Three weeks ago the web was abuzz with the news of 83 million fake or duplicate Facebook accounts. While this represents less than 10 percent of everyone on Facebook, the impact that fictitious user accounts can have on a brand is damaging.
There are two types of fake accounts – those that have been created intentionally by real people (if I may call it a white lie) and those that are malicious. Let’s take a look at both of these types and see why they have been created.
White Lies: Oh, It’s Just Another Account!
A month ago I was looking for some news articles and I found a slideshow rich with pictures and text. The only problem was that every time I clicked next, I had to click on “X” to shut down their offer for me to sign up on Facebook. After about 12 slides, and with more than 40 to go, I relented and created an account just to get access to this content. I know that I’m not alone because many individuals like myself have created a Facebook account with minimum relevance just to retrieve information from the brand.
Then there was a very popular department store that kept pushing its customers to become their friend. They offered a monetary incentive and a chance to win a big grand prize. Their signage in the store, email campaigns, direct mail, and even the constant barrage by their sales associates, all sought your friendship. Every time you interacted you were looking at real money. So what happened next was that many consumers succumbed and became friends with the store without caring how many duplicate Facebook accounts they created.
Then there is the group of people who have created a Facebook account just because everyone told them they needed to, and then they forgot about it. While this is a real group of people, Facebook is not their cup of tea. Many of them log in every few weeks or months with every login requiring them to reset their forgotten password. These people may have used Facebook to connect with a family member or check something out, but they continue to use it very sparingly.
So What About the Malicious Accounts?
Let me start with an incredible story. I once sat in on a client meeting with a Facebook marketing agency. The agency spelled out all the facts about my client’s Facebook page and they were right. We had a big brand with less than 3,000 friends. Only 47 people were talking about us that day. There was also incredible pressure from the top of the organization to grow our Facebook following fast and dramatically.
The agency told us all the right things to do – they asked us to run a focused email campaign to get the first jump past 5,000 names. Next, they asked us to run a contest on Facebook. This was to be followed with targeted advertising and Sponsored Stories. The agency proposed to write our content and monitor our pages, and they even gave us an incredible guarantee. If they didn’t get us more than 100,000 friends in less than three months and take us past one million friends in one year, it would all be free!
The offer was too good…and in hindsight it was too good to be true. We grew quickly with both good friends and zombie friends. Our zombie friends were fake accounts that kept joining us at an incredible pace. We terminated the relationship with the agency with over 220,000 friends on Facebook. We were then faced with an interesting dilemma – do we restart or let the zombies drop off?
So here are some tips for keeping things real. Train your customer service team to help you on Facebook so you don’t have to do this yourself. Welcome your friends in by doing a little research (a quick peek into who they are), and then do one of three things – drop them, flag them, or get personal. Facebook has incredible value – there are individuals who have willingly told you a lot about themselves. Get your insights going by watching the interaction and by getting your team to leverage all the rich data about your brand’s friends.
Try to get your consumers to interact with you across more than just your Facebook page – bring them into your other channels. You might weed out a few bad ones, you may alienate a few good ones, but you will find compatible consumers, and this is what you need to keep a higher level of interaction going.