Social Media News: Facebook and Fake Clicks

Jan 13, 2014

The latest stats show the numbers of Facebook users having declined sharply in the United States and Canada. According to research assembled by Socialmediatoday, over a six month period, those logging on to Facebook declined 7.37% over six months in the United States and 5.3% in Canada.

Additionally, one in three Canadian Internet users told pollsters that they did not use Facebook in the previous month, according to a report by the Media Technology Monitor, based on telephone surveys with more than 4,000 Canadians last spring.

Of them:

  • 14% said they used to have a Facebook account but quit
  • 16% said they’re technically still a member but rarely use the site
  • 70% said they never joined at all.

Facebook’s move up the age demographic is borne out by data gauging that the average age of Facebook members increased from 38 to 41 years over the two years between 2010 and 2012. Whereas in 2010, 61% of Facebook users were over 35, in 2012, that figure had edged up to 65%.

Since Facebook launched almost 10 years ago, users have sought to expand their social networks for financial gain, winning friends, bragging rights and professional clout. And social media companies cite the levels of engagement to tout their value.

Celebrities, businesses and even the U.S. State Department have bought bogus Facebook likes, Twitter followers or YouTube viewers from offshore “click farms,” where workers tap, tap, tap the thumbs up button, view videos or retweet comments to inflate social media numbers.

But an Associated Press examination has found a growing global marketplace for fake clicks, which tech companies struggle to police. Online records, industry studies and interviews show companies are capitalizing on the opportunity to make millions of dollars by duping social media.

For as little as a half cent each click, websites hawk everything from LinkedIn connections to make members appear more employable to SoundCloud plays to influence record label interest.

“Anytime there’s a monetary value added to clicks, there’s going to be people going to the dark side,” said Mitul Gandhi, CEO of seoClarity, a Des Plaines, Ill., social media marketing firm that weeds out phoney online engagements.

Italian security researchers and bloggers Andrea Stroppa and Carla De Micheli estimated in 2013 that sales of fake Twitter followers have the potential to bring in $40 million US to $360 million US to date, and that fake Facebook activities bring in $200 million US a year.

As a result, many firms, whose values are based on credibility, have entire teams doggedly pursuing the buyers and brokers of fake clicks. But each time they crack down on one, another, more creative scheme emerges.

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