About a month ago, we at Vulcan Post began to notice something rather odd happening in the comments of our Facebook posts.
As a digital publisher sharing content on social media, we’re used to seeing pretty much all sorts of comments ranging from rude ones to genuinely insightful and educational ones.
However, this was different (well, at least to me it was, as I’ve only been with the company for just over a year now).
On pretty much each post we made in August (up until now), there would be a few up to over a dozen of Facebook users spamming our comments about some programme by Celcom called BeBozz.
Disclaimer: This article is not sponsored by Celcom, we’re writing this to share our experience of being on the receiving end of spam due to one of the company’s programmes, and our opinion on this sort of marketing strategy.
While the first sentence of their comment would start in different ways (see examples below), the back part of it would be the same exact words, asking whoever sees the comment to sign up for the programme using their referral code.
Eventually though, we did notice that even the first sentence would be reused multiple times by different users, so it’s safe to assume that the entire message could just be tweaked versions of a template.
At first, we suspected they were bots. A while after we’d publish a post, a swarm would follow and make their presence known in the comments all in the span of a few minutes, which was very bot-like.
What boggled our minds, however, were the few observations we made about this whole phenomenon.
What Is Even Going On?
First of all, they’re not bots. They’re actual people living real lives.
I’ll admit that I clicked curiously on a number of public profiles, did some scrolling, and saw that they were decently active accounts.
For example, there were some who had uploaded new profile pictures quite recently and received a number of comments from friends and family praising them.
Surely bots aren’t that advanced yet, right? At least, not to the point of having a community of bots that can interact with one another like you and I would.
Secondly, what we couldn’t understand was how we were being targeted.
Regardless of whether or not the post was mobile device-related, they would spam the comments.
Were they just targeting us in general, along with a bunch of other publishers? As the spam is quite an eyesore on our page, we’ve been actively hiding them upon noticing them.
It’s likely that other publishers are doing the same on their Facebook pages too, but the other day I saw a yet-to-be hidden BeBozz comment on one of The Edge Malaysia’s posts.
That was actually what triggered me to write this article, as for a while I had thought we were the only ones being targeted. Seeing that made me realise that it’s a problem affecting others too.
I can’t confirm if only the pages of digital Malaysian publishers are being targeted by the comments, but I can confirm one thing: the spam is irritating as hell.
Thirdly, I would never spot the same user in the comments of different posts.
Each comment would be written by a new user, without fail, so simply banning the user wouldn’t have helped reduce the spam.
Is This Even An Effective Marketing Strategy?
From what I can tell, BeBozz is a Celcom programme that claims you can become your own boss and earn an income without subscribing to the 9-5 grind.
You’re essentially signing up to become a sales agent for Celcom’s prepaid and postpaid products.
However, the spam comments aren’t marketing Celcom products at all—they’re marketing the programme itself and trying to recruit more people to become sales agents under BeBozz.
Assuming that these users were expected to market the programme this way upon signing up, is this even an effective marketing strategy?
The more common types of marketing strategies to promote something are giveaways and referrals.
You see giveaways happening all the time on various social media platforms, where a brand will get their audience to tag a friend/family member (or several) to have a shot at winning.
When the tagger tags someone, they’re helping the brand gain more awareness, and are practically doing free, willing marketing for it.
But this isn’t something that the tagger and the people they tag mind, as the brand would usually already be a target of their interest.
Referrals can make even sweeter deals. They’re practically guaranteed rewards if you successfully get someone to sign up for something through a unique link provided to you.
Both giveaways and referrals give people a chance of winning a reward. If you fail to win a giveaway or no one signs up with your referral link, you don’t lose much, if anything at all.
An All-Around Strange Situation
On the other hand, this strategy of marketing BeBozz is neither a giveaway nor a referral, and you do have something to lose (if you don’t perform).
Because the comments ended with a link after all the encouragement of signing up for the programme, I had initially assumed that they were referral links.
Upon taking a closer look though, they were all the generic link to the main Celcom BeBozz page.
Based on information I could gather from the FAQ and T&Cs, those who sign up for the programme actually have to invest RM20 up to RM270, depending on which startup investment package you go for.
Sure, it’s a small investment amount in the long run if you can kick off your career as a BeBozz sales agent, but if you can’t, it’s still money lost.
Everything I’ve learnt about this so far still makes me scratch my head. What is the purpose of these spam comments?
Is it some stipulation by Celcom that you have to do this if you sign up for the programme?
If not, why are these users willingly carrying out free marketing for the programme, since they don’t get any referral rewards (that I know of, from looking at the FAQ and T&Cs)?
Are the comments being posted just to catch the attention of anyone and everyone in hopes that someone will click on the link and join?
Are these users specifically choosing to spam our comments (and that of other publishers) for whatever reason, or are their accounts unknowingly being hijacked on the side to make the comments seem “real”?
I have so many questions and no answers. I’ve tried reaching out to Celcom to learn why this is happening, but haven’t been able to get a contact.
It’s Not About The Programme, It’s About The Marketing
To clarify, I have no issue with the programme itself, as it’s still an opportunity for Malaysians to earn some money (as long as it isn’t a scam).
What I truly take issue with is the way that the programme is being marketed, taking advantage of public pages and the traffic they get.
Even worse, the comments are an absolute eyesore both to everyone and their audience.
So much so that one of our readers who owns a public page himself personally reached out to me with a recommendation on how to automatically hide comments with any mention of “BeBozz”.
I’d like to pass on the knowledge he gave me, so to do it, you need to head to Facebook’s Business Manager, find your Settings, and under General, there’s an option called Page Moderation.
Simply type in the specific word you’d like to ban, and it’ll auto-hide any comments containing that word.
Since doing so, we’ve had a little more peace of mind, but just because they’re hidden doesn’t mean they’ve stopped.
All the spam may have helped Celcom get more sign-ups, but at the cost of their brand image, I’d say.
Our audience may not be too bothered by it as they’re not directly targeted, but as a brand seeing our page and other publishers’ social media getting marred like that, it’s rightfully annoying.
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