Social networking, authenticity, relationship building– who has time for that? Apparently some businesses don’t. For those too busy to build their online presence naturally, appearing more popular, well-liked and respected is as simple as shoving out a few dollars. Forget about organic growth, peer recommendations, or trust building, the name of the game here is “more money more followers!” Through the purchase of fake followers, likes and bogus user accounts, a few companies are taking the short-cut to gaining a strong online presence.
Now if anyone reading finds this information disturbing, your not alone. Just recently, Facebook was on the hot-seat when it was revealed that at least 14.1 million of their 1.18 billion users were fraudulent. Yet it doesn’t stop there, Twitter was found to be a bigger culprit when Italian security researches Andrea Stroppa and Carlo De Micheli discovered that nearly 10% (if not more) of the 232 million active users are fake and for sale.
There has also been an increasing problem with fake clicks which are often hard to police. “Click farms,” the headquarters where black-market tactics take place, are selling their services for incredibly cheap, making fame more affordable and less credible than ever before. According to President and CEO of weselllikes.com, “the businesses buy the Facebook likes because they’re afraid that when people go to their Facebook page and they only see 12 or 15 likes, they’re going to lose potential customers.”
With that in mind, no longer is the number of Facebook likes or Twitter followers the most authentic representation of a businesses value or customer trust. Social networking and online marketing is becoming more complicated as some companies are willing to engage in questionable practices to unnaturally boost their name and reputation.
Social media is not going anywhere soon, partly because it still helps people connect and engage in ways previously impossible. There are plenty of companies out there that do respect social media by only employing ethical techniques. But with social sharing and online interaction on the rise, expect to see dishonest practices arise as companies fight to gain internet rank and anxiously look for ways to cut corners.
So what does this mean for us? Will these crooked tactics stand the test of time, or will they fall as quickly as they rose? As more people discover how susceptible Facebook and Twitter are to blackmarket schemes and exploitation, will consumers lose faith in these services and look to other networks as trusted sources? Many questions remain unanswered, and only time will reveal all.