The Rise of Fake Accounts
Have you ever looked at some popular social media accounts and wondered how they have so many followers? After toiling away on your own social media posts in an attempt to increase followers and engagement do you sit and wonder how do they do it? Sure, they may be more famous than you, have name or brand recognition. Those are possible reasons. However, it could be something else. Perhaps many of those millions of adoring followers were purchased for mere pennies.
Whether out of ego, greed, or pressure, many of those followers come as easy as typing in your credit card number. While the practice is not fair to those who are trying to build a social media presence organically, it can be far worse for people who have their real social media identity stolen.
The list of those who have purchased followers and social media engagement from companies is long. They can range from those industries you might suspect like entertainers or so-called social media influencers to those you might not- journalists and even an economist. Moreover, marketing and public relations agencies are buying followers on behalf of their clients and even themselves. Fake accounts it seems, are a lucrative business.
The booming economy of online influence
Online celebrities or pseudo-celebrities are selling products and services. Social Media Influencer is apparently an actual job title now where people are earning a living. Today, having a mass audience or the illusion of one can be monetized.
Social media influence has upended the advertising industry and created a new status marker: how many followers, likes, and "friends" you have. Some in the entertainment industry and entrepreneurs use virtual status as real-life currency. The number of followers they have on social media can affect how much money they make: who hires them, the amount paid for a booking engagement or endorsements. Even how potential customers perceive their business or products.
The pressure and expectation to keep the social media follower numbers growing are immense. When organic growth measures fail or perceived to be taking too long, there are other ways to go about achieving follower growth success. Many people buy bots because they feel their careers depend on it and afraid of the ramifications if they are unable to increase social media followers enough to satisfy employers. These inflated follower counts due to fraudulent purchased accounts give both the public and the brands unrealistic expectations of what a social media following should look like and have further exacerbated the problem.
According to CNET, there are 330 million user accounts on Twitter. Some estimates report that 48 million of Twitter's active users (15%) are not real people. In a 2017 NY Times article, Facebook reported that 60 million accounts were automated accounts. YouTube and Instagram are also not immune from the fraudulent account phenomenon.
Fake accounts are also stealing the names, picture and personal information of social media users to create some of these accounts- even minors. Twitter does have an official rule against impersonation but has not yet done a good job of policing accounts that are open from being impostors. In fact, Twitter does not require the individual sign up under a real name. One real Twitter account can be transformed into hundreds of different bots with just minimal changes to the profile. Fake accounts help sway advertising audiences, defraud businesses and ruin reputations. Many of these purchased accounts of real identities are posting out spam, pornography or other things the real person would not want to be associated. Fraudulent posts with real names can have consequences when a potential employer finds the fake account and believes it to be of the actual candidate.
While Twitter and other social media companies do prohibit buying followers, companies are openly selling them. Social media companies whose market value corresponds to the number of people using the service- are left to make their own rules on detection and elimination. Just like the people purchasing followers the social media companies themselves have an incentive to not go after these bots too aggressively.
On YouTube where advertisers now spend billions on sponsorship deals with stars whose earnings increase with more followers, views and likes there is little incentive to curb the practice. A purchaser usually earns back the money spent on fake followers plus some because they can earn more from advertisers when their follower count rises. Until the ROI drops for both the social media account holders and the social media companies little will change.
The Erosion of Influence
In a world where it takes just a credit card number to increase that social media following exponentially, should we trust these "influencers"? Conventional thought has been that, the higher, the follower count or the more retweets, the more important the person behind the post- the more authoritative they are believed to be. As a result, the posting gets more attention, and the account then followed and retweeted more.
Fraudulent accounts are diluting the real effectiveness of social media advertising. While true that many followers, likes, and retweets may get your business in front of more people- 50,000 bot followers cannot make a purchase. Bot followers do not increase authentic engagement on social media.
If a large number of people know that the majority of your followers are fake- that erodes trust. We cannot believe these brands.
We know that being on top of search engine results page (SERP) is a big deal for your business. Those coveted slots see a lot of action. The higher you are on the list, the greater the click through rate to your website. Click through rates tend to be higher on organic search and higher the further up on page one you are. Some say you have 7 seconds to grab a user’s attention another number I’ve heard is that most users stay on a site less than 59 seconds. Don’t give them a reason to click away because they can’t find what they need. There are a few things you need to keep in mind for webpage optimization best practices:
· Search Algorithms are not your customers. A user should be able to find what they’re looking for in 3 clicks or less.
· Fast loading webpage. Get rid of plugins that bog down load time.
· Mobile Compatible. An absolute necessity.
· Accessible to those who use screen readers.
Clear, well-organized sections. Not crowded or confusing.
· Update content often. This gives the search bots another chance to crawl and index your site.
· Relevant, valuable content. Emphasis quality over quantity.
