Wednesday May 7 2014

Losing millions in fake fans on social media


By Didas Kisembo

Lately, reaching high social media numbers has become cause for celebration. Many a time, you will hear of a social media party somewhere in town.

Adulations from fans, long winding speeches from brand executives who are proud that more people are aware of their product and rewards to delighted social media account managers often make the evening’s agenda.

Little do they know that the costs they incurred in the run up to achieving their target figure – on salaries to media managers, prizes to woo fans and the party itself – may never equal the price they will pay for not being critical with the nomenclature of the fans they have gathered in their social media space.

Their belief in harpooning large numbers of likes and follows is premised on the guarantee that popularity, exposure, a big customer base and above all greater engagement with the public would push their brand forward.

The thing is, it would. However, there is a catch. For one to grab many likes and followers, their brand or profile has to be attractive and appealing enough. If you have been playing ball on the social media arena, you know that making a page alluring is not that easy.

“Business owners are not taking time to analyse what is going on in the social media. Their prime focus is on numbers, numbers, numbers,” explains Micheal Niyitegeka, the Vice Chairman of the Board, ICT Association of Uganda.

It is against this backdrop that businesses whose profiles are now struggling in the social media election – which has become so heated – are opting to use underhand methods to grab as many persons as they would.

For this to happen, social media managers who are paid fairly well and given high performance targets – let’s say raise 2,000 likes on Facebook in a month, are being employed to drive the numbers up.
This deliverable pits them between a rock and a hard place and in most instances with one way out – to generate fake likes. For that to happen, they have to become click farmers.

Exploring click farmers
Click farmers are people whose goal is to achieve high social media following by liking so many accounts that also like back.

They achieve this through a process called seeding. When using click farming sites like or, each page they like generates seeds. The more seeds one has, the more likely his or her page will be liked and followed too. The seeds are like a currency, the more one has, the higher their purchasing power.

The other mode, is payment for a given fee – say $100 (about Shs250,000) per day, one can buy 1,000 likes. So you have a 1,000 plus unengaged fake fans who like hundreds of other pages, and never come back to engage with the brand after that first like.
Using social media analytics sites like or, it is easy to determine just how many fake accounts are following or liking a page.

In most instances the targeted engagement is the locally based fans. However, when a page has about 30 per cent of its following from its home country and the remaining 70 per cent are from elsewhere, then there is cause to worry.

The negative effect of these fans is obvious. A brand with fraudulent fans will potentially be handicapped when it comes to organic reach. Posts made on its social media platform will attract little or no engagement.

Yes, many persons do get to see the posts made on the page but there is the question of interest and engagement. Social media experts argue that the latter should come first.

“For building publicity and an audience, it would help but in as far as enhancing the business brand is concerned, not a chance,” says Dorothy Kyamazima, a social media analyst.

This is a potentially systemic problem that needs a larger fix, but there are some real changes in tactics and strategy that brands can employ to counteract these effects and increase their performance.
In 2013 for example, Facebook estimated the number of illegitimate accounts at 83 million, representing 8.7 per cent of its 955 million active accounts. This year, the social media giant announced it is purging out of spammers and pages with distorted engagement.

As for Twitter, a 2014 report from Twopcharts revealed a massive problem with Twitter; approximately 44 per cent of its 974 million users have never tweeted and 30 per cent of Twitter’s accounts (292 million users) have only tweeted one to 10 times.

Only 13 per cent of all accounts (127 million) had tweeted over a hundred times. Those dismal numbers paint a dramatically different picture from the 241 million “active” users that Twitter claims. As such, the company has instituted a page,, where one’s follower base can be verified as to whether it is real or not.
So for businesses, it is essential that before even a penny is dropped, you make sure it’s your target engagement that you’re paying for.