Don't fake a following, it's not worth it

In the stampede to build reach on social media, the temptation is there to invent a fake fan base, but how wise is it to cut that cyber corner? We asked two APAC experts to give us their authentic opinions.

L-R: Mahesh Neelakantan, Paul Mottram
L-R: Mahesh Neelakantan, Paul Mottram

Participants

Mahesh Neelakantan, chief operating officer, Advocacy
Paul Mottram, managing director, Asia-Pacific, Text100

How bad is the problem of fake followers? Is it a problem?

Neelakantan: As long as marketers continue to obsess over ‘reach’ rather than ‘rich-engagement’, it is here to stay.

Mottram: This is a common practice in China and it is a problem. The fake-follower problem is due to a focus on superficial KPIs and lack of accountability for real results.

Why use fake followers in marketing?

Neelakantan: If you tend to agree with the any of the following four reasons: you think that you’re smarter than everybody else so "they’ll never know"; you are deceptive and make no apology for it; you have low self-esteem; you’re a fraud — not a brand.

Mottram: Where there is demand, there is supply. Under-pressure marketers love to see and show outstanding data. If client KPIs are not reasonable some agencies will buy fake followers.

Is it ever in the brand’s interest to do so?

Neelakantan: The only reason to use fake followers is if the brand knows it doesn’t have what it takes to be able to draw a real following. If that is the case, it would be better off fixing its product first.

Mottram: It’s never in a brand’s long-term interest to buy fake followers. Regrettably, in the short term it can create a sense of momentum.

Are there long-term consequences, or do fake followers simply augment real followers over time?

Neelakantan: Consequences include being found out and losing all credibility; a drop in engagement levels; being a victim of fraud; and the account getting banned.

Mottram: No. Buying fake followers is similar to telling lies and creates a vicious cycle of needing to tell ever-bigger untruths to gloss over previous ones.

How can you easily identify fake followers or the accounts using them?

Neelakantan: There are many applications that can help you filter and audit your following.

Mottram: It’s relatively easy to tell if an account is fake or not by monitoring its posting frequency, interactions, and personal information. So there’s really no excuse.

What are some examples of using fake followers poorly or cleverly?

Neelakantan: Any use of fake followers ranks as a poor one.

Mottram: Lots of brands use fake followers, some cleverer than others.

This article originally appeared in the March edition of Campaign Asia-Pacific

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