Social networks take your security and privacy seriously. That’s why they try to combat the spammy accounts by releasing features, like the recently launched impersonation feature by Facebook for reporting a duplicate account.
But, their algorithms still aren’t smart enough. Some fake social media accounts remain hard to spot. Like, the persona profiles created by businesses. Look at the stats below.
- As per Facebook’s 2014 stats, 5.5% to 11% of its users are fake. This includes duplicate, misclassified and undesirable accounts.
- Similarly, Twitter’s 2013 IPO filings reveal that the company expects 10 million accounts to be fake (came to around 5% at that time).
- Even the “king of social media” Bernie Sanders has 11% fake followers in his roll of 820,000 for his presidential candidate account.
These fake accounts mean a higher operational cost and lower growth for social networks.
But, do these “make money” and “diet pills” promoting accounts hamper your social media marketing campaign?
Whether accidental or purchased intentionally, inflated social network numbers crumble your brand’s online presence and restrict the effectiveness of your media marketing plan. Let’s look at ‘why’ such fake social proof harms your business.
Why are fake followers bad news for businesses?
If you attracted fake profiles to follow you (without even realizing it), then it isn’t your responsibility to weed them out.
Fake followers won’t interact with your brand’s social media posts. So, they cause lower engagement, lower rankings in the news feeds and lower conversions for your brand.
Worse, in a paid Facebook media marketing case study by Veritasium, fake profiles were found to act like a human, in order to avoid getting banned by Facebook.
This meant that these profiles were run by clickfarms in the developing world. And, they would like every advertisement that appeared in their news feed in an effort to appear legitimate.
Watch the video below to understand how fake profiles lead to burning your precious dollars while performing paid social media marketing campaigns.
Fake social network fans will tarnish your brand, clutter your following and damage your credibility. So, do the hard work to build a genuine social media presence and prevent yourself from a possible Facebook/Twitter penalty.
Here are the 4 essential steps that you can take to prevent your business from attracting fake social profiles.
Step #1: Evaluate the current performance of your social media accounts
A small proportion of your social media followers are fake. As we saw, even presidential candidates have many of them).
But, how do you find out if you’ve stacked up a significant amount of fake ones that are hampering your business?
One indication is that fake profiles won’t belong to your target audience. Hence, you can expect a lower number of comments and likes on your post. Indeed, you can forget interaction with your brand because 43% of fake Facebook profiles haven’t even updated their statuses.
But, what does lower social media interaction equate to?
If you see limited interaction and engagement initially (after the post gets distributed to the fake accounts), then the reach of your post is limited.
For example, the Facebook news feed algorithm serves content in its users’ feeds based on interaction received from the first few fans it serves.
Instagram recently announced that it’ll follow a similar algorithm.
Even real-time microblogging platform, Twitter, recently announced a new feature for showing you the best tweets first.
Ultimately, the poor reach as a result of fake accounts will lead to lower traffic and revenue from social media.
It’s tricky to pin down, because a good reach is subjective to your social media platform, your following’s size and your industry.
As an example, look at this Locowise breakdown of the organic reach of Facebook pages based on the number of likes.
And, here’s the industry-wide engagement level on Instagram.
A good benchmark that you can use is the engagement your competitors are getting, based on their content diversity and quality.
Step #2: Audit your suspicious social media accounts for fake followers
So, you found low engagement on one of your social media accounts?
You’ve probably collected thousands of fake followers.
Weeding them out is challenging, but it’s worth the effort to lift your performance.
Start by scanning your social media account with a relevant tool/strategy from the ones below.
1. Fakers App for fake Twitter followers – Enter your Twitter handle and authorize the app to access your profile and generate your Twitter followers report.
You’ll get a breakdown of your Twitter followers in these 3 categories – fake, inactive and good.
You can also check a competitor’s Twitter following for a better understanding of your performance.
The free tool will allow you to scan up to 8 accounts. It will also give you a few stats on your following – like the language your Twitter followers speak, the number of people they follow and their activity in the past few days.
You can also upgrade to their premium service to add the feature that allows you to manually blocking the fake accounts or auto-block them. And, you can even track your competitors.
You can also use Social Baker’s free tool for Twitter followers analysis – Fakefollowers (their margin of error is 10-15%).
It analyzes a random sample of 100 followers from your profile to give you a percentage breakdown of suspicious accounts.
It also gives you an option to block the identified spam accounts.
Get started by logging on to the IGExorcist website and granting access so the tool can scan your Instagram account.
Within a few minutes, you’ll get a list of your inactive followers. They are the accounts that you aren’t following back and they haven’t commented/liked your photos in the past 300 days.
You can choose to delete all of the inactive followers in bulk (at the rate of 2-3 seconds per user).
