When Instagram did a purge of its spam accounts in December 2014, many users were shocked to see how their follower numbers plummeted (Justin Bieber lost 3.5 million followers). Then, in March 2015, Facebook removed inactive Likes from business pages in an effort to weed out automatically generated fake accounts, having a major impact on businesses’ follower bases. The purges brought to light the impact of having fake followers and fans, and forced businesses to re-examine their approaches to social media marketing.

What are fake followers?
Although frowned upon, it’s common practice for businesses to purchase batches of Facebook Likes and Instagram followers from ‘Like farms’, with pay-for-Likes services now constituting a multi-million pound industry. However, several investigations have revealed that these Likes and followers are typically either sourced by cyber criminals hacking into users’ Facebook accounts to Like pages they know nothing about, or the Likes come from automatically generated user accounts.

Why you need to remove fake followers
Many businesses fail to realise that while a high number of Likes may look good on the surface, having fake fans is in fact detrimental to your social marketing efforts and can give a skewed, inaccurate view of your advertising campaigns.

If your followers aren’t real or don’t actually know anything about your business, then your level of fan engagement is automatically lowered and your adverts won’t result in follow-through actions like sales or website visits.

Limited fan engagement also damages your content’s reach and visibility on Facebook, because the frequency with which your posts appear on your followers’ newsfeeds depends on the comments, Likes and shares on each post.

Then there are the fake followers who are users with no genuine interest in your brand, whose only intention is to drive traffic to their own website or page. These are the followers who only leave comments promoting their products and services, using your sponsored content for their own benefit.

Getting rid of the fakes
Luckily, there are options for detoxifying your follower base. With Twitter, you can use Twitter’s Status People Fake Follower Checker, the Fakers app, Fake Followers tool or Twitter Audit to analyse and clean up your following. IGExorcist is a free app that removes fake Instagram followers based on user interaction over a 300-day period, and Facebook’s Social Graph can be used to weed out and report the fake Likes on your business page.

Having a genuine social media following is imperative in order to have a highly targeted social marketing campaign with authentic, measurable results. To find out more on how to make social marketing work for your business, contact us today.