Ad fraud continues to be an enormous problem for online advertising efforts regardless of the specific advertising channel used. Fraudsters will use any means they can on any advertising channel they can affect to take money from your marketing budget and enrich themselves.
Even social media ad campaigns aren’t immune to the problem of ad fraud. Social media bots can target your social campaigns—ruining your ROI for social ads and even disrupting your company’s social media profile and non-paid marketing efforts.
To fight social fraud, it’s important to understand your risk of ad fraud on social media, why it happens, and some basic strategies for fighting fraud.
How Common Is Ad Fraud on Social Media?
So, how prevalent is ad fraud on social media? It’s hard to establish a clear number since different social media platforms may have differing rates of fraud targeting ads. Also, different sources make different estimates about the rate of ad fraud on specific social media platforms. Specific types of entities might have different rates of fake followers and fraud on their social media profiles as well.
For example, SparkToro checked over 44,000 active Twitter accounts and found that 19.42% of them were fake. Meanwhile, Socialmediahq reported that “the median average percentage of fake Twitter followers appears to be 41 percent for political figures of all stripes and ideologies.” This is more than double the rate of fake accounts SparkToro reported being on the platform in general.
These fake accounts are often managed by social media bots and can be used for a variety of purposes—such as artificially inflating an “influencer’s” follower count or conducting ad fraud on social platforms.
Why Does Ad Fraud Happen on Social Media?
Why would a fraudster engage in ad fraud on social media? You might think that there’d be little reason to engage in ad fraud on social. After all, ad fraud is usually perpetrated by fraudsters who stand to gain money from claiming credit for generating clicks on your ads.
With social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn, you’re paying the platform provider to put your ads in front of their users. The money for each impression, click, or other action goes to the social media platform.
So, there should be little to no incentive for a third-party fraudster to use bots or fraud farms to repeatedly click on your social ads since they won’t be making money. However, fraud on social platforms like Twitter can be exceptionally high. Remember, direct monetary gain isn’t the only reason why fraudsters might target your Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter ads for fraud.
Reasons fraudsters attack social media
For example, some fraudsters may be operating as “hitmen for hire” for unscrupulous competitors. In this case, your ads may be targeted for fraudulent clicks simply to run through your ad budget as quickly as possible. After your ad budget is depleted, the competitor’s ads can start displaying unopposed—and possibly for less per click or impression than your own ads if the platform was running a “highest bidder shows first” model for their ads.
Another reason that fraudsters might commit some Twitter fraud (or Facebook fraud, LinkedIn fraud, etc.) is that it can provide a sense of empowerment to the fraudster or earn them some respect from their peers. “For the kicks” motivations can result in some highly unpredictable attacks against your ad campaigns simply because there’s no greater goal or motivation than just to blow off steam or have fun at your company’s expense.
Some activists may even target the ads of organizations or companies that they don’t personally like. For example, an animal rights group might hire some hacktivists to write bots to waste a cosmetics company’s social ad budget because they think the company’s products are inhumane (whether they actually test products on animals or not).
Are Social Media Platforms Going to Stop Ad Fraud?
You might be wondering “won’t the social media platforms fight fraud?” The answer is: probably, but they aren’t very likely to succeed at stopping social fraud cold.
Unfortunately, some social media platform providers may not see the immediate necessity of fighting ad fraud right away. After all, whether it’s a fraudster clicking on a customer’s ads or a genuine prospect, the social media app generates revenue either way. However, this is a short-sighted view of the issue.
Social media platform providers that take a long view of the issue are more likely to make an earnest effort to stop ad fraud on their platforms. Why? Because they will want to preserve their platform’s reputation and encourage more companies to place ads on their platform in the future.
When a social platform has excessive amounts of fraud, it compromises the ROI for any and all ads placed on that platform. Over time, this disincentivizes organizations from spending more on ads with that platform. If a company realizes that the majority of the clicks they get from an ad platform aren’t generating any results, they’ll eventually stop wasting money on that platform.
By proactively working to stop ad fraud, social media companies can improve the results they generate for their ad-buying customers. This, in turn, encourages those customers to invest more in ads on their social media platform.
Here’s a hypothetical scenario:
Say you were spending $5,000 a month on ads for two different social media platforms. Each platform generates 500,000 clicks per month for that spend. However, the clicks from Platform A only convert into customers 0.001% of the time (generating about 500 new customers/month). Meanwhile, Platform B converts clicks into customers about 0.01% of the time (generating about 5,000 new customers/month).
The next time you rebalance your ad spend, which platform would you prioritize? Most likely it would be the one that generates 10 times the results for the same ad spend. Over time, you may decide to drop the lower-performing platform entirely if the rate of clicks to customers remains consistent on the higher-performing platform as you increase your spending on it.
Forward-thinking social media platform providers understand this. So, they’re more likely to invest in social ad fraud prevention measures. It’s just unfortunate that not all ad fraud prevention measures are created equally. Some ad fraud solutions are just not equipped to stop fraud as it happens.
Worse, some ad fraud solutions may rely on “vanity metrics” that sound good on paper but do an abysmal job of accurately identifying fraudulent clicks. One example of an all-too-commonly-used vanity metric is viewability (i.e., whether the ad can be seen to count it for an impression). These solutions provide a high rate of false positives that may lead to ignoring legitimate leads or getting into disputes with social platform providers over real clicks and impressions.
Stop Social Ad Fraud with Anura
To protect your social ads from fraud, you need to have an independent ad fraud solution that is proven to be highly accurate and reliable. Simply trusting a social media platform’s built-in ad fraud solution isn’t enough when you have no way of knowing how effective it is.
Anura is a TAG-certified ad fraud solution that can detect ad fraud on multiple online advertising channels in real time. When activity is flagged as fraud, you’re provided the data you need to know why it was flagged—allowing you to confront fraudsters and demonstrate why a refund is justified to a social media platform provider. It also helps you independently verify how effective a social network is as policing social ad fraud.
Need help protecting your social ads from fraud? Reach out to Anura today to get started!