How to protect your brand against Facebook fakes and 'Like farming'

Virgin, Range Rover and Mercedes brands are just the latest in a long line of aspirational, premium brands to find themselves ripped off by ‘Like-farming’ fake accounts on social media sites offering spectacular prizes in return for Likes and followers.

Facebook has publicly stated that at least 10 per cent of its user accounts could be false (‘non-human’ in their words) and a growing number of these are seeking to mimic global brand company pages.

To avoid detection these accounts use subtle tactics such as adding a full stop at the end of their company name so for instance 'Virgin.' or altering the company namefractionally as in 'McDonalds' instead of 'McDonald’s'. These accounts and their associated glossy looking pages are then used to offer fake promotions that no one will ever win, usually via prize draws that trick users into ‘Liking’ and sharing the page. This then enables the scammers to then either steal the entrants’ personal information or to sell on their page with its large number of ‘Like’s at a high price on the black market.

Some examples

In March this year, a fake Qantas Airlines Facebook promotion offered free first-class flights for a year and received nearly 130,000 Likes and even more shares within 24 hours. Although the company quickly put out a statement distancing themselves from the scam there was little that they could to do to avoid disappointing the tens of thousands of followers who had been duped and had their opinion of Qantas significantly lowered.

Also this year a fake Odeon Instagram account managed to trick 70,000 followers into entering a prize draw to win free tickets - even though at the time Odeon had not even created their own official account.

And in this example of a recent fake Virgin promotion the key points to note are the inaccurate company name (with the full stop after it) , asking entrants to ‘Like’ the page – now banned under Facebook’s own rules - and most importantly the lack of any terms and conditions. Needless to say the promotion disappeared after a few days because it was either reported to Facebook or the scammers had received enough Likes and would then transform the page into another brand or sell it on.

So what can you do to protect your brand?

1. Always include a link to the Terms and Conditions in every promotional post. This is not only a requirement of the Cap Code but it will immediately signpost to followers that a promotion is legitimate.

2. Make use of your ubiquity. Communicate your promotion across all of your social media and your official company website so that followers can tell that it is truly linked to your brand.

3. Ensure your company page has been verified. Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Instagram let users know that a company page is verified by placing a blue tick badge next their name. This indication of authenticity is only offered to well-known brands and public figures.

4. Regularly check for fake versions of your brand and report them. All social media platforms want to wipe out fake users. Facebook have stated on their blog that they will act aggressively because: “…businesses and people who use our platform want real connections and results, not fakes.” So run regular searches for your own company or brand name.

5. Stick to the rules yourself. By making sure that your promotion follows the rules of the social media platform and the CAP Code, or other national laws, then it will stand out as genuine and help to build trust in the promotion which will in turn build participation and entry numbers.

Abi Roman is marketing manager at PromoVeritas

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