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Facebook Cracks Down On Fake Likes

Can't Buy Me Likes

Social media, like school or democracy, is fundamentally a popularity contest. Particularly when it comes to promoting your business online, the more followers and likes and retweets that you have the better you can be said to be doing. Everything – brand awareness, sales conversions – feeds on the basic requirement that you are constantly growing your online presence.

Despite the wealth of information on this blog on how to succeed at social media, some unscrupulous businesses resort to the pernicious practice of buying fake likes – a growing trend which Facebook was forced to directly address yesterday.

In a post on their security entitled ‘Keeping Facebook activity authentic,’ Site Integrity Engineer Matt Jones outlined the factors surrounding pages’ purchases of fake likes. As he pointed out, while fake likes may provide a short-term boost to a business’ ranking they ultimately damage not just that company but Facebook’s role as a place for people to interact with and be exposed to different brands.

Scammers sell fake likes to pages in bundles of thousands, costing as little as ten or twenty dollars per load. These fake likes come from one of two sources: either the scammers have set up fake accounts, or they hack into real people’s profiles which they then control. The former is simpler but more easily recognised by Facebook’s security services, while the latter requires more skill but can go undetected for longer.

Facebook uses a variety of techniques for determining whether an account is legitimate, ranging from its age to its patterns of behaviour; a two day old profile which is liking an apparently random assortment of pages will throw up red flags. With 1.3 billion global users and growing, however, it’s not difficult for an account to fly below the radar.

That’s why Facebook has now taken the fight directly to the scammers; the social media giant claims that it has won more than £1.3 billion in legal action against these scam artists. Unlike hackers trying to get people’s personal details or those seeking sensitive information from companies, the business model of those offering fake likes relies on relatively thin profit margins and immediate profit. That means that legal action is particularly effective, since there’s very little incentive for those responsible to engage in potentially costly court battles. 

What businesses which buy these fake likes fail to understand is that your social media profile isn’t a billboard, it’s a forum. Having plenty of people engaged is great because it means that you’re receiving all that feedback and gathering valuable data on what your customers need and want. If, however, you’re a yoghurt shop in New York who thinks that having ten thousand anonymous fans from the Philippines is a worthwhile investment then you need to seriously reassess your approach to customer service. Not only will having all those fake fans not improve your business in any meaningful way, it may even damage it; genuine visitors to your page looking to engage with you may be put off if they think that their voice won’t be heard.

The lesson here is an old one: quality over quantity. One genuine customer is better than a hundred fake fans. If you really want to buy people’s affection, try giving away a hundred dollars worth of your yoghurt instead.


Douglas is an English Literature graduate who has written about everything from music to food to theatre, now a content creator for Social Media Frontiers. No topic too large or too small. Follow him @DouglasAtSMF.

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Facebook Cracks Down On Fake Likes Reviewed by Douglas Clarke-Williams on Tuesday, October 07, 2014 Rating: 5
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