Why are you faking your online presence?
Before I get started on this one let me make one thing clear; I absolutely do not like or support anyone that cheats or fakes it online. It’s become quite a pet hate over the years and my subject of choice to rant about. So I was quite inspired to get my blogging groove on when I saw my friend Joel Comm do a live broadcast over several platforms a few days ago about unethical marketing tricks. And can you guess what was top of the list?
By cheat or fake I don’t mean those that are living the ‘fake it till you make it’ mantra. Those that make out they are way more successful than what they really are because in essence they are just projecting what they want and where they want to be. Yes, it aligns to a whole load of bullshit sometimes but so long as they aren’t demeaning others in the process or flat out lying then they aren’t that bad. Just full of shit.
The cheats and fakes that I’m talking about are those that buy likes, hearts, fans and followers. Those that position themselves as “popular” or “experts” or somehow of a higher value or worth than others based on their fake numbers that they’ve bought not earned. Those that claim to be influencers yet they can’t be influencing anyone given that most of their following is fake. Those that are landing brand deals and sponsorships that will only end badly when the brands get zero ROI or discover they’ve hired a fake and think that influencer marketing is a waste of time. Or worse still they realise they’ve actually hired a liability when their brand is outed for hiring a fake and some PR is having their job placed in jeopardy. This kind of stuff makes my job even harder, so I’ve every right to be annoyed at the fakers amongst us when they are giving my industry a bad name.
It also annoys me that for every faker that buys their popularity, there’s hundreds, if not thousands of others that work 20 times harder for a fraction of the rewards. The fakers need to stop. YOU need to stop supporting them and putting them on pedestals and the very platforms that they are defrauding by faking their numbers need to stop supporting them, kick them off and keep their distance.
Now I’m not about to commit career suicide and name names. Tempting as it is, I don’t have the time or the energy to deal with the drama fall out from it. I’ve actually got a real life to get on with and a real business to run and real friends to keep me amused, so I’ve not got time to waste on fake ass idiots. Plus I wouldn’t give them the attention they so desperately crave.
Life lesson number 1078 for you here guys and gals – When you knock someone off their pedestal they don’t tend to go quietly. Why? Because many usually have narcissistic tendencies and most believe their own bullshit. You know that line about those that tell their lies that often eventually they believe it themselves. Meet the online faker. They live in that lie and love it and they aren’t about to give it up without one hell of a fight. They kick back, make an awful lot of noise and often just gloss over the facts you are presenting them with. You see the truth has no value to the faker. It’s all about the popularity and stuff the honesty and integrity.
So rather than me throwing myself under the bus here, I’m just going to give you all the information you need to go find these cheats yourself. Naturally there are some sources that I need to protect, but for the most part all this information is readily available online and just a few clicks away. I’ll also give you some data stats of the actually numbers of some fakers accounts so you can see how they don’t add up and also see how those accounts are completely playing the system (and you too if you happen to follow them).
One other form of online cheat that I’ll touch on at the end (nice little hook there to keep you reading till the end) but not go too deep on as technically it’s illegal activity and that’s for the authorities to deal with, not me, but the rise of the online fraudster that’s garnering favour via social media to basically defraud you of your hard earned cash.
So where shall we begin…………….
The biggest culprits – Twitter, closely followed but it’s new baby Periscope. Seriously it’s a problem on there and they don’t seem in any hurry to deal with it. Instagram is bad too, but they do regular clean ups so it’s not as bad as it used to be. Facebook are like the champions of dealing with the fakes and very regularly delete tons of fake accounts and if you are caught being a buyer of fake likes on Facebook for your business page they will boot you off or just make sure your posts get next to no reach no matter how hard you try. YouTube has fakes and bots but because they are Google and their algorithms are pretty damn smart you tend to find that videos with fake views or thumbs up don’t rank very well.
Now you want to know how to spot these fakers. Ok, let me give you some facts. By the way, for those of you that haven’t read my about page or followed me all that much or you’re a faker lurking here to see if I’m about to drop you in it. Or although you think you know me you’ve never actually really paid that much attention to me, well I’m actually a qualified accountant and worked as a management accountant for 13 years culminating in being the head of finance for a really big global company before coming over to the dark side of online media. Numbers, data, stats are my thing. I get my geek on when I see a spreadsheet.
Numbers, unlike people don’t lie and can’t be argued with. They are cold hard facts. Some may be open to interpretation but most represent the truth. And because I’m good with numbers I tend to be able to look at simple data and know immediately when it’s not adding up right. Hence why I can spot a fake a mile off. The numbers don’t lie. Right, let’s get down to it.
How do you spot a fake on Twitter?
