No doubt you’re familiar with the term fake news. Faking it isn’t limited to the news. Fake influence is a real thing, it’s growing and it hurts everyone.
Would you loan money to someone you believed had a big bank account? It’s probably a sound business decision to do so because you assume they have the ability to repay the loan. What if it turns out they lied? That fake information most certainly would have changed your decision regarding the loan.
A similar situation exists with fake influence – manipulation to be more precise – and you’re probably unaware of it in most situations. I know I was until I learned about click farms.
What is a Click Farm?
Click farms are where fake influence grows. Imagine a wall with 100-200 cell phones. A low paid worker stands in front of the phones and gets paid to click on specific links to drive the impression that people are viewing particular websites, Facebook posts, Instagram photos, YouTube videos and various advertising. They also sign up for newsletters and other offers.
If you’ve ever seen ads to gain followers, increase likes, boost shares, etc., there’s a good chance a click farm was behind it.
If you’re looking to gain a following in order to promote your product or service you’re hoping for legitimate people who might buy whatever you sell. Gaining access to new followers is analogous to advertising.
Let’s say you sell surf boards and want to grow your social media presence. You might find it worthwhile to have more views and followers. How would you feel if saw your numbers increasing but no change in sales? That’s exactly what happens when you get thousands of fake clicks and follows. There’s nobody there to actually buy.
Fake Social Proof
It’s very common for people to go online to look at product ratings and reviews before making a purchase. If you thought a product or service was rated 4.5 stars from hundreds or thousands of people that will sway your buying decision. How would you feel if you learned many of those positive reviews were fake?
Fake influences are a big way some people and businesses get hurt. The term influencer refers to people will large social media followings. These influencers interact with different organizations promising to give them “advertising” by using their products. Think of it like celebrity advertising except it’s from people who’ve not done anything other than gain followers on social media.
Let’s assume you run a resort hotel on a beach. It’s a good bet competition is tough and margins are small so you look for new opportunities to attract business. Now suppose an influencer comes along and tries to negotiate a deal. They want you to let them and a handful of their friends stay at your place for free and comp their meals and drinks. In return they promise to constantly post about their great experience while staying at your place. Why would you do this? To get thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands of views from people who are your target market.
This might be a tempting offer because you’re not shelling out any cash like you would for traditional advertising. Instead, you’re only accruing expenses related to the free rooms, food and drink for a half dozen people. But you’re doing this because you believe so many people will see what a great resort you have. Well, maybe not as many people as you thought because so many “followers” were generated through click farms. Bottom line, they’re not real and could never stay at your resort.
If you happen to run a company that pays people for clicks or access to certain sites, you’re hurt by click farms because those clicks will never lead to any business.
The examples could go on and on but I’m sure you get the picture. You can call it fake influence, manipulation or fraud, because if you knew the truth you would have made a different decision. The influence is one sided, for the benefit of the influencer. There have always been scammers and there will always be. With new technology come new ways to make a buck at the expense of unsuspecting people. Just remember, ethical influence is not only good for the influencer, it’s good for the person being influenced. In other words, it should produce a win-win outcome.
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Brian Ahearn, CMCT®, is the Chief Influence Officer at Influence PEOPLE, LLC. An international speaker and trainer, he’s one of only 20 people in the world personally trained by Robert Cialdini. Brian’s LinkedIn Learning courses on Persuasive Selling and Persuasive Coaching have been viewed by more than 65,000 people! His latest course, Creating a Coaching Culture, will be online soon. Have you watched them yet? Click a link to see what you’ve been missing.