In another sight of how important social media has become to marketers, the code for the notorious credit card information stealing virus, Zeus, has been recently modified by hackers to do something else that is worth more money. You would think that stealing credit cards online generates enough cash for hackers. Apparently, based on prices posted at underground black markets for digital information and products online, one thousand credit card numbers cost only six dollars, whereas one thousand likes on Instagram costs thirty dollars. If you are looking for followers, one thousand Instagram followers will set you back around fifteen dollars. There are many hacker and security forums where this kind of information is both sold. This is very interesting because it is an underhanded compliment to the power of Instagram. People are looking for social proof on Instagram and obviously people who buy these products make money out of the photo sharing social media application. Just looking at the numbers, it is not hard to see why it made economic sense for hackers to tweak Zeus to create fake accounts on Instagram and “like” certain accounts that the infected computer is directed to like. This is a serious problem which happened to Facebook in the past and is definitely happening with Instagram now. People will be emboldened to take over computers’ rich security systems and do all sorts of mischief just to make a few extra bucks whenever there is a large enough economic incentive.
Why Instagram and why so much money?
Marketers need a high level of “social proof” for them to gain traction and build a huge following on Instagram. The more fake followers they have the higher the chance that they will get legitimate followers. Once they have a large enough amount of legitimate followers they can then start sending marketing messages to convert that huge base of people into dollars and cents. Another way to look at this phenomenon is to look at how many lists work. If you enter your email in an email collection box, you probably wouldn’t think that it would amount to much money on the other side for the person collecting the email. You would be absolutely wrong. It’s a numbers game. Sure that person might not generate a sale of you when you give that person permission to send you email but chances are there will be somebody in a thousand, ten thousand or even a hundred thousand of these members that would buy an email that list owner sends. It’s just a question of probability and odds. People pay a good money to get Instagram followers and to boost their overall profile on Instagram. Yes, they’re looking at the long term. They’re looking at such a big following that it starts operating almost automatically that people would see how credible you are based on the number of people supposed to be following you. They would follow you because they think you are already preselected and vetted by other people. Little do they know that ninety percent of their followers are fake. That’s how social media works. It’s all about perceptions and impressions of importance and influence. This is why there’s such a big market for Facebook likes, twitter retweets, followers so on and so forth. Instagram is not immune to market forces. It is just quite interesting that one of the most notorious pieces of software used to steal financial information has been modified to make money by boosting Instagram likes and follower accounts.