Brands must play their part to help social media in the fight against fake

In recent weeks we've seen social media reach new levels of influence in society.

Keith Weed's firm action on influencers with fake followers is music to Drew Benvie's ears
Keith Weed's firm action on influencers with fake followers is music to Drew Benvie's ears

Instagram just passed one billion active users and introduced IGTV – think YouTube meets Snapchat (when everyone was on Snapchat), Twitter’s stock is at a record high, and Facebook has continued to rocket, even though it's come under fire in front of the odd senator or two.

Across the board, we’re seeing social media build an unprecedented platform for brands to reach their audiences and for the average consumer to build a brand of their own, too.

This, however, is where things have started to get messy.

Amid positive stories of social media’s ascendancy, there have also been negative ones, and the story of the moment is the new fight against fake.

Real online profiles are building hard-to-detect fake followings in order to appear more influential, while fake content is spreading through all parts of social media to promote its owners’ unsavoury causes.

A lot of the time, the content or people you trust aren’t obviously fake, and it’s all too easy for the untrained eye to be duped.

As I’m sure all PRWeek readers are aware, fake is just a cheap and tacky tactic that epitomises the race to the bottom.

But it turns out there are a lot of people who do try their hand, for obvious reasons, to get a positive review online for their brand, or from a personal perspective, look bigger and better.

There’s good news though. The social networks are leading the way in cleaning up this problem. And boy have they been busy.

Let’s look just at Facebook.

The social network said last month that it removed 583 million fake profiles in the first three months of 2018, in addition to 837 million pieces of spam. That’s 15 million removals every day.

Facebook says it will have 20,000 members of staff working on this by December. It’s fair to say Facebook has its hands full in this war on fake.

But there’s only so much media platforms themselves can do.

Brands across the board have a responsibility. They give out free products for review, publish digital PR with the aim of building a profile, and many pay social media influencers to make them look good.

And when done in an authentic and transparent way, this is without doubt the future.

So when I saw Unilever CMO Keith Weed announce at Cannes that the multinational company will be severing ties with any influencers who have built their profiles using fake followers, it was music to my ears. 

This is the model I have stood by since I started blogging back in the 1990s.

Yes, social media is that old. Yes, I too am that old.

Why has it taken so long, then, for the focus on authenticity to become such an issue?

Weed’s comments from Cannes reverberated around the world.

Whether your interest is politics, consumer marketing, or you just prefer IGTV to Love Island, now is clearly the time for brands to help social media clean up.

Drew Benvie is founder and managing director of Battenhall

Thumbnail image ©GettyImages

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