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May 18, 2012

In an earlier post we sang the praises of Facebook contests, and we asked – what’s not to like about them? Recently, we found one reason why Facebook contests aren’t all fun and games: Facebook contest fraud!

One of the latest Facebook contests we helped to implement was the “Share Your Food Family,” which we helped to develop with our client the Philly Farm and Food Fest (PF3). The contest was very simple, only requiring participants to submit a photo of them or their community enjoying food, of food they liked, their food people, them dressed as food…you get the picture. Photos ranged from a father and son picking strawberries, to an up-close shot of honeybees.

Once initial submissions were done, a “blue-ribbon panel” picked the top five finalists. The finalists were announced, contacted, and given pretty basic support and instructions on how to be the Grand Prize Winner. The Grand Prize (a fantastic TREK mountain bike) would be awarded to the finalist with the most public votes. So finalists were left to their own devices to encourage their friends, family, and co-workers to come to the PF3 page and vote.

A few days into the finalist phase, we noticed that one of the contestants, let’s call him “Dave,” had a disproportionate amount of votes compared to the rest of the contestants. While several of the contestants had ten to twenty votes, Dave had more than one hundred votes in the first few days. As the finalist phase continued and votes increased, Dave’s voting numbers increased exponentially. At the end of the weeklong voting period, we noticed that Dave had over 900 votes compared to the contestant with the second highest votes, which had only one hundred. We were suspicious!

After some further investigation, our team decided to enlist the help of Wildfire, the marketing software program we use to run contests. Wildfire ran a test through their system and verified that the extremely high number of votes on Dave’s photo were all from the same IP address. This indicated that one person had voted multiple times from the same computer. Dave had purchased a voting bot that which allows your computer to vote multiple times for one entry. At $340, the voting bot software isn’t cheap, but could be considered an investment to those who want to milk the system with Facebook apps, games, and contests. However, if Dave thought his voting software was going to pay him rich dividends, he was sadly mistaken. Team ChatterBlast disqualified Dave’s entry and rightly gave the grand prize to the true winner.

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At the Philly Farm and Food Fest we beamed with pride as the rightful winners – the “Father and Son Picking Strawberries” photo was awarded the Grand Prize of a Trek Bicycle. Although social media and Facebook contests can be seen to some as opening up Pandora’s Box, we feel confident in knowing that a few bad apples don’t spoil the bunch with constant monitoring and support from Wildfire and our ChatterBlast Team.

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Michael Tomasetti

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