There will always be some people in any system that will try to game that system and ruin it for everybody else, half the time without really gaining anything for themselves in the long run, though some companies can profit in the short term. But in the end, it will always fall apart and the negative publicity will sink anyone who tries to cheat.
A recent example of fake Facebook likes had to do with a particular charity. It's been common practice for a while now for hackers to gain access to Facebook accounts and then use those accounts to "like" businesses that the individual didn't have any interest in. Some businesses, and charities, will pay marketers for generating Facebook likes. The problem is that some other 'businesses' take advantage of this by using shady and illegal approaches like hacking people's accounts. A recent organization called the "Charity Engine" fell afoul of this problem recently.
Stealing from Charities
The Charity Engine has an aim of trying to raise money for charities by taking advantage of unused processing power in people's PCs and then selling that ability to other organizations that would need it. The company spent tens of thousands of dollars getting to half a million likes. Then, it turned out that many people who had liked the charities page didn't have any personal information, and had just wandered around Facebook, liking random pages. It soon became obvious that the likes weren't real, that they didn't represent interest in any serious way, and instead were just a way for criminals to scam money from those who though they were getting real marketing.
Fake Marketing is Bad for Everyone
The problem is, scams like this one hurt anyone connected to social media marketing, including the criminals who perpetrate it since they destroy directly the credibility of the system. Measures like "likes" on Facebook are supposed to be an accurate way to measure interest in a particular product or brand. If people start to doubt that this is the case, then social media marketing quickly becomes ruined. If no one believes these measures have any power or any truth to them, then marketing becomes impossible. Marketers can't sell their efforts to businesses, and businesses can't benefit from the advertising.
The Best Approach
The truth is that people won't ultimately stand for cheap tricks. Many people have developed ways to tell when "likes" on Facebook are happening naturally and when someone is trying to game the system. That's why sites like Webds and others can be of help. They do things the old fashioned way, by actually creating real support, real hits, and real traffic. This leads to real increases in sales. However you do it, you can't trick your way into real interest in the end, and you can only do the hard work to reveal the inherent value of a site and product. This is exactly why having a trustworthy company, with a proven record to do marketing is so important in the face of events like these.
This is a guest post by Lilly Sheperd, a freelance writer who shares her thoughts on various blogs. When not blogging she likes to play netball, ravel and read a lot, especially about technology and social media.