Archive for category: Opinion

Social Media Scams – How to Spot One

05 Mar
March 5, 2015

Today I noticed one of the old mainstays of social media scams appear in my Facebook feed again. I’m talking about the free voucher from a major brand (in this case Bunnings) that one of your friends has tagged you in when they have apparently “shared” it. For those unfamiliar, it looks something like the image on the right.

Aside from me already knowing these are fake, there are a handful of tell tale signs here:

  • The poorly sized image – a brand like Bunnings would have their logo correctly sized on Facebook
  • The unnecessary capitalisation of the word “Now”
  • The source of the post – coming via Spotify
  • In all cases of seeing it today, the things that were consistent – the “Thanks”, and the follow up comment from the poster of “Quickly”.

If you want to get into the technicalities of how these scams work, I recommend reading this post from security expert Troy Hunt from a couple of years ago. The upshot of it is that it’s designed to suck you down further into the rabbit hole of free offers from other sites, capture personal data, and potentially worse.

It’s not the only type of scam that we see on Facebook though.

The offer of a free car from Mercedes for liking a page and sharing a photo with the colour you want? The over ordered iPads at a major department store that you can get for nothing by liking and sharing? Flights and accommodation to celebrate the millionth passenger that you have a chance if you share pictures of the boarding pass?

All scams.

If you’re looking for telltale signs, look at the number of fans the page has, an extraneous period at the end of the brand name, and grammatical errors. Then search for the brand itself, most will be verified with the blue tick.


And the most recent:

Why do social media scams work?

People will share the and connect with them because they appear to be from reputable brands. Then they are in your feed, and have the opportunity to share other content that may be more malicious once you click on it.

So why is it that people continue to fall for it?

Simply, they rely on one of the top reasons people connect with brands on social channels at all – free stuff.

Promotions have long been one of the top reasons someone will engage with a brand, particularly on Facebook. 15% of people in a recent survey done by HubSpot claim they follow brands who offer something for free.

It only takes one “user zero” to make the mistake of clicking on it for it to spread into many of their friend’s feeds, in the case of the Bunnings example above, 78 people. Then it takes only one of those 78 to click on it, and you get the picture of how these spread so fast. Often times, people don’t know what they’ve done. The last comment below the one above was “I dont know what i clicked on. it’s just an advertisement….”.

Personally, I think it’s an unsolvable problem, short of some major action from Facebook that will limit how they work technically.

People will always want something for nothing, it’s human nature and to a large degree, social platforms have fuelled that further. The best we can hope for is that people are more vigilant about the things they click on and share, and continue to stick to the old maxim, that if something looks too good to be true, it likely is.

PHOTO – John Perivolaris via Flickr

Ello's Proposition Deficit

30 Sep
September 30, 2014

Unless you’ve been living under a tech media rock this week, you couldn’t have missed the discussion surrounding the launch of Ello, whose big pitch is that they are an ad-free social network that places user privacy above everything else.

I signed up for the beta what feels like an eternity ago, and finally got a chance to spend some time with it this week.

To be honest, the first impression is underwhelming. Aside from being a design exercise in minimalism and white space, there’s not much to write home about.

The format feels like little bits of the existing networks – the feed of Facebook meets the user behaviour and interaction style of Twitter, with the design aesthetic of some minimalistic Tumblr theme. There are too many unclear functions to navigate. A lot of what I found was through just clicking and hoping.

Finding people you know, or even people you might want to follow, is hard. The search function (when you eventually find it, and when it works) only appears to work in finding usernames, which on a platform that doesn’t enforce any real name usage makes no sense. If you can’t make it easy for me to connect with people, then there’s a fundamental flaw in the concept of a network.

I don’t want to spend too long on features, as there is a long list that they have outlined as being in development, many of which we take for granted in already established networks. But currently, there doesn’t feel there is enough, even for a beta.

So what is it?

Overall though, Ello’s biggest challenge is its proposition. I haven’t shared or posted yet, because I’m not sure what it is I am supposed to share on the platform. There’s no clear idea as to what it is meant to be to users aside from “not Facebook”.

I suppose Facebook itself started in a similar way, but by and large the world got it pretty quickly. To me, Twitter’s proposition is reasonably clear as well, and we can find the people we want to connect with easily, which creates an ease and comfort around sharing.

Ello breaks connections into two groups – “friends” and “noise”, which if I have to draw a comparison is similar to the friend and follow differentiation of Facebook. Each are displayed differently, friends with a more expanded feed, and noise in a compressed snapshot view.

But there is no ability to choose what level I connect on, which feels like it’s at odds with the privacy stance they take on user data as it relates to third parties. Any connections I build may not necessarily be friends, so I am not going to share anything terribly personal. Similarly, if I am having trouble finding and connecting with people of common interest, who is to say that anything I share is worthwhile to anyone, or if I am going to find any useful content in return?

Maybe it’s unfair to judge a platform in its first couple of weeks of beta, but the lack of function and unclear proposition makes it difficult for me to see why I would come back anytime soon. It needs to be more than the anti-Facebook in order to succeed.

The risk it runs at the moment is suffering the same “invite beta syndrome” that G+ saw when it kicked off, collecting a bunch of tech savvy users and creating an environment that general, everyday users can’t find their place in or understand.

PHOTOthomas hawk via Flickr