Back to Top

7 Ways To Identify Facebook Contest Scams

Check out this offer:

Seems too good to be true, right?

Many brands run contests like this on their page. And while Facebook banned this practice a couple years ago (it’s acceptable now), it usually doesn’t work.

So before you read the list of clues that give away this as a scam, look at their page to see how many you can spot.

Screenshot 2015-04-19 14.48.48

How many did you spot?

  • Facebook page is not verified: Most brands, especially as big as Qantas, have the blue checkmark.
  • The page name has a dot at the end: Sometimes scammers will put an underscore in there, instead.
  • No url listed for the website: Definite tell-tale sign, although a smart scammer would link to the official site.
  • Only one post from the page: And that is the scam post itself. Unlikely that Qantas would have only just now created their Facebook page.
  • Page is classified as a community: The actual page is under “travel and leisure” and is an official page.
  • Searching for Google yields the actual site: While Facebook does have search functionality, search Google or going to the airline’s website is usually more accurate. If you’re a real pro with Google search operators, you can type in “ Qantas” to ask for what’s on
  • Timeline photo has no description: Same for lacking milestones or filling out other key parts of the page. But excited consumers probably don’t look to see this.
  • Low engagement: This is tricky, since contest spam gets high engagement on spam posts. But if you add /likes to the end of the post, you’ll see that it either doesn’t show of the engagement is low.

Here is the actual Qantas page:

Screen Shot 2015-04-21 at 9.32.24 PM

Facebook will likely shut the fake page down in the next day, since their spam algorithms are pretty strong.

As Facebook gets bigger and businesses get more sophisticated in integrating social with their marketing strategy, you’d imagine that spam would increase proportionately. However, that’s just not the case. Here’s why:

  • The larger Facebook gets, the more data the algorithm has to determine what’s real or not: Spam profiles, whether for businesses or people, aren’t going to have a lot of real friends and shared connections. Add in mobile interactions from Facebook’s growing universe of apps, and you have data/logic similar to when credit cards tell if your card has been stolen.
  • Organic reach is harder: The more content flowing, the harder it is for brands, fake or not, to get News Feed exposure. There will always be gimmicks to trick the News Feed algorithm (word memes, “you won’t believe what happened next” BuzzFeed headlines, share to enter the contest, auto-posting at high volume, community reply bots, etc), but these will be quieted much like spam in all other marketing channels. Think of direct mail spam, telemarketer spam, Google SEO tactics, and so forth.
  • Verified identities not only matter, but are mandatory: You’ve connected on the web and mobile by logging in with your Facebook and Google credentials (called oAuth). And increasingly, you won’t be able to play on the Internet without using a Facebook or Google account to log in. Some people call this the death of the open web (no more anonymity), while others embrace the convenience of no more wallets, credit cards, or devices. Neither spammers, brands, nor users can create pages/apps/profiles without a verified identity, checkmark or not.

We’ve exposed interesting types of scams over the years, whether it be garden variety Facebook contest spam like this or more sophisticated Google SEO spam (usually done by well-intentioned corporate SEO teams). But the common thread in all of these is that of “implied endorsement.” Meaning that you have enough consumers vouching for something (by clicking like), that the unsuspecting consumer believes it’s legitimate.

So while the bar for News Feed exposure increases, whether it’s on Facebook, Google, or any other network that has a filter (even Twitter), the companies that don’t focus on their content marketing efforts will get punished right alongside the spammers.

Consider how many of these earlier spam checklist items you’re guilty of. Do you have properly filled out milestones? Are you getting a strong ratio of positive to negative feedback on your posts — organic or paid?  Are you aggressively overselling in your posts (like a spammer) or being truly interested in the community? Do you have your Facebook page properly categorized? And so forth.

Strong content marketing and community management is your defensive measure to spammers who would usurp your brand power.

Last week, I was moving items into my storage unit. The Storage-Mart staff there not only did a great job. As part of their process, they gave me a card to leave them a review on Google+ and various social media sites.  And when I left them a 5 star review, their community managers took notice and thanked me. They do this whether or not you’re a client, media influencer, or poor student storing stuff for the summer.

One of those community managers is Tron Jordheim, who said this:

TronBlackReal engagement is what we are after. Lots of shares or clicks don’t mean much if the thing that was shared or clicked was bogus. It is better if one person shared something they found authentic and meaningful than a thousand people shared a bogus free Caribbean cruise contest.

They build in generating engagement into their operational processes. And it inoculates them against spammers who would otherwise try to pretend they are Storage-Mart or hold a contest saying “free storage and $5,000 if you share this post” or nonsense like that. The stronger your community, the more members will help police the spam and work on your behalf — more than your internal team members or Facebook’s smart algos can catch.

There are no magic digital secrets — just strong marketing and operational processes that integrate social components.

Reblogged 5 years ago from


Write a comment


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.