Social media campaigns, especially contests, may sometimes attract users that have no value to your business or brand, and may even reduce visibility to real would-be customers.

There was a company that organized some social media contests, with the hope of attracting more users to its social media presence, and in turn, a hope to find new paying customers for its brand.

During the course of one particular contest, an email was sent to the selected winner. Let’s call this supposed winner “Tom Lee”. However, when the administrator received a reply, it was from a different person with a different email. Let’s call this other person “Dick Tan”. The administrator replied to this “Dick Tan” and said that a winner has already been chosen. This “Dick Tan” then replied and gave details to the administrator that he was both “Tom Lee” and “Dick Tan”, and also another online persona – let’s call it “Jane Chan”.

And then this person asked the social administrator which of the contest giveaway products was more popular, presumably trying to suss out the marketability of such a retail product.

In short, this person has probably created a multitude of fictional online identities, in the hope of entering social media contests to win freebies and prizes, and then possibly selling the prizes online. These are what some call “prize hunters” (to put it kindly).

Such personalities diminish your outreach to REAL prospects who may become REAL PAYING customers, and also cloud your campaigns. Your real prospects and customers are cheated of these campaigns and giveaways.

Here’s what I suggest you can try to reduce such personalities on your social media presence as well as reduce their clouding of your social media campaigns and contests:

1) All contests should have verifiable physical identities, and stated clearly within the rules of your contests or campaigns. Those winners chosen but fail to produce verifiable identities will be disqualified, and may even be banned from future participation, according to your published rules. State your privacy policies clearly in all online presence. Many fraudsters can easily create infinite social media fake profiles each with a different free email address, so to pinpoint participants, you need to tag them to physically identifiable documents such as national identity cards, drivers licenses or passports. After all, you are the giver, and you have every legal and moral responsibility to make proper rules.

2) Look carefully at the online presence of these participants for contests, and ensure that they are not fake profiles with little details on the profiles. Real personalities often have obvious, sustained and believable social interactions. Some particular regions also seem to have higher numbers of fake profiles, and you can exclude these regions from your campaigns. And frankly, if a participant desires anonymity, he/she should simply leave any social media platform as there is no such thing as anonymity online. Most of the mainstream social media platforms are moving towards retaining verifiable information for many legitimate reasons (one of which is security).

3) For more accurate targeting of campaigns, you can also geo-target your campaigns to lock them to specific geographical areas. For example, if your key market is in Singapore, you can lock your campaigns to Singapore, allowing only Singapore-based users to participate, thereby ensuring accuracy in attracting only localized prospects and customers. Depending on your needs, you can also restrict participation to single entries rather than allowing infinite entries from the same person.

4) Design your contests to be won NOT by merely asking for online users to vote for each other, but with strict rules with the ultimate winning decision by your own selected panel of judges.

5) Although some people might scorn at the use of social apps, these apps can help reduce fraud too. You see, social apps are actually hosted on another platform, typically as custom web content, and many such social apps have fraud detection and reduction features to aid you. Use social apps when you can, for more sophisticated campaigns.

Having a large “fan base” is not the key to online success. Many successful businesses have gone beyond the usual and antiquated yardsticks, whether it be number of online fans or followers, or even number of media clips. These outmoded yardsticks are not accurate in determining how best to move your business onwards in the new frontier. Measure your sales. Measure your revenue. Measure your profitability. Measure your expenses. These are the true yardsticks of sustainable success.