Researchers recently found that there are 20 million fake accounts on Twitter, being bought and sold for outrageous sums of money. The study posited that the “Fake Follower” industry could be worth anywhere from $40 to $360 million. Facebook sees a similar epidemic of spam accounts with “likes” for sale.
Social marketers at big companies (and product managers around the office…Chris) buy fake followers to gain credibility, justify their social spend, and as a vanity metric. It makes a meeting with your boss a lot easier when you can say “we gained 100 thousand followers this week”.
As an analytics-driven social media manager, I have a hard time understanding the value of fake followers. They can’t boost my engagement metrics. They can’t drive traffic to my site. They can’t engage influencers or convert into leads.
But when your competitors are buying fake fans, you may need to explain to your boss why the disparity between your account and theirs is so large, and justify the difference in quality. There are several key indicators to focus on here, which you can find within your favorite Simply Measured reports.
Are They Showing Losses?
Facebook and Twitter regularly sweep their system to delete spam accounts. While 20 million spam accounts can’t be completely eradicated overnight, these accounts are deleted frequently, and the more fake followers your competitor has, the more the deactivation is apparent. This can be a stronger indicator than growth. Look for steep drops in a single day.
Are They Seeing Spikes?
If you haven’t looked in a while, and all of a sudden your competition seems to be crushing you on social, don’t despair right away. Look for massive spikes. If there aren’t any crazy initiatives on the brand profile that appear to have driven that activity, chances are they’re not legit accounts. In this example, we compared four real competitors in an industry, and the spikes for Competitor #4 demonstrate two distinct spikes that can’t be attributed to a social campaign.
Does The Engagement Fit?
In this same competitive set, we took a look at the engagement totals and engagement percentages for each company. Competitor #4, who’d shown signs of spam fan total, their total engagement doesn’t tell a story, but their “Engagement as a Percentage of Fans” tells you what percentage of their audience is interacting with the page. Across this industry, the brand is seeing drastically lower engagement as a percentage of fans than the other brands. This means a higher percentage of their audience isn’t involved, and a good reason to believe a large chunk of them are fake.
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