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Have you ever seen a viral post on Facebook with thousands of likes? The chances are that at some point you have, but have you ever stopped to think about how many of those likes are real? Probably not. But why should you care in the first place?
In recent years there has been a considerable increase in social media fraud where things such as likes and followers can be bought online. Provided by organised click farms, these farms allow individuals and businesses to purchase thousands of likes for just a few dollars. With more likes often meaning more attention, many companies and users are investing in these fake likes in the hopes of generating more sales and increasing their exposure.
With demand for these likes and other social media interactions increasing, some people have decided to cash in on this “likeable” opportunity. By creating their own organised facilities, some underground entrepreneurs have made some serious money from selling likes and followers to other users.
But not everyone is happy.
Since these fake likes and followers ruin many legitimate platforms which users rely on for honest advice, many organisations are keen to stop this fraudulent behaviour from happening. With various raids around the world on these click farms, for the first time ever, we’re able to see inside these organisations and how they operate.
So what is a click farm and how do they work? Well, we’re here to show you.
To explore how these click farms work, we first need to understand what they are and why people make them in the first place.
Just the word click farm can leave people scratching their head in confusion. A farm? Of clicks? What the heck?!
To give you a general definition of clicks farms, they can be defined as:
An undercover operation in which individuals fraudulently interact with a website to artificially boost the status of a client’s website, product or service.
This basically means that somewhere in the world there are people that work behind closed doors fraudulently promoting other peoples products and services for a fee. Since the definition is fairly broad, this means that the fraudulent activity can take place on almost any platform although the most popular ones are Facebook and Instagram. It doesn’t matter if the group is selling Facebook likes of Twitter followers, they’re all classed as click farms.
To many people, click farms sound very mysterious in what they are and how they work. But in reality, click farms are often very low tech and basic. These farms can take many shapes and sizes from a simple 1 man setup to a huge warehouse full of thousands of phones and computers.
If you’re having a hard time imaging what one looks like then don’t worry, here are some actual click farms that have been discovered around the world.
This click farm from China is relatively low tech and consists of 1 individual who spends all day liking and clicking things on the mobiles. Notice how its basically a wooden shelf built to hold the phones at an angle so they are easily accessible. You might have pictured a more high-tech setup, but this is as technical as it gets.
Similiar to the first setup, this click farm also uses a phone shelf to hold all the mobiles in position so the user can easily click things on them. Again, it’s likely that just 1 person manages all these phones in order to keep costs as low as possible.
A slightly more premium click farm, this group has decided to use a metal setup to hold all of their phones in place. Although it wouldn’t make any difference compared to a wooden shelf, it does help with reconfiguring the layout in the future if they decide to add more phones.
In these examples, most groups are using mobile phones for their operation. Although they don’t technically need to use mobile phones, many use them for the convenience. There are other click farms which primarily use computers as their main tool, but they require a much larger setup with more staff. For many fraudsters, the mobile phone is the go-to tool due to its size, price and flexibility.
The main reason people use click farms is to increase their exposure of products and services. Maybe a business has just released a new product which they want to share on social media. If the business is fairly new then the chances are they won’t have big social media accounts or a lot of followers. To give themselves an artificial boost and increase their exposure, they’ll often turn to buying likes and shares from click farms.
Another reason why people often opt to use click farms is that they are incredibly cheap. Many businesses will run online social media marketing campaigns on Facebook and Twitter in the hopes of increasing their followers. However, sometimes they aren’t always as successful as they would like which raises the question: should the money be spent elsewhere?
With fake likes and followers only costing a few dollars for hundreds, many businesses are giving up running campaigns and are just buying the likes directly. In the long run, this is considerably cheaper and most people won’t even notice the difference in the likes.
As you’ve probably noticed by now, many people and businesses who buy these likes often want fast results. Why wait weeks to see if a social media campaign is going to be a success or not when you can just buy a few thousand likes instantly.
With the scale of these click farms increasing every day, these farms are capable of delivering a crazy amount of likes to any willing buyer. If you want a post to go viral ASAP then buying as many likes as possible is that fastest way to do it.
By now you’re probably thinking, all of this sounds incredibly shady. Well, you would be correct. Click farms aren’t exactly a legitimate business model and require a lot of unethical tricks to make them profitable. Not only do they pay employees pennies, but they also have extremely bad working conditions such as working in pitch black for long hours with little breaks. Think of click farms as modern child labour camps, they might not be making clothes for pennies, but they’re liking Facebook statuses and leaving reviews instead.
Consider the treatment of employees in these click farms and the activities they get up to, you can probably understand why a lot of these are illegal. Just from searching online you can see there have been numerous raids on click farms in the past with thousands of phones being discovered.
The culprits caught running click farms usually have all of their phones confiscated to stop them from continuing with the operation, but it’s unknown what happens to the owners. Although they are technically committing large-scale fraud by fraudulently manipulating social media posts, it’s still a grey area in many parts of the world.
Now you understand a lot about click farms, take a look behind the scenes of a real click farm in this interesting short click farm documentary. Following the lives of several click farm workers and owners, the documentary takes a look at what incentives both the buyers and sellers have who work in the industry.
If you want a real look behind the scenes of these click farms then be sure to give this documentary a watch below.
With hundreds of different click farms out there going under the radar, you never know when you could be a victim of click fraud.
Although many click farms specialise in Facebook likes and Twitter followers, some click farms like to focus on pay per click ads. By paying people to click pay per click ads on their own site, these fraudsters can make a handsome profit from your ad budget.
There’s probably someone sat in a dark room getting paid to click on your ads without you even realising it!
With PPC bids ranging from just a few cents to tens of dollars, even a handful of fraudulent clicks could cost you a big chunk of your advertising budget. Luckily fighting back against these fraudsters isn’t as hard as it sounds.
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