In Facebook’s recent Community Standards Enforcement Preliminary Report, the technology company opened up about fake accounts on their platform and what they’re doing to counteract the problem. According to the report, Facebook disabled a whopping 694 million fake accounts between October and December of 2017. From January to March of 2018, the world’s largest social network disabled an additional 583 million accounts.
Expounding on their efforts, Facebook wrote, “In Q1 2018, we found and flagged 98.5% of the accounts we subsequently took action on, before users reported them. We acted on the other 1.5% because users reported them first. This number decreased from 99.1% in Q4 2017.”
While much of the recent headlines around deceptive social media accounts centers on fabricated news and political meddling, fake Facebook accounts have had an impact on the consumer world as well. For instance, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson warned his fans about Facebook pages imitating his likeness and fooling people into sending them money.
A-list celebrities like Johnson, who are able to charge seven figures for promotional posts through their official social media accounts, serve as inspiration for many online influencers. However, in an attempt to reach such prowess, some influencers purchase fake followers, likes, and views, to bolster their perceived social media numbers.
Earlier this year, The New York Times published an article exposing how “bots” are used to drive traffic and promote messages on a variety of social networks, including Facebook. Brands that work with influencers who engage in deceptive practices like bots can not only waste time and money, but they’re susceptible to compromising trust from consumers as well.
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Shuttering almost 1.3 billion fake accounts across Q4 of 2017 and Q1 of 2018, Facebook stated that bogus profiles only amount to three to four percent of monthly active users. In a post from May, Facebook said that many of the Q1 violators were disabled within minutes of registration. Still, many of the bots and scripts had “the intent of spreading spam or conducting illicit activities such as scams.”
In a parallel effort to hamper hate speech and other offensive content, Facebook is looking to double the number of people working on safety and security to 20,000 by the end of the year. Among them, 7,500 content reviewers from a variety of backgrounds will be recruited.
Additionally, Facebook has launched a trustworthiness scale as one among thousands of factors the platform will use to determine a person or account’s credibility. The reputation score functions on a scale from zero to one, and was developed to combat fake news and misinformation on the platform. However, not much more is publicly known about the assessment method at this time.
As Facebook and other social networks look to curtail the fake accounts on their platforms, brands engaging in influencer marketing need to stay vigilant as well. Not only do fake Facebook accounts, followers, views, and likes have the potential to negatively affect a brand’s reputation, these artificial metrics can lead to lower engagement rates, as well as a loss of valuable insights into a campaign’s performance.
Recent calls from executives like Unilever’s Chief Marketing Officer, Keith Weed, to “combat fraud in the digital ecosystem” have started a conversation about cleaning up fraudulent influencer marketing practices. A variety of other companies are in agreement, supportive of growing public awareness of the problem.
For brands looking to partner with influencers on marketing campaigns, it can be helpful to understand the signs of fraudulent activity. While there are ongoing efforts to detect fake accounts and followers through software solutions, working with a reputable influencer marketing agency who has strong influencer relationships and a track record of delivering campaign results is another option to avoid scammers and frauds.
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Like Facebook, other popular social platforms, including Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube, have been dealing with fake accounts and disingenuous social media activity. While hard numbers on fake Instagram accounts aren’t available, according to Google Trends, search interest for the term “buy instagram followers” handily exceeds inquiries for all other networks. On YouTube, manipulated viewcounts are purchased by musicians, authors, and other creators to help promote their work or make their videos appear more popular. While YouTube has been cracking down on the problem, a report by The New York Times found that at least some of these purchased views have evaded YouTube’s detectors.
Recognizing that the issue is universal, platforms, brands, agencies, influencers, and users themselves are growing more attuned to fakes. Even with the problem under some amount of control, fake accounts could be the bane of our social media existence.