Building a following on social media is a tough gig. It takes time and an awful lot of effort. Quite a while back I observed quite a disturbing trend that recently appears to be getting some mainstream media attention. Fake Followers!
What are Fake Followers, why should we worry about them and how to identify them. Believe it or not, it is possible to buy “fake followers” for many social media platforms. They typically appear in the form of ‘bots’ — robot or automated computer programmes to be more specific. These programmes can be written to create fake social media accounts which can then generate a revenue for the creator by using these accounts to follow other ‘real’ accounts for a fee.
The technology behind this activity can be vast and typically involves wiring numerous smartphones in a a collective often reffered to as a ‘click farm’. For as little as $6, it is possible to purchase thousands of followers on social media.
It is worrying if people (especially those that may be younger or more vulnerable) could be tricked into thinking that someone is more popular or influential that they actually are. The consequences can be dire in extreme circumstances where somebody might be left feeling inadequate if they can’t reach the sorts of ‘follower’ numbers that one of their peers or other party might appear to be garnerning.
Worse still, could be the consequences of someone following somebody else (due to their apparently high following) ownly to find themselves lead into some form or path of trouble.
It can be quite depressing also for people who are genuinely busting their guts to build social media channels only for some third party to suggest that their numbers are weaker than another especially in circumstances where that ‘other’ is in fact buying their following.
It’s usually fairly easy to spot a fruad — and yes, it is a form of fraud for sure as the act of buying fake followers is setting out to deliberately deceive or defraud a market or audience. There are tools like Social Blade which can help you spot the fakes. Visiting this website, and entering the details of the social media account you want to check out, you’ll be able to see a graph of their online growth.
Typically someone who has grown organically will have a slow steady curve whereas you’ll likely see an erratic spike or spikes for those accoutns that are cheating. This is guide more than a rule though as there could be other factors at play. A random television appearance could potentially give someone an unnatural spike in traffic so it’s important not to condemn somebody just because of what you think the graph is telling you!
Another way to verify whether or not the followers are real is to click into them and see how many people they follow, follow them and also what are the usernames and how do they relate to the profile of the type of person you think would be most likely to follow the account that you are concerned about.
The final and most obvious sign of fake followers is a scenario where someone has a couple of thousand followers (or more) but only appear to be getting a handful of likes and/or comments any time they post something. Typically there’s a fairly high ratio between followers and likes. If someone isn't getting at least 20% the number of their followers in ‘likes’ on Instagram then there’s a good chance that their followers are fakes. This is by no means an exact science but it’s a stat that I’ve observed regularly over the past year or so.
What should you do if you spot an account with lots of fake followers? There’s nothing you can do really as this is not an area that comes under any obvious current legislation in itself. So this is probably a question of morals more than anything else. Personally I think it’s important to try and avoid engaging with an account that has fake followers because doing so is only going to facilitate the deception further.
What are your thoughts on the phenomenom of “Fake Followers”? Let me know in the comments below!