This week’s Channel 4 documentary ‘Celebs, Brands and Fake Fans’ looked into the murky world of ‘click farms’- offering a warning to brands tempted to buy success on social media.
Watch a trailer for the programme here:
The programme, part of the Dispatches series, looked at how easy it was to ‘buy’ social media success by assembling a fake boy band ('Wrong Direction').
The show's producers then employed click farms in Bangladesh to ‘like’ their first music video ("Pump and Squeeze Me") on YouTube and Facebook 100,000 times to generate interest.
The programme exposed the tricks used by marketers to plug brands, from buying fake Facebook ‘likes’ and YouTube ‘views’ to influencing social media conversations.
Film-maker Christ Atkins travelled to Bangladesh in search of backstreet ‘click farms’ where poorly paid workers manipulate social media for the benefit of big western brands.
The programme revealed the extent to which click farms risk eroding user confidence in what had looked like an objective measure of social online approval.
Dispatches found one boss in Bangladesh who boasted of being “king of Facebook” for his ability to create accounts and then use them to create hundreds or thousands of fake likes.
Click farms have become a growing challenge for companies which rely on social media measurements – meant to indicate approval by real users – to estimate the popularity of their products.
The practice of celebrities endorsing products and brands on social media was also highlighted, with the undercover reporter paying £1,000 to a company called Dynasty Media to get celebrities to publicise a fake watch.
Dispatches also unveiled links between high profile brands and Dhaka-registered Shareyt.com, which acts as a middleman to connect companies seeking to boost their profile on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn and YouTube.