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September 18, 2012

15% of social media ratings will be fake by 2014: report

A Gartner study says that companies are increasingly buying false ‘likes’ and social media reviews.

By Tineka Smith

The large population of Internet users flocking to social networks has put pressure on companies to increase their following, likes and reviews on social media networks.

"Many marketers have turned to paying for positive reviews with cash, coupons and promotions including additional hits on YouTube videos in order to pique site visitor’s interests in the hope of increasing sales, customer loyalty and customer advocacy through social media," said Jenny Sussin, senior research analyst at Gartner.

Businesses purchasing false reviews have faced monetary fines in the past. In 2009 the FTC announced that paying for positive reviews without revealing the reviewer is false advertising and can lead to prosecution.

"CMOs will need to weigh the longer-term risks of being caught and the associated fines and damage to reputation and balance them against the short-term potential rewards of increased business and the prevailing common business practice in their market, often regardless of ethics," said Ed Thompson, vice president at Gartner.

Gartner predicts that stricter government regulation on social media ratings will help increase consumer trust in social media.

Analyst suggest that businesses using social media can help create trust by leveraging negative reviews to encourage customers with positive reviews to share their experience on review sites.

Facebook admitted in a 10-Q filing with SEC last month that out of its 955 million month active users approximately 83 million accounts were false.

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"It isn’t surprising that the number of fake social media reviews is a growing problem," said Jim O’Hara, president at Ecwid. "Social commerce in particular is on the rise as businesses look at platforms such as Facebook as a new route to show-off products and engage with customers."

Ecwid data revealed that the average value for a Facebook ‘like’ is £13.53.

Facebook recently announced that the company has increased its automated efforts to remove any likes on company Facebook pages that may have been gained through fake accounts or sales.

"A Like that doesn’t come from someone truly interested in connecting with a Page benefits no one, said Facebook.

The company estimated that less than 1% of likes on any brand page will be removed. The social network’s new security system aims to eliminate any Likes gained by malware, fake account or purchased likes.

"To be clear, we do not and have never permitted the purchase or sale of Facebook Likes as we only want people connecting to the Pages and brands with whom they have chosen to connect," said the company.

Facebook aims for the new effort to help sincere brand engagement and give advertisers a more accurate measurement of demographics and fan count.

Please follow this author on Twitter @Tineka_S or comment below.

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