‘Fake fan-gate’: We examine Dispatches’ look at the murky side of social media

Fresh from unravelling truth within the NHS, examining the issues of South African police and children in the Taliban, the current series of the award-winning Channel 4 documentary Dispatches turned its attention towards social media last night.

In the programme, entitled ‘Celebs, Brands and Fake Fans’, the Dispatches team investigated the shady side of social media, where some brands could unnaturally grow their audience figures on Facebook and Twitter by purchasing ‘fake fans’. The other half of the programme looked at how celebrities promote products on Twitter in exchange for free gifts, despite the strict advertising regulations that are in place.

The reaction on social media was mixed to the programme, with some people stating the programme felt ‘obvious’ and was nothing new, and others expressing how it made them think twice on how they operate with brands on social media.

In total, there were 6181 uses of #fakefans on Twitter during the one-hour programme, with 2917 tweets using #Dispatches or copying in the official page: @C4Dispatches. Here’s a selection of the tweets below:







As you can see, the reaction is mixed. Of course, buying fans is nothing new in the world of social media but you really need to think about the point of it all. A huge number of fans on your page is nice but without building genuine engagement, it’s all for nothing. So-called ‘fake fans’ are not going to comment on your posts or share them, and without that, the reach of your posts is going to be minimal. Basically to sum it up, buying likes is worthless – it’s much better and more valuable to build genuine brand loyalty and a high level of engagement.

What were your thoughts on the programme – what effect did it have on you and the way you look at social media?

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