In today's "big data" world, businesses are increasingly basing corporate and marketing decisions on the information obtained through social and behavioral data. However, should this data be outdated, inauthentic or fraudulent, serious and detrimental results can occur.
Facebook claims that up to 11.2 percent of their total users are duplicates, inaccurate or "undesirable" and Twitter claims a total of 5 percent. Other social networks such as LinkedIn and Google+ have known fake accounts as well, although their numbers are unconfirmed. So, with this being the case, what are the costs associated with fake accounts?
1) Cost of Verification
Many companies employ methods such as SMS, password verification and even manual review in order to verify the legitimacy of their users. These methods can be very expensive and introduce high friction, which can in turn, have a huge affect on your bottom line before your user has even made a purchase.
2) Ill-Directed Marketing Dollars
Making marketing and corporate decisions based on fake users is tantamount to taking a portion of your hard dollars and setting them on fire. Considering the fact that these accounts are typically bots or empty shells, your messaging will fall on deaf "ears", there will be no engagement or interactions and the time/effort spent on content creation and strategy will not affect your bottom line.
3) A Skewed Picture of Your Customer Base
Social data allows you to "meet" your customer and know a bit of what makes them tick. The ability to know their likes, location, age range and other identifying information makes a great starting point when developing messaging, campaigns and company direction. If this data is inaccurate, your plan could be destined for failure right out of the gate.
4) Bad PR
Many companies are becoming known, not for their great business model, but for the number of fakes using and degrading their site. Companies such as Cupid.com, Snapchat, and Trip Advisor have all been placed under attack for not taking action against the bad apples found on their site. Businesses that don't address the issue may have to fight an upward battle to get their tarnished reputation back in order.
So what can be done? First, presume that a portion of your followers and fans are fake and determine what impact that makes on your business. Then look for solutions that offer social verification in order to start down the road to knowing your users better.