While social media is a great tool for companies seeking information about their customers, it also contains a lot of noise and useless, irrelevant information. A new study has found that this is generated, to a large degree, by spammers.

Networked Insights, a US analytics firm, found that mentions of the world’s top brands on Facebook and Twitter were mostly spam. Here are some percentages for different companies:

  • Elizabeth Arden (95%)
  • Visa (81%)
  • MasterCard (76%)
  • Fisher-Price (70%)
  • Lancome (68%)

These messages have nothing to do with the brand or product. Instead, they are merely spammers trying to push three kinds of unwanted content:

  • Coupon/promo sites
  • Adult webpages
  • General spam

These three types of spam posts are found in 28.8% of web forum posts, 19.6% of blog comments and 9.3% of tweets on Twitter.

A major issue here is that spammers are improving over time. These days, spambots are almost indistinguishable from real humans. It takes a lot of effort and analysis to spot whether a certain account is truly legitimate or whether it is being used for malicious purposes. They can trick computers and site admins into thinking the content is completely harmless even if it is not.

This creates problems for brands seeking to understand precisely what their customers want. When sorting out the truth from the noise these spammers create, it can be difficult to see which products people buy together or where people visit prior to dropping by a certain store. This added spam makes the data messy and can affect the final statistics companies use to better connect with the public.

The fact that spammers hijack these well-known brands is a sign that these businesses are truly successful though. If a spammer chooses a particular firm, it means that the company is truly ubiquitous among the general public.