Really easy. Just go to TwitterAudit.com type in the username and you get a report back in a matter of seconds of the analysis of the users Twitter account. It breaks it down in to real and fake accounts so you can see the percentage of what is real. These reports aren’t strictly 100% accurate, but they are a pretty good indicator and will give you a good guide to who is faking it. But, every single account on Twitter will have some fake followers, it’s just the nature of the beast, but when you start getting below 80% real and the number of fake accounts is like 5000+ then you can be pretty certain that they have purchased followers. And it’s really easy to buy followers for like $5 so it’s not like these people are buying a fortune to play at being popular.
A couple of things to look out for on the Twitter Audit reports. Under the score you will see when the account was last audited. If it’s more than 6 months ago then chances are the information is out of date. If you really want to know someone’s true stats then it’s $3.99 to get the account re-audited. If you’re just being curios, then you probably don’t want to part with a penny but if you are a brand or a PR then that $3.99 could save you from looking pretty damn stupid.
When you do get a report, scroll down to the bottom and you will see the metrics of how it’s been determined which are fake accounts. This is mainly done on a scoring system so a 0 or 1 would mean the account has either zero or no recent activity. The scale goes up to 5 being an active and engaged user. If the audited account has a lot of 0 or 1 followers these would show as fake accounts, and are most probably correct. There are also accounts that the audit can’t decide on. These would be the 2’s. Some, limited activity but not enough to warrant being called an active user. Fake accounts can tweet, if they are programmed to. Just hooking them up to a feedburner account and have it tweet out everything that’s listed would class the account as active. It’s still a fake though because it can’t engage.
Another way of spotting a Twitter fake is by the levels of engagement on their tweets. If someone has say 40,000 (ish) followers, if that was an organic following then I would expect to see some level of engagement on every single tweet. When nothing is happening on every tweet then it’s a pretty good sign that the following is fake. After all a fake bot account can’t engage can it. It’s fake!
However, you can buy likes and retweets on Twitter so if you come across someone that has fake followers but they seem to be getting good levels of engagement on their tweets, here’s a little tip for you. Take a look at who is engaging with their tweets. If they get roughly the same number of likes per tweet on any given day, lets say 30 for example, take a look at who liked it. If the likers have a pattern on their accounts of pretty much liking anything and everything and the same with retweets, then chances are they are click farm accounts and apart from being able to engage, they are on the same level as fake followers. You’ll also notice that these accounts are made to look real, but on closer inspection they contain next to no information and are often just retweeting a whole load of random rubbish that seems to have no connection to the last retweet. Compare this activity to your own account. If you are using Twitter for business then chances are most of your likes and retweets are about business. If you use it to keep track of football then that is what you’ll be liking and retweeting. Do you see the pattern there? Don’t just take the numbers at face value.
Unfortunately active click farm accounts like this aren’t detected as fake accounts and are classed as real. This makes obtaining accurate data even harder hence why for brands and PR’s it’s important to take a closer look rather than just relying on the data at face value.
By the way, I ran an audit on the account with 40,000 (ish) following. It came back that only 5% were real. And this person markets themselves as an influencer and works with brands. Can you see how that would annoy many people? A so called influencer and brand ambassador who only has 5% genuine following! They are basically marketing to nobody when they tweet for a brand and getting paid for it.
There are many, many others just like this account. Look out for those that are putting themselves on pedestals, working as brand ambassadors, being supported by the actual social platforms, putting themselves on stages to speak about their success. Audit them. You’ll be amazed at the results. When you start seeing results of 80% and lower then ask yourself a) does that person deserve your support (the answer is no) b) how many genuine, hard working influencers are being done out of work because they aren’t cheating the system, c) the levels of honesty and integrity this faker has (answer there is zero). And then think about people like me who are tasked with finding influencers to work with brands and have to deal with this bullshit day in day out. A person is only popular or worthy of your support if their numbers reflect this. Remember, the numbers don’t lie.
Now there are a few minor flaws here. I have seen and know that some genuine influencers, (if you don’t know what an influencer is, for the purpose of this exercise they are blogs, vloggers, YouTubers and live streamers that work with brands) have been targeted by others with fake followers. I know it sounds malicious but some will stoop that low and they buy fake followers and put them on other peoples’ accounts. I know, shitbags. But it does happen, so that’s why it’s also best to get an overall picture of someone’s online presence if you have some doubts about their numbers.
Another tool to use is an app from Crowdfire called Stats that’s free in the app store. It shows you in line graph format the follower data (amongst other data available) for any account you want to view. A massive tell tale sign that someone has bought followers is a huge spike in the follow numbers that goes back to zero the day after. It makes the graph look like a triangle. Try it. It’s free. It’s also a great way to spot those that are using bots to follow and unfollow tons of people every day to boost their numbers. Strictly it’s not faking, but they will just follow anybody in the hope of getting a follow back. It’s just lame.
Ok, lets talk Periscope.
It’s owned by Twitter so they tie in nicely together.
