Last night Branded3 live tweeted the Dispatches expose on celebrity tweets, fake Likes and backstreet 'click farms', and the reverberation has been astounding.
At the time of airing, both hashtags #fakefans and #dispatches were trending in the UK:
Fan buying sites such as shareyt.com were exposed on the program for their underhanded false number-mongering. One positive indication that Twitter is cracking down on these pointless faux tactics was the fact I wasn't able to share a link to the site in a tweet:
As a social media strategist, it is your job to be au fait with the new online demimonde and hone your intuitiveness to ensure the brands you work with are safeguarded from the seedy social underbelly.
As such, it is easy to forget that not everyone is as knowledgeable about the subject; and what was more than evident through the live tweeting exercise even big brands can be enticed into embracing the social media dark side. The outcome of this in the long run is simply disillusion in the positive attributes corporate social marketing has the potential to garner.
Practices such as those outlined on last night's show and the prevalence of underhanded strategies some brands resort to (or even worse, are advised to implement) strengthen my resolve in genuine social media tactics that build a relevant, sincere following.
We would never advise a client to buy followers or conduct any other spammy outreach strategy that results only in a dummy audience and hollow vanity numbers; it's all about quality, not quantity.
With that in mind, if you are worried about the relevance of your social following, take a look at some of these sure-fire ways of guaranteeing that when you use your social voice, there's actually someone listening:
There are some really simple tools you can use to get a general idea of a Twitter account's following, and Status People is a good place to start. The Fake Follower Test allows you to input any Twitter account and get an idea of how genuine their following is:
However, this tool is a little rudimentary as it only takes a snapshot of a section of an account's followers, meaning results could be quite skewed for large accounts.
One of the better tools that really analyses a Twitter account's following is Followerwonk from Moz. There are a fair few metrics that illustrate the true nature of an account's following, the first being the follower location map:
This account (which shall remain nameless) has around 9.5k fans and only operates within the UK. Given that only 1,234 of the followers of this account are even relevant to the brand is a big warning sign, and the large follower numbers in the Middle East and South East Asia are another.
The next metric is social authority. Followerwonk has its own social authority score based on different metrics, from tweet frequency to follower vs. following counts. Using the same account as an example, we can see that their followers are of a very low authority score; In fact, 6.3k are no more than 10.
Low authority is not necessarily indicative of fake accounts though, there are many real accounts that are of low authority but are still worth reaching out to.
Followerwonk reports outline many more metrics to give you an idea of the value of your fan base, but when it comes to finding out if a brand's following is truly genuine, one of the more tell-tale signs is the bio word cloud. The word cloud is generated through an amalgamation of an account's followers' Twitter bios. The same account as above has been used as an example to create this bio cloud:
A massive amount of fake accounts or Twitter bots use the words 'follow', 'I'll follow' and 'follow back' in their bios. This is a tactic to entice genuine Twitter users into following the bots to make them appear more natural.
Many truly famous accounts will have a huge fake following but this is not necessarily a result of follower buying or of spammy outreach methods. The more famous an account is, the more fake users it will attract.
If your brand is looking for a healthy following, there is no quick fix. You have to stick to genuine outreach methods and sharing quality, and interesting content that users find interesting and useful. This way, your follower numbers will be a lot lower but at least your bio cloud will feature terms relevant to your services:
Facebook has free page insights for every brand account. All the information you need for making the most of the information on offer with Facebook can be found in last week's post How to use Facebook Insights to your advantage.
But again, the same metrics are the biggest indicators; where, geographically is the majority of your following based? Does the demographic match you target audience? Was there a sudden increase in Likes at some point? Is there a correlation with engagement and Like numbers?
Again, there is free analytical data for anyone with a YouTube channel. Simply access the analytics menu through your channel manager drop down and make sure to choose the date range:
You are met with some candid data that gives a great indication as to whether or not your videos have actually been well received by a genuine, meaningful audience. The first is geography. If your videos are only relevant to your own country or are likely only to be useful to people in a certain geographical area, you should see the majority of views coming from that region:
The second is your average view duration. If this is very low (and your videos are much longer) either your videos simply are not stimulating enough to retain your viewer's interest, or the majority of them are simply fake views.
If your social media agency is reporting to you on Like numbers, fans, followers or views and are not giving you any indication into quality, engagement or sincerity of the audience they have apparently grown for you, red flags should be raised internally.
Don't forget, it is your job to safeguard your brand. Don't be afraid to question the strategy behind your social media platforms.
If you would like any help in deciphering the value of your following, please get in touch and we will be happy to offer a full social media audit.