Thursday, February 13, 2014

I'll see you in the sewer

A couple of news items this week reminded us of a story concerning a rat infestation in Hanoi during the 19thC time of French colonial rule.

To combat the rat problem the French authorities swiftly acted with an incentive for Hanoi citizens.

For every dead rat delivered to the appointed rat repository, the good citizen would receive a reward.

Of course it was not long until the residents began specifically breeding their own rat colonies for the exact purpose of cashing in.

Now, against my advice, a former client was determined to launch a Facebook page - the nature of their business meant that other tactics were likely to bear much more fruit - however they were adamant so we decided to do our best for them.

Initially the page gained a small group of fans, mostly friends and family of employees and some partners etc.

Upon running a recruitment ad campaign we gained several thousand new fans over a period of a week or so.

What seemed astonishing was the the apparent popularity of this Australian industrial manufacturing firm in places like Indonesia and the Phillipines.

Particularly because their products and services were not even distributed in those regions.

Clearly something was not quite right.

On realising what was going on, I next suggested to the client that if we adjust our strategy and make our objective to simply appear to be popular then perhaps it would be cheaper and less effort to simply buy a ton of fake likes from some dodgy vendor or other and leave it at that.

In this way we use the page as a simple peripheral 'popularity' point, invest no further effort other than the odd post now and the,n and focus our limited marketing dollars on the tactics that might actually deliver leads and sales.

This idea was met with horror.

How inauthentic.

In this clip by Veritasium the science video blog, who went slightly off topic temporarily, but give a nice simple explanation of the mechanics of this Facebook 'likes' click-farm phenomenon, and implicating Facebook themselevs somewhat.

While, of course, we have probably all known this to be true for some time its interesting to see specific data.

On a similar note, Warc reports that Vivek Shah, the in-coming chair of the Interactive Advertising Bureau, told delegates at the organisation's annual conference, being held in Palm Springs, California that 'online traffic fraud has reached crisis proportions'.

He quoted figures from comScore research that suggest something in the region of 36% of online traffic is now generated by machines ie bots, not by humans. Ouch.

People say you shouldn't stay down here too long,
Lose your sense of light and dark,
Lose your sense of smell,
I'll see you in the sewer, the sewer, the sewer...

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