Should You Be Wary of Fake Social Proof?
After reading +Michael King
's excellent post on Maintaining Social Shares after a Site Migration ( http://bit.ly/JojSWe
), I thought how easy it would be for less-than-honest marketers to use these techniques to "fake" social proof on otherwise non-shared pages.
In the screenshot below, I installed 2 Google +1 buttons. The top one correctly reports the number of +1's for the article (4) while I set the bottom button to display the +1's for another article I wrote on SEOmoz (http://mz.cm/IATCoX
). That button leads the user to believe this article has been shared a whooping 489 times.
Why would a less than forthright marketer want "fake" social proof? The reasons are many. Folks might be more likely to supply personal details like email addresses and credit card details if they trust the site. It's a shortcut to trust that's sure to be abused.
For legitimate marketers, using this technique is not a good idea. For one thing, any new sharing on the "fake" button actually shares the second article, and not the article it appears to support.
Of course, there are a million other ways to fake social proof. Spammers have and continue to use these and other tricks. As online marketers, it's much easier for us to "smell" a suspicious site, but the general public doesn't have this advantage. We have a responsibility to be honest in our representations, and encourage practices and technologies that encourage the same.