By God, when they made Periscope they didn’t half create a breading ground for fakers. The follower and heart sellers are making more money than anyone actually on Periscope! Why broadcast when you can cash in selling hearts!
It’s also a little bit harder to spot the fakes on there as nobody as yet has come up with groovy software like Twitter Audit, but you can still spot them if you’re eagle eyed enough.
One great way I have found is to look at someone’s follow number and then see how many people actually turn up to watch them live. What I have noticed is that the higher the follow rate the lower the percentage of live viewers. So for example those with say 100,000+ followers are getting about a 0.1% turn up rate for their live broadcasts. That is absolutely shit. Like really shit. That makes Facebook reach rates look amazing, and anyone who knows social media knows all about Facebook reach rates and how bad they can be! Clearly they have gamed the system to a certain extent because why would so many people follow them and then never watch? Like never, ever watch.
Now correlate that to that broadcasters Twitter figures. Is there any relation at all or are they hundreds of thousands different? Did they have a following before they joined Periscope or did they literally appear out of nowhere? With the greatest respect in the world to those that have worked their buts off online for years, they will agree with me on this one. You don’t just appear and get that level of following. Well established celebrities don’t have that level of following. Fake Periscope followers anyone? Or just dull as dishwater, boring and nobody wants to watch?
Look at a different follower number, so around the 20,000 mark with over 20 million hearts. But usually less than 150 showing up to watch live. Really? They got that many hearts with that many people showing up to watch? Like less than 1% of their audience actually watch them? Really? So look at the Twitter, about 20,000 following there too. Ahhhhhhh but Twitter audit tells us that this person has a not very high percentage of real followers. Looking at their likes and retweets they’ve obviously engaged the help of click farms too. Now I don’t think I’m Sherlock Holmes here, but with an obvious fake Twitter following, fake likes and retweets and when you run it through Stats you see the massive spike of followers being added. I’m kind of guessing that their honesty levels are going to carry over to their Periscope so their integrity won’t be compromised by buying a few followers and hearts there.
I do find it quite amusing that someone with less than 1000 followers can have more viewers turn up live to watch a broadcast than someone with 100,000.
The best place to spot fake hearts is on the replay. From the ones I’ve seen on many accounts, the fake followers tend to give the exact same number of hearts, so you’ll see a pattern of several accounts all giving 2000 hearts or something along those lines.
There are several annoying factors here. Obviously the cheating faking thing. But I have noticed that many fakers are totally bigging themselves up as “top scopers” and some have even been featured by Periscope! Which then lands them brand deals. Obviously nobody in PR is fact checking. Amateur mistake!
I’ve listened to these people speaking at various events. They totally believe their own bullshit. Remember what I said at the start about the narcissists amongst us. Some are good at fronting it and hide it well.
When the Most Loved list was done away with on Periscope many thought this would be the end of the fake hearters. Wrong. It’s still going on and even today I saw a “top scoper” adding their fake hearts to their replay 2000 at a time.
Now I know that there are plenty of people out there with tons of screenshots of people adding fake hearts. I know because loads of people have shown me what they’ve got or sent them to me. But nobody speaks out because nobody speaks out against the popular clique. Remind you of the school yard much?
One other great and very simple way of spotting the fakes is to open a fake account yourself, buy yourself some fake followers, do a dummy broadcast, buy fake hearts, and then look at those fake accounts and who they follow. Bingo! A ready made fakers list. For the total sum of $10 you can get a lovely list of who is faking it on Periscope, and it makes great reading. You’ll also see the pattern of how to spot fake accounts on Periscope. The majority that I’ve seen tend to follow 40-50 people, have none or 1 follower themselves, 1 heart and no bio information. These fake account will be released in batches by their click farm owners so if you want a really good over view of who is faking it then you’ll need to purchase a few different batches otherwise many of the ones you see on your fake followers will all be the same.
And now for Facebook
Facebook in their wisdom realised a couple of years ago that they had a fake account problem. It was about the same time they started to cut reach for business pages. Loads of stupid business owners went out and bought likes thinking this was the solution to the reach problem. Wrong!
Most fake accounts, be it Facebook, Twitter or Periscope, come from click farms so they all have the same IP address. This was how Facebook identified them and just deleted and blocked. I have absolutely no idea why Twitter don’t do the same thing. They can easily identify the accounts so why not delete? Or is that something to do with the user numbers need to look good to help salvage the share price whilst it’s busy lying in the gutter? Anyway, I digress.
Facebook dealt with the issue and continues to do so, and every now and then business owners wake up to find their pages 100,000 fans lighter. The other thing it seems to do well is kicking people off for buying fans/likes or using a personal profile for business. All are against the T’s&C’s and I’ve seen plenty of people caught for it so I know that Facebook are on it.
