Celebrities, businesses and even the U.S. State Department have bought bogus Facebook likes, Twitter followers or YouTube viewers from offshore “click farms,” where workers tap, tap, tap the thumbs up button, view videos or retweet comments to inflate social media numbers.
And the money involved is nothing to be sneezed at.
Italian security researchers and bloggers Andrea Stroppa and Carla De Micheli estimated in 2013 that sales of fake Twitter followers have the potential to bring in $40 million to $360 million to date, and that fake Facebook activities bring in $200 million a year.
What type of organizations are buying the fraudulent likes? Ironically, organizations whose value is based on credibility — like a law firm. Though I have no personal knowledge of law firms buying bogus likes and followers, I’d be very surprised if firms are not. If not buying directly then by companies buying on behalf of law firms (whether the firms know it or not). Law firms have always done what ever it takes to get search rankings. What’s right or ethical never got in their way. In years past it was links, then content, and now social signals from social networking sites. Look at the dismal record of law firms when it comes sleazy, unethical, or fraudulent Internet marketing.
- Law firms currently buy blog content from third parties publishing it in a lawyer’s name or on a behalf of a lawyer so as to mislead the public who rightly assume it’s the lawyer’s personal insight.
- Law firms routinely spam popular law blogs with dummy content linking back to the law firm’s website. When the firm is contacted about the sleazy and unethical practice lawyers deny the activity or ignore those notifying them.
- Law firms for years have bought links from link farms in an effort to improve the search engine rankings of their websites.
- Five years ago it appeared FindLaw was selling links to law firms for thousands of dollars a month to improve search rankings of websites.
- At least one New York law firm is being investigated by the New York Attorney General’s office for gaming Yelp ratings.
Imagine what we haven’t heard about. Social media requires real and authentic engagement, something that is very hard for most lawyers. As a result, they’re willing to buy it from companies who have no ethics and who are all too happy to take a law firm’s money. Image courtesy of Flickr by Findyoursearch.