The real game of fake accounts

20 May 2022 5:00 AM IST
Social media is a blessing in disguise to increase social presence and social intelligence through electronic media.
Social media is a blessing in disguise to increase social presence and social intelligence through electronic media. We are in an era where everyone wishes to be social and if the enabler (technology) is giving us at our fingertips then who would not like to tap it? From fashion to food to news, social media is friendly, user-generated content. Almost, everyone is using this interface to scale up their interests. It is also a free hand to people as it provides freedom to speak and advertise their products and services.

As a regulatory action, around 60 fake accounts were blocked in Feb 2022 by the government, which were found not to follow ethical norms and were even spreading anti-national news resulting in hatred and anti-national material. Fake accounts not only misrepresent identity yet also violates the cyber policy of creating multiple accounts. E-commerce is relying a lot on this unethical practice without being governed and using fake accounts to create a product's reputation and publicise.

Creating fake reviews and influencing their services and products has increased its dominance by more than 20 per cent and is a well-existing norm, misleading driver to increase sales through e-commerce. It is alarming to see an increase in unethical and misleading practices practiced in the name of advertising. Whereas in India we still follow the sentiments attached to some of our very own traditional Indian products.

How can a common person be aware of these?

Today's customer delight is about comfort and getting services at the most affordable rates. What alarming and threatening is the algorithm which drives customers' details and takes you to a sequence of multiple and endless clicks. Let's say for example while having a talk about Product A on a telephone with your friend, after a few minutes you begin with all the kinds of related information about the product and its comparative analysis with other products influencing customers to spend time and buy. And here you are caught and the saga begins with checking the rating and reviews which are enabled by fake accounts.

Using fake accounts is a long-term game. Since 2019 the fake accounts grew 29per cent and today it gives no signs of declining in the e-commerce industry. Customers buy on trust without realising that their data is compromised in several clicks and get trapped. The fake accounts are not in one or two but are in thousand and are emerging even more. It is difficult to give real metrics, we all know where and how the market is moving. Just to make the product look popular and credible a fake list of comments is created to influence the customer's purchase.

The fake accounts are also used as inorganic followers to increase their number of followers. These are dead accounts with not even operated by bots. So, one should be aware if you have multiple accounts by your name. To decode this web, awareness is the only key. Fake advertising also drives the creativity of the brands yet to have a credible and sustainable future-proof currency one has to be authentic and ethical in their advertising and marketing strategy. Despite fake accounts being rising, unethical advertising has always been in the market be it age-defying products or misleading and deceptive beverages.

Does device data provide the right information?

Not Necessary at all. It's a myth. According to the World Federation of Advertising, it speaks very little about human behaviour. Scrolling speed, length of advertisement, and screen time are the myths as it does not give the attention span of the customer on that particular service or product. It might be a distraction also.

We have already seen how billionaires have become billionaires even in pandemics and in India, the way inflation is on the rise and the Indian economy after being having jolt still struggling with inflation and high fuel prices, yet getting back to recovery, being ethical in the business and socially conscious is the key for long term sustainability in the industry.

Facebook is a perfect example of unethical practices and now facing all ill effects. Being ethical might turn out to be a slow process but will build long-term trust and credibility. Where we see, the digital platform is expected to take boom, it is a serious concern to put checks and controls to protect the sentiments for customer's long-term success.

The battle against fake accounts and unethical advertising is a prolonged one and what a customer can do is be aware. And for business owners, fake accounts only invite more fraudsters. It is amusing and alarming to witness the era when there are so many followers of fake accounts and even decisions are made on the reviews given by fake accounts. This does give a mindset shift of where we are heading and how we need to change our patterns of decisions.

(Major Namrata Dhasmana is a Thought Leader and IIM Lucknow alumna. She is a Speaker and Leadership Coach)