The announcement last week that Facebook is considering a “dislike” button should be a worry for brand holders. At a Q & A session in California, founder Mark Zuckerberg revealed it was one of the most requested developments that users had asked for. Whilst Zuckerberg said that they would have to ensure that the feature was not used for malicious purposes, it seems based on existing technology, this would be quite a hard task.
At present Facebook users hit the “like” button around 4.5 billion times a day. Many of those will be legitimate ways to show approval or acknowledgement of a post or update, but some will be fake. A simple search on the term “buying social media likes” lists a number of organisations who offer a range of services to fit your social media tastes. Fliking, or buying or soliciting social media authenticity is a growing business. 10,000 Facebook likes can be purchased for just $300, 50,000 Twitter followers for $125 and favourable TripAdvisor reviews start from $20. In the space of a few minutes you can create a social media footprint comparable to a major brand for less than $1,000. Some brand holder’s intentions may be driven by vanity rather than any maleficent purpose but for others creating a fake social media profile is all part of taking advantage of the growing global challenge of counterfeiting and fraud.
So why is this an issue? Social Media is a fact of our online life. 71% of online adults in the UK use Facebook every month (at least!). We are more trusting of what we see online today than we ever have been. If we saw an advert or a post on Facebook that has hundreds or thousands of “likes” we are likely to believe it is genuine. The same is true of followers on other networks such as Twitter and Instagram.
So a fraudster who wants to gain credibility only needs to buy Facebook likes and he or she is free to commence their scams. The approvals soon start appearing via an automated service, or through a network of willing “workers” all happy to press a button or two in exchange for a small payment. Whilst Facebook has tried to improve its technology to identify and remove these “click farms”, it is a difficult job, especially when it is carried out by humans.
The addition of a “dislike” button is therefore a good thing in this instance. Anyone who has been duped could make their feelings and experience known at the click of a button. But how long before those organisations who offer “likes”, also offer “dislikes”. What impact will that have on legitimate advertisers on the network? Brand and reputational damage could essentially be inflicted quickly and at little cost without any right of reply or recourse.
Social Media monitoring is becoming one of the most important weapons in the battle against online brand abuse. Not only do brand holders have to protect themselves against cyber criminals who set up copy-cat social media personas but also reputational damage from what people actually say. A tweet can pass around the world via retweets in a matter of seconds which makes the monitoring of what is being said and where incredibly difficult. Adding a feature on a network that is used by 1 in 5 people on the globe today gives dissenters an immediate voice. You could argue that that is a fundamental of the Internet and the basic human right of freedom of expression and speech, but there also has to be mechanisms to ensure that it is not used maliciously by those who want to profit from damaging the reputation of others.