The Fake Epidemic

Last week, we went over how to spot the fakers on your Instagram and Twitter accounts. This week, we're talking Facebook, and for very good reason: Facebook admitted just last year that 60 million of their accounts are bots. While that's a drop in the bucket of their (self-reported) 2 billion users, these fakes can still spam your audience, artificially inflate your numbers, and expose you (and your company) to risk.



First things first. How do you know if a Facebook profile is a real person?Use these tips to oust the fakes: 

  • Are you sketched out?: This isn’t some fancy tool or tip. It’s just a reminder to trust your gut. Watch out for sketchy-looking accounts that add you as a friend or send you messages. Don’t accept requests from these accounts! If you don't have any friends in common, it's a good bet that this is not someone you want to be connected with -- not always, but most of the time. Often it's a phishing request. You can ignore them, but reporting them takes two seconds and helps us all. Not sure if they seem fake? Let’s dig deeper.
  • Do they seem like humans? Think about how you or your friends usually behave and present yourselves on Facebook. You probably have multiple pictures, more than a few friends, and a profile that indicates engagement with others beyond a handful of likes and comments. If a profile has a mostly blank wall with a whole lot of likes, few pictures, a location that you aren't connected with in some way, and/or disingenuous comments? Probably a fake. Do you think they have a stock images (remember to double check using Google’s image search!)? You guessed it, also fake. Weird biography with spammy looking links? We don’t have to say it at this point, but yes, fakety-fake!
  • Are they leaving comment spam? If you're part of a big Facebook group, you've probably seen some random "Make money now!" style comments pop up on a post or two. This is likely an account that got hacked, or a bot, and should get deleted quickly by eagle-eyed folks in the group. But don't fall for it or click on that stuff. 

Now, how do you tell is a Facebook Business Page has a bunch of fake likes?

  • The most obvious sign is that the Page has a large number of fans, but little to no engagement on most of their actual posts. Think of some big brands like Coca Cola that likely have huge advertising budgets; now go on their Facebook page and compare the number of their fans to the number of people who typically like a post. Also check out the comments.
  • Another way to tell is by searching for "facebook coca cola" and looking at the results. On some pages (not all, but enough!) you'll see, in the text just underneath the link to the page, the number of likes, and the number of people "talking about this" and who "were here" (meaning they checked in on Facebook at that company's location). If there's a vast difference between these numbers, that means their engagement levels are low. Here's what we mean: 
  • Last, look at the search bar at the top of your Facebook account and type in, "Pages liked by people who like [name of Facebook page]." What do you notice? Do the other Pages liked by this audience seem relevant, or are they spammy? (This isn't a perfect method, by any means, but this might also give you insight into a company's competitors or audience preferences, which is handy.)

So what can we do about fakes? It’s time for The Purge. Here are some tools you can use to find and remove fake accounts so you can rely on a real audience to buy your products and engage with your posts. This is a constant battle, but our research gives you a head start: 

The old-fashioned way: If you see a user posting spam comments on your page, you can remove that person or ban them. Here's how to do it on FacebookInstagram and Twitter, but it has to be done for each individual user, so if you have a lot of spam going on this can be a time-suck.

The automated way:

  • Facebook: Unfortunately Facebook makes it very challenging to automate the fake-or-not process. Try giving your follower list a good old-fashioned scan to start determining and addressing just how much of an issue this is on your account. Since this is quite the time commitment if you have a lot of followers to identify and remove the fakes, we suggest removing individual fake accounts you see engaging (or attempting to engage with you) from this point forward.
  • Twitter: Want to get an idea of how many fakes you have? Try Fake Followers. They take a random sample of 100 of your followers and identify who they think is real and who is fake. This will only give you a percentage view, though, so to take action go to Twitter Audit. For a low fee ($5/month), you can view and remove your fake followers. 
  • InstagramFake Likes will do an initial free comb of your Instagram account (up to 5,000 followers) to help you identify and remove your fake followers! 

Look, maybe you don't need to clean out your followers. If you're satisfied with the number of followers on your profile and it doesn't matter how much they engage with you or click on the links you share, keep on keepin' on. But, ideally, your social media activity should be helping you accomplish your business goals. If not, time to make a change!