then produce authentic value. Consumers flock to value.
So, let’s it break it down further.
Is a Fake Social Media Following Good?
A following count is a statement of a brand’s power, and as such, a large following may represent an authority in the industry. Those with a large following may also gain more followers due to this interpreted power. Although purchased followers may not buy anything from the brand, their presence may convince others to buy.
No, a Fake Social Media Following is Just Plain Ugly.
The conversion of fake followers is zero. Legitimate power is about quality over quantity. Shortcuts don’t normally yield stellar results. Bought traffic provides little value in terms of engagement with your brand. Fake followers can ultimately hinder your organic following ratio; since your numbers will be inflated with artificial followers, your overall engagement numbers will be low. This practice violates the terms and conditions of both Twitter and Facebook. Social networks will inevitably devalue your account because of your actions, which also creates the potential for your account to be removed. This increases in the likelihood of your brand losing trust in the industry.
The ultimate lesson? Organically grown followers are your best pursuit.
II. Is Your Competitor Using Fake Followers?
A good rule of thumb for detecting fake followers on Twitter, is to evaluate if the ratio of following:followers. If the ratio is equally matched, then it’s likely this user is using bots to gain followers. For example, which following appears to be more authentic?
I hope you chose the the bottom image.
III. The Regulation of Fake Followers
While the social media space is largely unregulated, at some point consumer organizations are going to start weighing in. Gartner predicted in its study that,
In the next two years, at least two major Fortune 500 companies will find themselves under investigation by the Federal Trade Commission in the U.S. over fake ratings and reviews. There has been a precedent here: in 2009 the FTC said that positive reviews posted without full disclosure of compensation (if it’s there) can be prosecuted as a case of false or deceptive advertising.
Therefore, it is in your best interest to start building an authentic following, and to do it now.
Since over half of the Internet population is active social networks, it’s a good idea to get your brand established on these networks. However, using a fake social media account will ultimately cause a PR fiasco for your brand. If you want to build your voice as an authority in the industry, the best way is to consistently provide value to your consumers.