But, I would suggest that you to at least perform a quick scan before removing a user. The reason is that the app doesn’t acknowledge the time that a user has been following you. So, a recent follower who hasn’t yet interacted with your posts will show as inactive.
3. Find your fake Facebook fans with graph search – There isn’t an automated tool to simplify the process of finding fake accounts on Facebook.
If you have under a few thousand fans, then the friends/fans icon at the top of your page is a good place to start.
You can remove the doubtful profiles with a single click, using the ‘Remove’ button from the gear.
If you’ve crossed 500 fans, it’s cumbersome to look at all profiles manually. An easier way to find your fake profiles is via graph search.
Here are 2 stats on fake Facebook profiles to help you identify them.
- 97% of fake Facebook profiles claim to be females (as per a Barracuda Labs).
- Fake profiles are rampant in India, Bangladesh, Chile, Brazil, Pakistan and Philippines.
Find your fans from these countries by doing a graph search.
You can hire a freelancer to filter your fans from demographics that aren’t in your target audience.
Or, even combine various search queries (like interests, other pages liked, location of your fans and more).
4. Spot your fake LinkedIn connections manually – Similar to Facebook, you’ll need to manually find out your fake connections on the professional social network.
Here are 2 pointers to help you spot fake LinkedIn profiles.
- You’ll usually get LinkedIn connection requests from fake profiles out of the blue. And, the profile won’t have endorsements combined with a lower number of connections.
- They will either not have a picture or they’ll often use a stock photo as their profile picture. You can use a reverse image lookup tool, like TinEye (or even Google’s reverse image search), to uncover if the picture is present elsewhere on the internet.
Once you’ve recognized and collected a list of your fake followers on your suspicious fake accounts, you can to move to the next step.
Step #3: Report the fake accounts. If you receive no response from the social media platform, then ban them.
The easiest way to remove your fake fans is by reporting their accounts.
Let’s start with Facebook.
Click on the arrow on the upper-right corner of the profile and click on “Report User”.
Similarly, on Twitter, you can visit the spam profile and tap the gear icon to report a spam profile.
On Instagram, you can head over to a profile and “Report Inappropriate”.
And, here are the 6 steps that you need to take to report fake profiles on LinkedIn.
Again, a good media strategy for this is to hire a freelancer to manually find and report fake social profiles.
Since there are tons of such spam requests raised everyday from users, the social media platforms usually take time to respond. That’s why you can choose to take the next step…
Ban the fake profiles.
The tools I shared in step two will help you in banning fake profiles from Twitter and Instagram. Blocking a fake connection on LinkedIn is similar to reporting them. The limitation is that you can only block a maximum of 50 users.
Here’s how you can restrict and ban your fans on Facebook.
1. If your clientele is local, then you can restrict your page’s visibility on Facebook.
Head over to Page Settings >> Country Restrictions.
List the countries where you don’t want to show your page and click on the “Save Changes” button.
2. If you can dabble with HTML, then follow step #3 in this article for banning your fake fans.
Step #4: Double check the new followers that you attract from conducting giveaways and advertising
For businesses, overnight success equates to seeing a hockey stick in the analytics dashboard. That’s why you conduct contests and produce a (hopefully) viral video to achieve rapid growth as part of your social media marketing strategy.
While giving away gifts is a great media marketing strategy to get a massive following in a short period of time, it also presents a huge challenge:
You risk attracting a target audience that is interested only in the material gain, rather than your brand’s products.
That means that you should only give away products that genuinely interest potential customers, rather than giving away vacations and iPhones that interest everyone.
The right prize will mean attracting fewer entrants, but these people are more likely to be your target audience and, more importantly, potential customers. Let me give you two great giveaway and social media marketing examples, for attracting the right audience.
1. Marina launched a fashion blog and conducted a $300 beauty giveaway on Facebook to attract new fans. They got 17,800 subscribers in just 6 weeks!
2. A simple but effective media marketing technique, is to offer a free sample of your product as a prize, like NatureBox.
Besides the prizes, you can ensure that you attract a relevant, target audience within your media marketing plan by using the sophisticated targeting options while advertising on social media. Take a look at the granular targeting options you get on Facebook.
Pro Tip: Use third-party apps, like AgoraPulse, for conducting these contests. It requires that the user install the app and register to participate. The raised barrier of entry dramatically increases the odds that you’ll only get genuine fans.
Such apps even offer to identify and ban cheaters, by detecting their IP Addresses.
Consumers strive for authenticity. Fake social proof only makes for a good first impression, but it negatively impacts your engagement, social media marketing and brand image. And, it can lead to a penalty by the social media platform.
So, start by checking one social media account, using a tool or strategy that I shared in the article. And, consistently monitor your incoming fans from advertising and giveaways.
I want to hear from you. Have you analyzed your social media profiles and found a significant portion of fake followers and how did it affect your engagement? Do you know any other strategies to weed out fake social profiles from your following?