A recent TV documentary on Channel Four caused a stir in reputation management circles after some organisations were accused of taking part in “click farming” to boost the profile of their clients.
The Dispatches programme took itself to Bangladesh, where it uncovered businesses that offer fake “Likes” of Facebook for any business, organisation or individual that is prepared to hand over the cash. Using low-paid local workers on a pittance (often only 0.1 of a cent per click), it costs as little as 15 dollars to get a page “Liked” 1,000 times.
Some companies offer fake Twitter followers and fake viewers for YouTube videos. Others will even offer fake reviews for products, which we think stick out like a sore thumb and will only lead to woe for your organisation. The programme showed that some UK-based PR firms are prepared to offer clients the services of these click farms, which does nothing but bring the profession into disrepute.
Why is this important? It’s all down to the bottom line: More followers on Facebook and Twitter makes your product appear popular. More views on YouTube pushes you to the top of their charts and prods the clip higher on search engine results. This pushes more clicks your way, resulting in a greater chance for sales, and more income from carrying advertisements.
And one businesses skew the market by dishonestly buying followers, there’s the temptation for others to follow suit. The honest trader is then left behind and loses out on social media to people prepared to cheat.
According to research, a third of customers will check for reviews and high follower counts before making a purchase. If they don’t dig too deeply, a Facebook page with several thousand followers looks impressive but may be nothing of the sort.
Fake clicks have been around almost as long as the internet itself. As soon as people started selling online, fraudsters have tried to find a way to easy money. Fake social media clicks is just another one of these scams that may die the same death as the others once the likes of Facebook find a way to weed them out.
In the mean time, it’s wrong, and if your business is found to be cheating, its reputation could take a battering.