The Guardian continues their recent line of hard hitting bits of investigative journalism on How low-paid workers at ‘click farms’ create appearance of online popularity. Imagine if you’re Coke and you’ve spent literally hundreds of millions of dollars to garner over 70 million facebook fans, only to find out not only is there little to no correlation to buzz and sales but that many of your fans are fake, figments grown at the many click farms cropping up to game page rank algorithms and the push by brands and the agencies that serve them to show performance gains.
We see the rotten fruits of click farms in the data we collect and the insights we cull for our clients every day. We continue to find new ways to distinguish real people from bots, sort the farms from real fans. Part of what we find is disturbing. Some brands are paying click farms to boost their results, justifying chat rooms filled with posers saying that if the party isn’t big enough real consumers won’t show up. Challenge is, real consumers are smarter than everyone realizes. They sniff out staged buzz bonanzas and shift their time, attention, and hard earned cash somewhere else. We see fake reviews voted down by consumers routinely in our analysis of consumer purchase behavior.
Many consumers click the like/fan button only for a quick hit, a free can of syrupy sweetness or mp3 download of the latest BeiberPerryLake song. This isn’t a relationship, its a drive buy. But for how brands measure their effectiveness in social today, it works. Likes go up, follower counts soar and the balance sheet doesn’t budge. Like spam, click farms only exist because it works, there’s a market for it, at times the very brands that loose the most from the actions of these farms, brand trust by consumers.