Social media like Facebook and Twitter are driving major changes in industry sectors like sales and marketing. It turns out that companies will now pay big money to celebrities for a mention in a tweet. The "currency of this realm," which is to say one's popularity on a social media site, is calibrated by the number of friends or followers one is able to attract. However, it turns out that these numbers can be manipulated by the use of bots (see: Social Media Bots Offer Phony Friends and Real Profit). Below are some details:
[A] giant pyramid scheme has emerged on social media, where fake friends now command real money. Here’s how the pyramid works: With minimal effort, I downloaded a piece of software called Twitter Supremacy. For $50 for a six-month license, the software...lets me fabricate an unlimited number of friends. Furthermore, I can program these fake accounts to tweet, retweet and follow others automatically, as if they were living, breathing users.....Who pays for these services? The bot creator said that his clients include well-known celebrities and brands, along with everyday people who want a social media ego boost....Consider, for example, that a celebrity like Kim Kardashian, who has 25 million Twitter followers, has been paid $10,000 to tweet about ShoeDazzle. Or that Charlie Sheen, who has 11 million followers, was reportedly paid $50,000 to tweet about internships.com. What if many of their followers are fake? Numerous reports have found that celebrities, politicians and companies often buy fake followers to enhance their perceived importance online.....The practice is so widespread that StatusPeople, a social media management company in London, has a web tool called the Fake Follower Check that it says can tell how many fake followers a person has. According to that tool, 6 percent of Ms. Kardashian’s followers are fake, as are 12 percent of Mr. Sheen’s.
For those of you like myself who don't sample Kim Kardashian's Twitter page often, here is a link to it. She is listed as having 25.6M followers. Prepare yourself for the extreme use of exclamation points in her tweets. Her's an example: You guys are gonna die!!!!!!! Mocking Jay was soooooooo good!!!!!! Putting aside the fact that some six per cent of her followers may be phony, the fact remains that some 25M are probably real people who seem to be very interested in her opinions about various issues. Even more important is the fact that she is reported to having been paid $10,000 for posting tweets of which perhaps a third of the characters may be exclamation points.
The relevance of all of this for the readership of Lab Soft News is that social media are also being used to discuss serious medical issues. I have blogged previously about the relationship between social medical and pharmaceutical companies (see: Limitations Placed on Big Pharma Facebook Pages). Here's an update on this topic: FDA Readies Social Media Rules For Big Pharma. Over the last six months, the FDA has released three draft guidance documents about this issue. The FDA sponsored a "Social Media Draft Guidance Webinar” last July. The slides for a PDF file of the webinar can be viewed here.
The FDA webinar slides linked to above are couched in dense bureaucratic and legal language. However, one point that comes through loud and clear is the references to the use of "third parties" by pharma companies to communicate on social media. The pharmaceutical industry has a history of using third parties such as "disease foundations" and their web sites for marketing their drugs. Some of these non-profit disease foundations are supported by large pharma grants so that they function as extensions and mouthpieces for drugs and companies. I have blogged about web sites with booby traps (see: Identifying Risky and Biased Medical Web Sites). Here is a quote from that note:
Jill of All Trades MD has posted a note about how to identify medical "booby traps" on the web. By this I mean web sites and blogs providing medical advice that is skewed, unscrupulous, or designed to sell you some product like vitamins. I am also bothered by "disease foundations" that sponsor what appear to be unbiased web sites but which receive most of their funding from pharmaceutical companies and medical device and may exhibit favoritism in this regard.