Despite Facebook’s attempts to monitor fraudulent activity, fraud on Facebook is rising. Out of 2.9 billion active Facebook users, an estimated 135 million are fake or duplicated user accounts. In the last quarter alone, approximately 1.7 billion fake accounts were removed by the social network. Fraudsters are using these accounts tofraudulently fill out forms and click ads, which negatively affects brands, influencers, and businesses.
Brands and influencers depend on followers and likes to boost their online presence and attract potential customers. It takes a long time and a lot of hard work to grow an online following organically, so many look for a quick solution. To gain more followers and likes with little to no effort, all it takes is a simple internet search (e.g. buy Facebook likes).
At first glance, these sites claim to give you real human likes for a small fee, but don’t let them fool you. These cheap shortcuts are ripe with fraud, and fraud is no good for you.
Here are three ways fake traffic has the potential to ruin your brand.
1.Fake Traffic Ruins Your Audience Engagement
Ideally, you want tons of followers who are interested in your content and love your brand. But if you buy fake followers, you’re only buying numbers, not authentic engagement. These clicks and impressions are generated by non-human bots orclick farms. Sure, it looks like you’re getting lots of “likes” and views, but nobody is actually reading your blogs, watching your videos, or buying your products. At the end of the day, the whole point is to drive traffic to convert to customers. If you're not growing a following of actual people who actually want to purchase your product, you're just spinning your wheels.
Save yourself the trouble and avoid the “social media black market.” Not only will it hurt your brand engagement, but it’ll skew your analytics, too, which will undermine your digital campaigns.
2. Fake Traffic Skews Your Analytics
Fake traffic can paint the illusion that everything is going great, until you review your analytics, specifically, your conversion rate.
Let’s say, on Facebook you’re gaining tons of followers and likes. When you review your monthly analytics report, you soon realize the numbers don’t line up. You appear to be getting a ton of engagement on Facebook, but little to no conversions.
Buying likes may initially increase the chances of your Facebook posts getting attention. But over time those bought likes will eventually taper off, leaving you with a lower organic reach and visibility within the newsfeed. Facebook’s algorithm prioritizes posts based on how other people engage with the post. You see, you're paying for likes, but that's not true engagement. Engagement is when real users are interacting with your posts, commenting, and sharing with their friends. When all you have is a bunch of bots liking your posts, you'll get low engagement. Low engagement will drag down your posts, preventing genuine followers from seeing them, causing you to waste your ad spend, as well.
3. Fake Traffic Wastes Ad Spend/Budget
Fact: click fraud won’t lead to conversions. Artificial traffic will run up your ad spend while giving you noreturn on investment (ROI). You’ll pay more for clicks only to end up with false leads.
Let’s say you decide to run a Facebook display ad for rain boots. After letting the campaign run for a few days, you check your analytics. You see a huge boost in click-throughs, but no conversions. When you look a little deeper, you notice that most users only stay on your ecommerce site for two seconds. TheirIP addressis also suspicious: the bulk of traffic is coming from the same address and it’s way outside of your targeted area (e.g. the desert where it doesn’t rain).
Here, you’re likely the victim of click fraud due to fake traffic. Instead of real people clicking, bots were likely clicking to drive up engagement, with no intention of purchasing, which quickly drains your marketing budget.
Remember Anyone Can Fall Victim
In 2018, the publisher of Newsweek and International Business Times engaged in ad fraud which helped them secure a significant ad buy with a U.S. government agency.³ They resorted to fake traffic because the site was losing traffic from real readers, and the fraudulent traffic substituted for the depleting audience. This fraudulent boost in traffic is what helped IBTimes win a considerable video and display advertising campaign. However, due to skewed analytics, an investigation found the ads were displayed to audiences in the U.S., England, India, and Singapore, which were found to have a decent amount of cheap traffic and sophisticated invalid traffic or SIVT. Not a good look.
Getting caught in a situation like this definitely tarnishes your reputation, which may take a long time to remedy. To lessen your risk of fake traffic, avoid deals that sound too good to be true. 5,000 likes for $50 is a red flag for fraud and isn't worth the quick boost. Be sure to constantly monitor your followers, likes, and clicks. Fraudulent followers act much differently than genuine followers, so watch out for signs like high bounce rates, geographic location of the traffic, and short session duration. Real users are where the value is.
In the long run, fake traffic will hurt your brand. Don’t let your brand safety be a victim.