I guess, you have received and possibly, still receive telephone calls, texts and emails from known and unknown senders, promoting certain brands or asking you to try certain online or telephone businesses. I receive such messages, almost on a daily basis. The senders possibly knew that I have legitimate personal and family needs to urgently address. They possibly knew that I equally need cars, houses and other luxury goods that would paint the image of someone who has really hit a big spot in the business world. I am therefore certain that no one would expect me to underestimate or fail to seize an online or phone business opportunity that promises to transform me into one of the richest men, within a few seconds. It however turned out that most the businesses were actually created by online marketing scammers to rip off unsuspecting individuals and business owners.

Internet and social media fraud are clearly a global problem. A recent media statement credited to Action Fraud, UK’s national reporting centre for fraud and cybercrime, indicates, “Over €2 million has been lost to coronavirus-themed scams, phishing emails and other fraud in the UK alone.” Some experts also agreed that Nigeria is one of the countries where the highly disgraceful issue is becoming more prevalent. “Unlike China which has largely shrugged off the reputation of being the producer of substandard goods, Nigeria has gained a reputation for being the haven of online fraudsters or what are colloquially known as Yahoo boys,” said Gbenga Sesan, Executive Director, Paradigm Initiatives Nigeria.

The phony activities of fraudsters are equally mainly linked to Nigeria’s promising but largely untapped youth population. Fadeyi Elizabeth, a student in one of the nation’s higher institutions, reportedly observes, “after seemingly endless search for white collar jobs, they become fed up and cease seeking legal means of livelihood. Hence, they resort to swindling people through the internet.” Gabriel Ogunjobi, a journalist, further agrees, “the increasing rate of unemployment and under-employment among more than 50 percent of the entire population is one reason the country is poverty-driven. Many have resorted to internet fraud for financial survival.”

Internet and social media marketing – winning war against fraudsters
Internet and social media marketing – winning war against fraudsters

It is equally clear that scammers, within and outside the country have become so sophisticated that their brand promotion strategies are capable of defrauding even those considered to be wisest investors or regulators. In fact, it is becoming clearer that the government is part of their biggest potential targets. Tolu Ogunlesi, Special Assistant to President Buhari on Digital and New Media, recently, tweets, “someone created a fake letter purporting to be from @FinMinNigeria, tallying donations from Nigerians. It’s a FAKE letter.”

From the foregoing, one could be tempted to underrate the potentials or completely lose sight of the immeasurable career and life-changing opportunities in internet and social media businesses. It is however certain that such negative perception would be completely changed, if one considers the increasing successes recorded by several respected online marketing and sales firms. Credible reports affirmed that Amazon reported $75.5billion revenue in first quarter of 2020. Daniel Zhang, Chair and CEO of Alibaba Group, also reportedly attest, “Alibaba achieved the historic milestone of $1 trillion in GMV across our digital economy this fiscal year.”

It could then be argued that Amazon, Alibaba and other internet marketing and sales platforms are recording resounding successes, even in the face of the ravaging pandemic, because they are timely making products and services very accessible to consumers. Some experts also attributed the successes of the firms to the adoption of Artificial Intelligence; AI which they noted is clearly shaping human lives. It is however emerging that their feats are strongly tied to rich creative works directly produced by human beings. Christina Lu, GM of Alimama, Alibaba’s marketing arm reportedly states, “all the content produced by the AI Copywriter is the result of applying deep learning models, trained with large volumes of quality content created by humans.”

Internet and social media marketing – winning war against fraudsters
Internet and social media marketing – winning war against fraudsters

It then stands that while some experts are advocating for AI to be adopted across all life cycles of the customers, others are most convinced that the greatest and most meaningful attention must be devoted to human content creators. Will Shaw, a producer, recently, told chiefmarketer.com, “I am a fan of how Alexa can request an Uber or how Netflix provides recommendations by learning what I like to watch.

However, I am regularly irritated when a Facebook algorithm serves me ads for an entire industry because I accidently clicked on the page. These incongruent experiences make me pine for the human factor.” It therefore remains that human beings are the most-needed element when it comes to brainstorming on the best ways of generating leads, building relationships, launching new products as well as selling goods and services through the internet and social media. Human beings are equally the best bet when the business primarily focuses on promoting brands as well as guiding users on how they could best invest wisely and truly control their online spending.

Meanwhile, it is highly commendable that some government officials like Ogunlesi are now raising alarm about the activities of internet and social media scammers. It then stands that patriotic Nigerians must consistently and thoroughly scrutinise brand promotions and investment opportunities that are too good to be true. It must however be noted that scammers are not equally leaving anything to chances. “It’s easy for fraudsters to make their messages look real and credible and sometimes hard for investors to tell the difference between fact and fiction,” notes Investor.gov, official website of the United States government.

Internet and social media marketing – winning war against fraudsters
Internet and social media marketing – winning war against fraudsters

Fraudsters will continue to battle their own share of the highly competitive market. In short, they might device strategies that might place the contents of their sites far over what genuine players are offerings. This therefore raises tough questions for brand custodians. Is it enough, claiming to have assembled an online marketing and sales team with a high level of professionalism and ethics? Are your team generating contents that are truly connecting and resonating with your desired consumers? Are they really producing contents that are strong and credible enough to gain and sustain the desired trust of your consumers? Is your team creating content and promotional strategy that would actually trigger an audience’s response, giving your brand a reasonable edge over scammers?

Sunday Odiaka

Sunday Odiaka is a result-driven media content analyst, helping forward-thinking individuals and organisations maximise potentials and increase return on investments. He can be reached through: shorikwueodiaka@gmail.com