· Use Long Tail Keywords when writing content. This allows you to drill down and target more specific and relevant topics. Instead of boots as a keyword, your long-tail keyword could be women’s brown suede ankle boots in sizes 2-10.
· Voice Search. Increasingly people are searching the internet using the voice search options on various devices, whether it’s asking for the nearest coffee shop on their phone or asking a device such as an Amazon Echo on their counter to find a recipe, voice search will increase in popularity as voice recognition technology improves. People speak search differently than they type search; taking that into account when creating content, will increase your chances of being found.
· Latent semantic indexing key phrases or (LSI)- Google analyzes the content for relevance. The algorithm doesn’t just record the keywords a document contains, but it analyzes the collection documents on a site as a whole. A string of keywords crammed onto a website is no longer sufficient for a good ranking; it’ll get you penalized.
· Social Media Strategy. I’m putting this up under content, because this is where you can create content that is fun and engaging, connect with your customers and build relationships, and hopefully drive them to visit your website.
There are many moving pieces and parts to a holistic content strategy. SEO takes time and dedication to reap the rewards. It isn’t a set it up and forget it type of thing. I didn’t even touch the aspect of technical SEO or link building in this post. Most business owners want to concentrate on what they do best, which is run their business. Content creation and social media strategy can fall by the wayside, even though you know how important it is to your business. Want to know more? Contact me today.
The last time, I discussed the biggest mistake people make in SEO is the single minded obsession with keywords. Selling is a game of probabilities, true. So while in driving more traffic to your site, you increase the probability of making a sale – my friends, you could also be losing sales by droves.
Content is king: A statement that may be cliché but is true in the world of Search Engine Optimization (SEO). SEO and algorithms are all the rage in the digital marketing world. And for good reason- the higher your company in the search rankings the more traffic you receive, the more opportunity to make a conversion.
The invention of the Internet let loose a Wild West world in advertising- opening up endless possibilities to attract customers while shrinking attention spans. With everyone jumping in and fighting for those coveted top rankings on search engines some less than honest practices emerged. Early website creators would fill pages with keywords, sometimes they didn’t even relate to the page, all in attempt to create traffic. This practice is called “keyword stuffing” and ultimately does not make for a user-friendly experience. Now, the practice will get a website penalized by search engines.
Today’s algorithms don’t just look at the number of keywords on a page to help determine ranking. Many other factors come into play, such as the words around the keyword: the sentence structure. Algorithms now can recognize semantics. Which is great for an agency like ours. We’re a group of storytellers. We love getting to the heart of client’s stories and creating great content to show that story.
Don’t get me wrong, keywords are still what potential customers are searching for and we haven’t abandoned using keywords. The secret is using keywords in strategic ways that flow naturally within the content. It’s a blend of art and science. Fresh content with judicious use of keywords signals algorithms that your site is worth ranking and well written content on a user friendly website will keep those who click on your site reading and converting to customers.
If your website is in need of a little SEO TLC and fresh content to highlight your story branding contact me today.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO), if you have a company with a website, no doubt you’ve heard the term and at some point you may have been told that you have to do it. Of course, you have a website and a product or service that you want to put out into the world. To get out in that world, you need to be found by potential customers. But is SEO really the wonder child of digital marketing?
It’s a big deal to get on the first page of the search engine results page (SERPS) and for good reason. Most customers who are searching for something rarely go past the first two pages. In the early days, this perk was obvious- the higher the ranking increased the number of people the website was exposed to. This lead to some shady stuff happening with web developers- which turned some websites into some really un-user-friendly places. Then the smart folks at Google started putting algorithms into place to curb this activity.
Here’s the biggest mistake some people mistake when doing SEO on their website- solely focused on keywords. The obsession with what people are typing into search engines has gone on long enough. It won’t work to simply slap a bunch of those words onto your website and wait for the clicks. That will get you penalized by the algorithms my friends. With nothing interesting or unique to say on a topic, you might drive up your organic search analytics but those conversion numbers aren’t going to move.
Let’s face it, the goal isn’t to only get people to your website, but to do something – subscribe, buy, request more information, call you, or come into your store, make a purchase or whatever your call to action happens to be.
Being tops in the SERPS and driving that organic traffic is only one piece of the equation. Well, all the keywords in the world aren’t going to turn a potential customer into a paying customer. Keywords are just a tiny piece of a holistic digital marketing strategy. Keywords may get someone to your site, but they don’t keep them there- the value that you create for them does.
Over the next few blogs, I’ll be discussing a few more bits and pieces of a holistic digital marketing strategy, so come on back. If you’re interested in working with me on some content for your site, contact me for a free consultation.
Terri Jones Cherry- Freelance writer, I love creating, traveling and being a mom. I'm incredibly inquisitive and always want to know why.