A fantastic article was just published in the New Republic about click farms – companies that sell Facebook likes, Twitter followers and other types of fake social credentials to people and advertisers who want to appear more “popular”. The dilution of fake likes and fake profiles are making it less desirable to advertise on those platforms. And, it seems that there’s nothing that they can do to stop these from popping up. They are not illegal in the United States and certainly not abroad where most of them exist.
“Click farms undermine the assumption that advertisers can use the medium to efficiently reach real people who will shell out real money. More than $16 billion was spent worldwide on social media advertising in 2014; this money is the primary revenue for social media companies. If social media is no longer made up of people, what is it?”
It goes deeper than that. Click farms buy fake profiles from companies like Richard Braggs’ in the Philippines. Braggs employs about 20 people whose sole job is to fake profiles using a fake name generator, stock photos, and sim cards for phone verification. He has people working around the clock creating profiles, as well as a steady stream of fresh sim cards to pop in and out of cheap cell phones from the early 2000s.
Is this starting to affect Facebook’s and Twitter’s bottom line?
“If researchers are correct that advertising on social media leads to a high percentage of fake likes and fans and followers, the entire business model could be called into question by advertisers. What incentive do companies have to buy ads that target digital ghosts? “
Why It’s Hot
Clearly, click farms and fake profile generators effect both the perception and reality of the ROI for paid social. But, there are some potential implications which cast a wider net. An SEO’s job is to build trust and authority into our websites. As we know, social media clout and activity are huge ranking signals. If fake activity continues to harm the authenticity of a brand’s presence on social, might it also have a negative effect on the brand’s organic search rankings?