Graphic by Greg Grinnell/Northeastern University

Northeastern University graduates Lyle Stevens, DMSB'09, Sean Naegeli, E'11, and Chris Wolfel, DMSB'13, founded Mavrck, a company that provides businesses with a machine-learning algorithm that allows them to view who consumes their content. As fake followers continue to engulf social media and erode brand trust, these three hope Mavrck can make a difference.

Designed to allow businesses to identify influencers willing to share their content on personal feeds, Mavrck also looks at inflated numbers of followers – helping to determine who's real and who's fake. Using its fraud detection algorithm, it gauges whether an account is run by a real person or bots that create fake engagement.

“Influencers are a whole new kind of currency,” said Stevens.

Mavrck is currently used by PepsiCo, P&G, and other major brands.

As social media platforms are watching and fighting back against fake followers and dishonest product endorsements, The Federal Trade Commission is too. According to recent guidance published on their website, fake likes and other interactions can have serious consequences for those purchasing and selling bots.

According to research from D'Amore-McKim School of Business Professor of Marketing Koen Pauwels focused on the relationship between social media and consumer trust, one part of the problem is the metrics advertisers use to measure success.

“There is evidence that the follower metric is not reliable, as some influencers cheat a lot more than others,” he said. “In reality, there is a strong need for the industry to self-check in order to keep its credibility.”

About one-third of Mavrck's employees come from Northeastern.

“Northeastern breeds a different kind of person,” Wolfel said, describing the Mavrck team as “curious hustlers” who are highly driven by their curiosity. He currently services as an advisor for IDEA, Northeastern's student-led business incubator. Four years ago, IDEA helped launch Mavrck with early funding.

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