But for the purposes of being fair to all platforms, the easiest way to spot fakes on Facebook is via the engagement. If a page has 100,000 fans and they are struggling to get a couple of likes on each post then chances are they’ve got a load of fake fans. Reach and engagement can be tough on Facebook but a couple of little scrolls should show you some level of engagement. If a brand was hiring you to do work for them on Facebook, if you’ve faked it they will know by your Insights report from there. As a rule, we as a business always ask for admin access to view Insights. We fact check first.
Instagram too (owned by Facebook) have a massive fakers problem. But they have taken steps to deal with this and they do regularly go through account culls and Justin Bieber loses a few million followers in the blink of an eye.
It’s slightly harder to spot fakes on Instagram but if you look at accounts closely enough then you can spot the followers and likers that have no bio, no followers and never uploaded a photo.
One way to spot an Instagram faker is by the number of likes they get on each photo. If, say for example they are getting very similar numbers, ie always between 1100 to 1150 then chances are they are fake, especially if there are very few comments. It is near impossible to get like numbers nearly the same every single day. There are too many variables that effect those numbers. And if the likes are fakes then the followers will be too.
Eradicating fake accounts is never going to happen, but we as users can make ourselves more aware of them and who we shouldn’t be aligning ourselves too for collaboration work. A faker can and will drag you down to their level. Don’t be one of those guys. There is no genuine reason for buying likes, followers, hearts etc. All it does is show the low levels of honesty and integrity you have as an individual.
And then we have the con artists
The flipside of all this is the rise (again) of the internet con artist. We seem to go through waves of this but I have noticed a few new methods being used of late. New technology is aiding the fraudsters and making it easier than every to con you out of your hard earned cash.
Now, again, guys and girls you need to be a bit more aware of who you are handing over your cash to. Stop being suckered by every sob story you come across. Stop using your credit card on Go Fund (Fraud) Me so readily just because you saw a Periscope broadcast of a person claiming to have 300 million illnesses and injuries or is sending aid to starving children that live on the moon. Really they just need you to pay for their next luxury holiday because they are too damn lazy to work a proper job because they figured out how to con people online instead.
Now don’t get me wrong, there are some amazing people doing amazing things in the world and it’s all being funded by the likes of me and you. But if you go and check them out you’ll soon realise that they are 100% authentic. You can find information out about them very easily. They use their real names and not hide behind screen names or Twitter handles. You see via their broadcasts and blog posts the work that they are doing. You are left in no doubt at all where that money is going. You will not get that level of transparency and authenticity with a fraud. You will not get your questions answered when you ask.
Stop believing everything you see and read online. If someone says they are a social media expert but their own presence is rubbish, don’t go buying a coaching programme from them. Chances are it’ll be as rubbish as their own standards and that’s if they deliver said programme in the first place. Check out people’s credibility first.
A great one that gives me endless laughs is those preaching business tips and advice and they don’t even have a business! They are job hopping from one to the next and working for other people. Or are even unemployed! Seriously, people, Google is your friend. You are smart individuals, that is why you read my posts (damn I just praised myself there) just Google people or the companies they claim to work for. Anyone can give you a long list of credentials, it doesn’t mean to say they are true.
A great quote I love from Maya Angelou that you can tweet out;
The Internet and social media is full of amazing, wonderful people. But it’s also a great hiding place for some very shady characters. Some just need your attention. Others need your card details to scam you. And some genuinely want to hurt you for absolutely no other reason than you cropped up on their radar. So to bring my question full circle;
Why are you faking your online presence?
Is it for the perceived (fake) fame, the attention, the adulation of having so many “fans” of being labelled as popular? Is it because you are in last chance salon and your hopes of making it in to TV are fading fast so this is your last shot to fake it till you make it (by the way, you won’t make it, but that’s just a heads up) or are you out to con a few dollars out of those you lure in to your web of lies?
Whatever your reasons may be, I don’t particularly care, but I do care about the people I know who are having to work ten times harder and struggling to pay their rent, because the likes of the fakes are cashing in. The people I know that are doing amazing work all over the world to help others, but are up against the “charity” fakers. That annoys me. What you are doing is unethical, immoral and in some cases illegal. And I sincerely hope that you are outed and damn soon.
And if you are a faker and you are outed because someone followed the instructions I have given, then don’t blame me. You’ve only yourself to blame.
If you also happen to discover that you’ve inadvertently aligned yourself to a faker then it’s time to protect yourself. Do not collaborate with them. Do not do business with them and certainly do not put any form of trust in them. Walk away and be proud to be a good, honest person.
Remember what I said about the narcissists amongst us.
Just to end on I would like to thank all those that helped me research this post and the vast amounts of data we poured over to be able to spot the patterns and spot the fakers. It was a labour of love and there were many times we all got very angry by the results we found. Here is my own Twitter audit to show you what a genuine one looks like. Are you brave enough to post yours?
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