“1,000 Facebook likes in Rs. 650 – Bangalore (sic),” says an advertisement on an online classified portal. Scroll down and you will stumble upon an offer to add 10,000 Twitter followers for Rs. 5,000.
When you call the advertiser on the mobile number provided, he boasts that he recently added 2 lakh likes to the Facebook page of a West Asian media company and says he is ready to strike a bargain on the quoted price if the client can increase his order from 1,000 Faceook likes to 10,000. “I will do it for you for Rs. 5,000,” added the advertiser, who identified himself as Rai Saheb.
It is not just individuals, who are putting up advertisements offering services to boost your digital presence, several web marketing companies in India and abroad too are engaged in the business with social media increasingly assuming an edge due to its growing popularity.
Some companies here, hitherto engaged in bulk SMS and bulk voice calls services, have now diversified into social media marketing by offering their services to manage and promote the Facebook pages and Twitter handles of individuals, corporates and politicians for a fee.
Several candidates, who contested the last Assembly elections in Karnataka and sought bulk SMS and voice call services, are believed to have hired these organisations to shore up their digital media presence.
A marketing company here claimed that they can manage the Facebook page of an enterprise for a one-time fee of Rs. 20,000. “We will not only update your page, but we will also get you in one month’s time between 1,000 to 2,000 likes, which will all be genuine,” claimed the person, who received the call. Another Internet Marketing company, when contacted, however, declined to take up fresh orders as he said they were “full up to the brim”.
Mirza Faizan Assad, a member of Global Cyber Security Response Team, Bangalore, said the companies or individuals engaged in this business are typically a group of four of five programmers, who carry out this activity through BOT, a software programme that does the job like a virus.
“A BOT is an abbreviated form for robot and a programme that runs automated tasks over the Internet,” he said adding that it was possible to create any number of fake accounts and programme them to like, follow or make auto generated comments like the ones popping up during chats.
But, the advertiser on the online classified portal, who was offering 10,000 Facebook likes or Twitter followers for Rs. 5,000, claimed that his five member team toils hard to achieve the targets within the deadline.
“Each member has about six to seven fake Facebook accounts with about 5,000 friends each. Besides, we have several friends, who also maintain similar Facebook accounts with thousands of people. We help each mutually to meet our targets,” he said.
In addition to these social media managers, there are some portals where Facebook pages, pre-loaded with thousands of likes, are bought and sold. “On Facebook itself, there are groups like “Facebook business” (sic) where people sell and buy pages, besides providing services like increasing the likes or creating fake accounts,” Mr. Assad said.
However, all and sundry cannot access these pages because of the privacy settings.
But, these fake likes and fake accounts have a short life. For, Facebook will remove likes obtained by “malware, hacked accounts, coercion of users, or purchased in bulk by brands” as it violates its terms of service. But, a very small percentage of such fake likes are removed during the cleanup, he pointed out.