Despite Facebook’s attempts to monitor fraudulent activity, fraud on Facebook is rising. Out of more than 2 billion Facebook users, an estimated 270 million are fake or duplicated user accounts.¹ Fraudsters are using these accounts to fraudulently fill out forms and click ads, which negatively affects brands and influencers.
Brands and influencers crave followers and likes, which boost their online presence and make them appear legitimate (and popular). To gain more followers and likes, 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. 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 being generated by non-human bots or click farms. Sure, it looks like you’re getting lots of “likes” and views, but no one is actually reading your blogs, watching your videos, or buying your products.
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.
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 overtime 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. Low engagement will drag down your posts, preventing genuine followers from seeing them. And it will cause you to waste ad spend, too.
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 no return on investment (ROI). You’ll pay more for clicks only to end up with false leads. Source: Giphy²
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. Their IP address is 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.
Remember Anyone Can Fall Victim
Recently, 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 used fake traffic because the site was losing traffic from real readers, and the fraudulent traffic substituted for the depleting audience.
IBTimes won a considerable part of a large video and display advertising campaign. An investigation found the ads were displayed to audiences in the U.S., England, India, and Singapore, and included cheap traffic and internet bots.
Getting caught in a situation like this definitely puts a damper on your reputation. 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. 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.
In the long run, fake traffic will hurt your brand. Don’t let your brand safety be a victim.