Did you know that spammers on Facebook have created a business that earns at least $200 million a year? That’s two-hundred million dollars from just scamming people on one social media platform!
For years, the internet has been plagued by spammers who have used the internet to earn money and trick people into giving up personal information. Spam was originally created to help advertisers gather more email addresses and contact information. People were paid to create interesting and sharable content that was forwarded through chains of people. As people interacted with the emails their information was collected and farmed out to more advertisers and spammers. This cheap, easy and often illegal way to gather a bunch of information exploded into entire business of information phishing and the spread of spam and viruses.
Now that email service providers have perfected their spam blockers to block almost 99% of all spam, spammers have started dipping their robotic hands into social media streams. Social media platforms are a great target for spammers because of their pre-provided interconnected networks of millions of people, who have much of their personal information on public display. Although social media providers are doing their best to prevent spam, it’s almost impossible to control all of the spam.
Common Types of Social Media Spam
Social media spam has carried over a lot of the same qualities of email spam, even some of the same content, but now with the added sociability of these social platforms, spammers can gain more from getting likes and follows. It’s much easier for a virus to become viral; be careful what you click on and always be suspicious of unrealistic promotions.
Not all spammers are out to take all of your money or steal your identity; they might just want your likes to get a bigger following so they can get paid in advertising money. Some spammers might even be your friends or neighbors who are using social media incorrectly to get more people to follow their blog or YouTube channel. But, beware there are plenty of malicious spammers, fully prepared with false links and spambots, who are trying to figure out ways to trick you into making them a lot of money.
It’s difficult for social media platforms to manage spam and so they have provided ways for their users to report spam. When you come across spam in your social media feeds, make sure to report it so you can help protect others from any annoying or harmful content. Of course spam varies across each social media platform, but here are a few common types of social media spam to look out for:
Fake accounts. Spammers will develop fake social media accounts on platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest to send out fake information and to spread more spam. Some spammers will develop accounts to a certain point and then after gaining a significant following they will start spamming their audience. For example, on Facebook spammers will develop several fun topic pages that are attractive and catchy. Once the page has gained a following, the owner of the page will switch from posting realistic and helpful posts to posting spam and harmful posts. On Twitter, fake accounts are used by Twitterbots to routinely help boost other Twitter profiles. On some social media sites more than 40% of accounts are fake.
Fake likes, follows, favorites, +1 . . . etc. Many companies and social media platform users want to gain as many likes as possible in a short amount of time. Many social media users believe that gaining a large following will help build their online social presence. And they are right, but only if those followers are real people who regularly interact with the account. Instead of developing quality content and growing a following, companies will buy fake likes and follows from spammers who have created fake accounts specifically for these purposes. Getting a huge increase in likes, over a short period of time, from fake users will not help your account over a longer period of time. It’s best to get natural follows and likes.
Fake promotions. On Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest spammers will create fake promotions to get the attention of larger audiences. Often social media users will try to get multiple likes through sharing images they know are popular or through sharing unbeatable fake promotions. Through using link shorteners, spammers can easily mislead social media users. The pictures might not have anything to do with the actual promotion. The link might lead users to download unwanted applications or viruses.
Some businesses will use fake promotions or extra interesting content just to create something viral. Through creating something viral their ratings will go up. On Twitter, companies will ride on the back of trending hashtags and promote fake alluring promotions just to get more views.
Applications. Some third party applications that users download might have viruses or other malware embedded in the software. For example, some third party apps for Instragram can make you insta-follow or insta-like some people without knowing it. Other applications will take your information and share it with other spammers.
Repetitive posts. Spammers will regularly use spambots to post the same post over and over again from the same account or from various different accounts. This practice is most common on Twitter where posting more often is more common.
Unrelated comments. Regular twitterbots or spambots will post unrelated promotions or comments under your posts. These comments will often be posted with unrelated links that lead to more malware or spam.
Troll comments. Companies actually pay people to spread anger and discontent across the web. Angry comments can get a lot of attention which translates into more money for the spammers.
Spam varies between platforms and it’s impossible to list all of the types of spam because social media continues to change and spammers continually change tactics to keep up and get past barriers set up by security. To learn more about specific types of spam for each platform read these articles about spam on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Instagram, Pinterest and LinkedIn.
Although it seems like people would learn and stop clicking on spam, the business continues to grow and unaware users are tricked into signing up for promotions, buying fake merchandise and downloading viruses. As long as people continue to fall for spam – spammers will continue to post and litter our social media streams with spam.