I heard recently that there are companies in India and Bangladesh which have been set up exclusively to provide a certain Internet service. Hardly unusual, you may think, since both countries have amazingly cheap labor, by Western standards, and are making inroads into Internet business now that the Call Center and Service market seems to be leveling out. If major clothing manufacturers can use cheap labor for the products we see in our shops, why not have a similar system for Internet services and other products? China has been doing it for years, Hong Kong was always a good manufacturing market, so an expansion into new fields should come as no surprise.
Photo Credit: Robert S. Donovan – Creative Commons
What they are selling should come as no surprise either, since many consider this to be part and parcel of their future: Facebook likes, Facebook friends. Money in the bank through increased popularity.
And these companies are leaping on the marketing bandwagon for their own businesses with a tried and trusted method, marketing through spam:
Buy GUARANTEED Facebook Likes/Fans, at the cheapest prices and become more popular! – Safely delivered, absolutely no risk! – Order processed within 24 hours or less! – Manually Promoted by experts not bots/software involved – High-Quality service. [...]
Friends and Likes can be purchased in batches of hundreds or thousands and are created through a massive series of faked Facebook accounts. It takes roughly one day, with up to twenty people working full-time on the project, for a single Page to receive one thousand fresh Likes and for their perceived popularity to skyrocket. I say perceived because, obviously, there is no proof that increasing the popularity of a Facebook Page actually brings more custom. Potential customers need to go either to the Facebook Page or the linked company site in order to see that a massive number of ‘real people’ have shown their appreciation and that, in turn, means that no real saving in advertising have been made. The web sites still need to be promoted as before, clicks are still needed. The additional Likes do not create more sales if the views on a Homepage aren’t there in the first place.
So why are companies – and some private individuals – even bothering to use such a service? It seems almost as if a virtual race has started to reach a high number of Likes, to show a certain level of popularity. Since these do not necessarily convert into sales it can only mean someone is busy feeding their ego or, perhaps worse still, faking popularity to show off to shareholders. Social Media Networking is the In Thing: no company can expand or meet the demands of the modern marketplace without a good presence on the Internet, without achieving a certain level of popularity.
And what happens when the bubble bursts? What happens when Facebook starts removing these fake accounts and cleaning up the database, or sets even more stringent security measures in place to prevent such abuses? Will those who have purchased Likes simply drop in the rankings – back to where they should be – or will some begin to lose their Facebook accounts for breaching the Terms and Conditions?
Commercial Pages are only of interest to Facebook if there is some form of income to be gained, if the companies use Facebook advertising to promote their wares, to sell their services. Any company which doesn’t follow this path, doesn’t pay for those irritating little adverts in the sidebar or mixed into a Timeline could fall foul of the system. It doesn’t hurt Facebook, who can later show that they’ve been cleaning up and removing the irresponsible, the cheaters, the frauds and fakes.
Photo Credit: epSos.de – Creative Commons
There is another factor to consider: increased Likes and Friends on Facebook create a false impression about a company: they are recommendations for products and services exactly the same as a recommendation written out in full on a holiday or auto check site. They could tip the balance when people are making decisions but, since there is no guarantee to back up the recommendation, since there is no real experience of a service or product, they are creating an impression which can only be seen as false advertising.
At some stage in the near future a web site will appear which breaks down all these Like recommendations, which highlights the companies purchasing such false information, and then the shareholders are not going to be quite so pleased with the company accounts at the end of the years, and certainly not with the adverse publicity which comes with revelation. A company which needs to buy recommendations is clearly not a company worth recommending. Only the real thing works, in the end.
And who benefits from this falsification? For Facebook it makes no difference whatsoever since they stand to lose nothing. For the companies offering this ‘service’ there is also no loss; the bubble bursts and they turn to new business models, new areas of interest. For the customers, well, they have been led astray perhaps, and will learn from the experience should the products and services not be up to scratch. The real losers, in the end, will be the companies buying these services: the bubble bursts; their popularity fades or crashes; sales could plummet and, above all, they have spent money frivolously on an advertising campaign which is bound to fail but which has cost them extra funds.
The sooner the bubble bursts, the sooner Facebook puts an end to these fake Likes, the better for all concerned.
- Viktoria Michaelis.