Fake social accounts are proving to be a daunting challenge for marketers today. Right from fake voters providing loud opinions on political orientation, or obsessively re-tweeting about a single theme, there are serious implications around fake accounts. As per stats, there were 11% more fake accounts in 2016 as compared to 2014. This shows that the issue is escalating with every passing year.
Reasons for the increase in fake accounts
Sometimes, there might be a genuine need to create an alternative social media account. For instance, when a doctor wants to keep his personal life separate and doesn’t want to be inundated with ‘friend requests’ from patients. However, in such cases, there is no danger to anyone, and the intent is not negative. The real issue comes when fake social accounts are created with negative intent.
There are two key reasons why someone would take the effort to create and promote a fake social media account from an institution or a known influencer like a company CEO –
1 – Damage brand reputation
Disgruntled former employees or even angry relatives (like an ex-spouse) may create a fake profile on major networking channels to tarnish the person’s professional image. The scamsters use three key channels – Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter, to do the damage.
2 – Extract money via dishonest means
Unscrupulous people put up new fake accounts representing the chief executives of a renowned bank or financial institutions and then request for cash or wire transfers. They might even set up a fake website and re-direct users to the fake social media channels integrated within the site.
What can be done about this?
It is never easy dealing with this menace. There may be reactive measures applied upon discovery of the fake profiles by someone in your known network. However, a true measure of its effectiveness will be in proactively detecting these profiles and taking timely steps to counter this issue.
So while tips from employees, stakeholders, or family network might uncover the issue, the damage would’ve already been done by then. Experts recommend using intelligent cybersecurity automation tools like IntSights. You may see a site like “The HDFC Bank” or “HDFC Banks” which mimic the front page of the original “HDFC Bank”. The tool can detect duplication of a logo, visual imagery, and text searches to sift the real one from the fake ones.
Also, actual behaviour on the profile detects its genuineness. So, if you see a profile that has a large number of followers, but very less degree of engagement then it is most likely to be fake. Another telltale sign is racking up an insanely high number of followers in a matter of hours or days. These are red flags that bring out a fake social media site to the fore.
If there is a website that accompanies a fake social media profile, the genuine brand can intimate the domain registrar to cancel the fake site’s registration. The genuine brand will have a valid reason that the fake site infringes on its reputation and hence needs to be taken down.
As evident, the ramifications of fake social account are huge, especially when you are a marketer dealing with the accuracy of the data being tracked for monitoring marketing efficacy. These steps might alleviate the problem to some extent.