Faux fur never really goes out of style, but it is certainly on trend this year. Something else that never goes out of style: faux Facebook accounts.
How popular are fake Facebook accounts? Its parent company, Meta, reported slightly more than three billion monthly average users worldwide as of Q3 in 2023. The company estimates that 4-5% of those accounts are fake, meaning there may be as many as 150 million fake accounts.
Faux fur is cruelty-free and obviously not real. But fake Facebook accounts can cause a lot of harm, and if you’re buying Facebook followers, there’s a good chance some of those followers are fake and will likely cause harm to your business and your brand.
Why are there so many fake accounts on Facebook? How can they hurt your brand image? Is Facebook doing anything to stop them? And is there anything you can do to protect your business and your brand from these fraudsters?
Why Are There So Many Fake Accounts on Facebook?
If you’ve ever had your personal Facebook account hacked or suspended, you’ve probably realized how hard it is to recover your account. Unfortunately, that process can take much longer and be much more difficult than setting up a fake account.
Fraudsters take advantage of Facebook’s popular global presence and simple account setup process to create fake accounts for several reasons, such as committing identity theft, stealing money from users with any number of scams, bullying or harassing them, or spreading misinformation.
Fraudsters will always find a way to use whatever methods are available to make money. Whether they’re using bots or actual humans to set up fake accounts, your brand could wind up paying the price.
How Can Fake Accounts Hurt My Brand Reputation?
Fake Facebook accounts generate fake traffic. Here are three ways fake traffic and fake accounts can ruin your brand’s reputation.
1. Fake Traffic Affects Your Audience Engagement and Skews Your Analytics.
They like you! They really like you! But are “they” real? Are they really engaging with your content to learn more about your products and services, or are they just running up numbers and depleting your ad budget?
Facebook’s goal “is to make sure you see posts from the people, interests, and ideas that you find valuable, whether that content comes from people you’re already connected to or from those you may not yet know.” Your posts and ads should organically appear in your target audience’s feed. Over time, when this happens, you’ll gain new likes from those likely to engage with your content, share with their own networks, and convert.
You can buy likes, but you can’t buy authentic, long-term engagement. Gradually, these bought likes will taper off. Many bought accounts will stop engaging because they didn’t come to your page organically and have no genuine interest in your products and services; bots and fake accounts will move on, which is just as well since they can’t possibly convert. As engagement drops, so does the likelihood that your content will reach real users in your target audience.
Fake traffic can give you a false sense of security. You think your audience is engaged and that your campaign is driving results but then you look at your conversion rate and realize it doesn’t align with the activity.
As bots get better at acting like real humans and more fake accounts are set up by humans from a click or fraud farm, it becomes harder for brands to collect accurate data on their community. It may become difficult to determine who your actual audience is, where they’re located, and other data you rely on to plan your digital ad campaigns.
2. Fake Traffic Wastes Money and Marketing Efforts.
When fake accounts like, share, or comment on your posts, they do more than clutter your feed and hurt your brand’s engagement. Those fake likes hurt your brand’s engagement, skew your analytics, and undermine your current and future digital campaigns.
Since fake traffic can’t convert, all your efforts trying to get them to do so are just a waste. If you bought those likes, chances are you likely bought no long-term followers, so that expense didn’t generate the desired results.
Then there’s the cost of placing the ads. You pay for the clicks, whether they’re real or fake, which negatively affects your marketing return on investment (ROI). What’s more, those fake clicks can quickly drain your ad budgets before they can ever reach your target audience.
Often, you don’t realize the clicks aren’t converting until the campaign has run a few days and you check your analytics. When you discover the conversions aren’t as expected based on activity, you do a little more data diving and notice things like little time spent on your website or landing page, a bulk of traffic coming from the same IP address, or a lot of traffic coming from outside your targeted geographic region.
That’s a good indicator that most of your campaign activity has been generated by fake traffic. You can pull the plug on the campaign, but you’re already out the cost of the placement and the clicks. You can request a refund, but it can be a lengthy process with no guarantees and then there’s the time and effort your marketing team spent on developing the campaign; there’s no way to get that back.
3. Fake Accounts Can Erode Brand Trust
Worrying about fake personal accounts interacting with your brand’s content and ads is bad enough. Still, it can be even more worrisome when fraudsters create a phony business account that appears to be your brand. Remember, fraudsters’ end game is to make money; they don’t care if or how their activity can hurt your brand reputation, but the effect can be damaging and long-lasting.
Fraudsters can set up a business account with a name similar to yours or use a business account to place fake ads that appear to be from your company. The latter happened late last year during the busy holiday shopping season when fraudsters created a fake campaign that seemed to come from Big Lots. In this case, users clicking on the fake ads were directed to counterfeit websites that looked legitimate. Consumers who fell for this ruse may have accidentally downloaded malware to their computer or placed an order they later never received. This activity can make a brand’s legitimate followers lose trust in the real ads, making them reluctant to click on them and make a purchase.
Fraudsters may use fake business accounts to spread misinformation. If consumers aren’t hypervigilant, they may assume your brand is behind the activity, resulting in a negative perception of your brand.
Once there’s a stain on your brand’s reputation, it is often difficult to rebuild consumers’ trust and perceptions, even after the issue is resolved and proven to have originated from a fraudster.
What’s Being Done to Stop Fake Facebook Traffic?
Facebook has shut down billions of fake accounts; they know they have a problem. Recently, its parent company Meta shut down thousands of fake accounts that originated from China, seemingly to spread fake content intended to further divide the U.S. politically during a presidential election year. On the flip side, they now let users create multiple profiles. That doesn’t mean those accounts will be fake, but it could mean your brand’s content and ads may appear in more than one feed by the same user, which could lessen your campaign’s effectiveness.
When it comes to protecting your brand from fake accounts and traffic on Facebook, your hands aren’t tied. There are some things you can do to protect yourself and your brand, such as:
1. Don’t buy fake traffic. It will take longer to build your audience organically, but it will be worth the effort in the long term. Real users are where the value is.
2. Monitor, monitor, monitor. Closely and constantly monitor your followers, likes, clicks, and campaign analytics. Watch for high bounce rates, short session duration, and suspicious traffic sources.
3. Be careful when using Facebook Audience Network. Much of the traffic in the Facebook Audience Network comes from mobile apps, which tend to have more bots and fraudulent traffic.
Fighting fake accounts alone is an ongoing, time-consuming, and ineffective battle. An ad fraud detection partner on your side does the fighting for you, allowing your team to focus on developing and executing campaigns that resonate with real users and drive actual results.
Anura’s Search and Social ProtectTM solution can detect fake accounts and stop them from even seeing your social ads and content. If bots and fraudsters can’t see your posts, they can’t interact with them, reducing fake clicks, increasing conversions, and saving you time applying for refunds you may never get.
If you’re ready to protect your ad budget and your brand’s reputation, contact us for a free trial where you’ll have 15 days to test our full solution. You can learn how much traffic you have today and see how you can improve campaign performance in the future.