Shady dealings in the world of Facebook Likes and YouTube viewsNews / OnlineBy Viewpoints | September 18, 2013Share This article was originally published on NB: This is a viewpoint from Carla Ciccotelli, marketing and campaign manager of Digital Visitor. A recent episode of Channel 4's Dispatches programme shed light on the murky practice of buying followers and views on social networks. With online fans using the action to convey support for a brand or product, it's a bad idea but how does it harm a business? Daily active users of Facebook are reaching 665 million and the opportunity for your company to connect and gain customer support from across the globe has been the motivation for many to join. That and the chance to ruffle the feathers of the competition. In today’s social media landscape, small businesses and big brands alike have used a variety of social media marketing activities to grow their Facebook community using images and videos to engage followers, running creative social media campaigns and competitions, offering special discounts/coupons and engaging in active discussion. Unfortunately, not all strategies are worthwhile or even permitted with some companies buying 'Likes' to inflate its page’s popularity and to oversell its standing. Channel 4's recent Dispatches documentary saw film-maker Chris Atkins travelling to Bangladesh to explore the world of 'click farms'. Here, poorly paid workers are hired to manipulate the status of powerful western brands, through fake Facebook 'Likes' and YouTube 'Views'. What affect is this unscrupulous marketing tactic now having on the online business community? You may be thinking, "it’s just a few 'Likes' on a Facebook page, no one got hurt." But, it does matter because it adds legitimacy to the brand. If millions of people 'Like' a product, people think maybe they should buy it too. They can’t all be wrong! Inflating a company’s online status with counterfeit 'Likes' is arguably as misleading as a fake online review. Devaluing real fan-based 'Likes' in the process, these fake 'Likes' quash the original saleable impact of the product or service they intend to promote. The process in the end drastically alters the company’s professional image. Not only does it affect the credibility of a company on a superficial basis but as Facebook warns its’ members: "These third-party vendors often attempt to use malware or other forms of deception to generate fraudulent 'Likes', which is harmful to all users and the internet as a whole."Share this quote There are of course legitimate social media agencies which exist to boost fans and improve engagement on social networks the honest way. These businesses know there is nothing quite like standing on the steadfast ground of genuine interest and support. Buying fake 'Likes' won’t drive long-term engagement, sharing, customer loyalty or sales. It won’t help develop the community. And it undermines the real value of social media to a brand. Put simply, a Facebook page with more than a million 'Likes' with a stagnant community will not benefit the brand. So how can you determine the Dons from the Cons on Facebook. Here are some tips on how to spot if a company has lied about its 'Likes': High number of 'Likes' but no engagement - If the fan base impresses you but there is a distinct lack of personal comments, photo 'Likes' and engaging content, then beware.Check the demographics of the fans - If the company is global then yes, fans all over the world is a distinct possibility, but if the company is a small local firm based in Congleton, with an impressive number of fans who live in Bangalore, than this is more than enough proof that these 'Likes' are fake.Check the PTAT score - ‘People Talking About This’ is a metric designed by Facebook to highlight the volume of fan interactions within the past seven days. You can read more about this metric and how it works here… If there are 5,000 'Likes' on the page but no interactions you can be pretty certain these fans are not interacting because they are fake!Travel back in time - Go back and check out the Timeline. If the number of 'Likes' has dramatically increased in a matter of days or weeks than this is always a good indicator of a recent purchase of fake 'Likes'. As Facebook reminds members: "A 'Like' that doesn’t come from someone truly interested in connecting with a Page benefits no one".Share this quote In this digital age there is no denying social media marketing rules the roost. What's not to like about a free and powerful global marketing platform, open to both SMEs and blue chips? But successful interactions are built on trust, which can only lead onto profitable transactions, both now and in the future. NB: This is a viewpoint from Carla Ciccotelli, marketing and campaign manager of Digital Visitor. NB2: Likes image via Shutterstock.