February 1, 2018 By Zak Mehan
The New York Times obtained business records from a company called Devumi, which sells Twitter followers, retweets, views on YouTube, listens on Soundcloud and other forms of fake engagement using fake or stolen accounts. The paper offered an incredibly detailed look at the world of bought-and-sold social media influence, shining a light on the world of fake followers and automated engagement, ultimately leading to an investigation led by the New York Attorney General.
We’re not going to attempt to summarize the full article, but we will offer a few immediate reflections on what the world of influence on social media is all about.
First, what may come as a surprise to many is that we’re not just talking about reality TV stars or talk show hosts. We’re talking about economists, university professors and global brands. Everyone has been caught in a troubling reality where the raw score of your follower count matters to your credibility, regardless if, even before these revelations, we knew social media was rife with bot activity.
Second, this kind of tactic has never really been on our radar for good reason. Our clients want results that shape public opinion, not that of bots. There are billions of real social media users whose opinions can be swayed by good content (and, more recently, a healthy dose of paid targeting). Their retweets count a lot more than bots’. (We know, there’s a good chance a large number of retweets instigates more engagement, but like anything predicated on a lie, your social media “engagements” will become too muddled to see any truth.)
Finally, with social media companies already facing significant scrutiny about bad actors manipulating their platforms, you better believe this just upped the ante.
Exercise habits (or lack thereof, in the case of yours truly) are endlessly shared on social media, which, perhaps, is why fitness tracking app Strava became such a hit. The app shares, amongst other things, training routes and locations and has become a favorite of the American armed forces. That’s just where the problem starts.
One analyst decided to dig into the app data and from all of the user data shared mapping running routes, through which “U.S. bases are clearly identifiable and mappable.” Oops!
The rise of big data has been a blessing and a curse for companies, governments and individuals, and this story shows how interconnected the impacts of this data can be.
It should immediately make companies think back to that old maxim about only being as strong as your weakest link. The majority of cyber and data vulnerabilities are human. Make sure that your employees are educated on ways to protect themselves and the way data can be used against them, in ways that are simple or a little more out-of-the-box.
And of course, as any company should in 2018, make sure there are contingency plans in place for dealing with a cyber crisis, whether it is your company being hacked or an employee sharing recklessly on social media. The risk is obvious, being prepared should be, too.
Heartbroken fans of NBC’s “This Is Us” are going after everyone’s favorite slow cooker (at least for those of us who didn’t get an Instant Pot for the holidays) after the show revealed that Milo Ventimiglia’s character was killed in a fire caused by the product. After fans took to Twitter to express their anger, the formerly Twitter-less company was forced to set up an account – @CrockPotCares – to address concerns. Fans of “Heroes” may recognize that this isn’t the first time a product-based storyline has created real-life issues for a brand – Emerson Electric sued NBC in 2006 over a plot point involving Hayden Panettiere’s hand and an InSinkErator.
While Crock Pot is likely genuinely concerned about the way their product is represented on the show, we’re left wondering whether this could, in the end, be a nice PR opportunity for Crock Pot to get their name on people’s minds again (especially considering the meteoric rise of the aforementioned Instant Pot) or if there’s a genuine issue with audience’s ability to differentiate between fact and fiction. The jury’s still out, but Crock Pot’s sales over the next year could provide some insight.
Social media is giving us trypophobia TechCrunch
The Awl and The Hairpin to shut down as digital media’s struggles continue Crain’s
Digital publishers ramp up TV push to nab viewers, ad dollars Reuters
A fake new world Axios
What a $5.2 million Super Bowl ad can buy in digital media Digiday
“Text Neck” is now apparently a real thing.