With the increasing value placed on followers and likes on Facebook & Twitter it’s not surprising that opportunistic companies are offering 000’s of likes and followers for the price of peanuts. Tempting as it may sound, it’s causing a real problem for brands.
The black market for fake followers is now reportedly a multimillion dollar business which is getting more & more sophisticated. For example Bot users are programmed to behave like real users under a profile taken from an existing identity. This level of sophistication makes it harder for brands to distinguish if they are paying for a genuine audience on social media or not.
Ultimately you want to know that the audience you are attracting is genuine and will drive engagement around your brand. A fake following will certainly be a waste your time and effort compared to building your own genuine audience who are real people interested in your brand and content.
We’ve put together a few basic tips and tools to help you check for fake followers. You could also use these to check influencers or competitor brand profiles.
Identifying Fake Twitter Profiles
You can quickly check for fake followers on Twitter profiles using this tool.
When growing your following on twitter and choosing who to follow you should keep in mind these tell tell signs that the profile is one to avoid. Likewise if you are looking at your own existing following you should ask yourself these questions to check if you’ve accumulated a load of fake followers.
Taking the fake profile below @CecileKincey we can see that whoever created the account has taken some basic steps to hide that it is fake account. They’ve added a profile image a bio and built up a following. However the content is repetitive and non human-like as they just tweet quotes. Lets take this as an example and see how we can further verify this is in fact a fake twitter profile.
This profile raised our suspicions because we asked ourselves the following basic questions;
- Does the profile look fake?
- Does their bio add up?
- Does their profile image look like a stock image?
- Do they have a header image?
- Are their posts repetitive in any way?
- Does their follower count look genuine?
- What is the engagement like on their tweets?
So we can see from our list of basic questions that the big stand outs are the content and engagement. The content is the same although different, it is essentially a list of quotes automatically tweeted.
To verify our suspicions we can also do a Google reverse Image search. From here you upload the saved image from the suspect profile and Google will do a reverse image search to find where else on the web this image is used. i.e it’s part of a fake profile business where the fake identity has been created and used for a range of profiles. It also helps us identify the country where is actually came from.
The results of this was 2 pages long but you get the idea. The same profile image has been used for multiple accounts and appears on Russian websites.
The Google reverse search confirms to us that this is a fake profile as it appears in so many place in different countries. Using the reverse search to check profile images is also useful for your other social media profiles, not just twitter. Whenever you have a chance you can always unfollow or report fake accounts once you have acknowledged them.
Identifying Fake Facebook Profiles
Similar to twitter we look at the same elements. Profile, photos, bio and activity. A fake profile is likely to have the following.
- Their profile Image uses a stock image
- They haven’t posted any photos
- Billy no mates, lack of friends and friends in common
- Lack of activity on their wall
- Cover photos doesn’t add up with profile photo
- Their post activity is non coherent or written in bad English
Think about your Facebook friends that you know are real. Many of them post lots of photos over time. They’ll post pictures of their kids, their extended family members and funny memes. Fake users rarely post a lot of photos.
If you suspect a fake Facebook profile, check the recent activity on the user’s wall. If the user is performing various activities from time to time, such as posting updates, adding photos and getting tagged by friends, then it’s probably a real account. On the other hand, if the timeline is strangely absent of any type of activity, you’re probably looking at a fake Facebook account.
You can report fake Facebook profiles by clicking on their cover photos and clicking the report tab. Instructions can be found here.
Facebook have in the past deleted masses of fake accounts but this is not something that we know about in great detail. They really have to help prevent these fake accounts because as we as marketeers and brand owners don’t have the time to police it on an individual level.