Is your partner faking it?


If you’ve wondered why more people don’t take up those offers of ‘1,000 Twitter followers for $1’ or ‘10,000 Facebook Likes for $50’, a recent Dispatches programme (on Channel 4 in the UK) lifted the lid on what those of us working in social marketing have known for some time – there are rogues out there!

Yep, there’s a growing micro-industry designed to satisfy our obsession with the most basic and crude social media measures. Just like the ‘websites from $1’ or ‘e-mail lists from $50’ deals, social media is prone to rogue services that deliver results but bear little scrutiny. The programme’s undercover reporting highlighted a number of concerns – most of which were just variations on traditional PR. The more concerning ‘revelation’ was how brands are boosting their Likes or Followers by using Like Farms (often based in Asia). On these farms, thousands of low-paid workers create fake profiles and click away to like a brand or artist in order to artificially give them a huge (fake) popularity boost. I doubt any reputable brand knowingly buys this type of vacuous activity – the brands highlighted had used self-proclaimed social media experts who had simply trawled the web for the latest jaw-dropping and unbelievable offer.


Although the sensationalist and undercover nature of Dispatches makes for great TV, it again risks leaving a perception that a whole industry is victim to bad practice. That said, the programme’s revelations to a wider audience may help to encourage thinking and strategic approaches to social marketing that we and our contemporaries take:

  1. Get smart about your measures. Likes and Follows are worthy but just one part of the story. Engagement, website visits and conversion should be there too.
  2. Have tangible commercial targets for social media. This will help to separate the wheat from the chaff. Only real fans will go on to fully engage and purchase.
  3. Expect there to be some degree of spam and fakery – it’s the internet and the web reflects life: good and bad. It’s the scale of this that needs to be understood.
  4. Work with an agency you trust and who can demonstrate real commercial value from social marketing.
  5. Don’t let the scaremongers put you off. The way we can connect and build relationships is changing for good. The rogues can be weeded out.
  6. It’s in the interest of Facebook, Twitter, YouTube et al to make their platforms as commercially valuable as possible – they’ll come down hard on fakery, but they’re just a bit slow right now.
  7. The number of fake accounts is put at around 7% – high-ish but it means 93% are real.
  8. Don’t confuse paid-for activity that engages directly with the platform with rogue 3rd party stuff. Paid for Facebook Likes and sponsored Tweets can be very effective.
  9. Follow Mashable for insights into the world of social media and marketing.
  10. If a service sounds too good to be true, it is!