I recently joined Beat the GMAT as a Featured Expert (a membership that costs US$250 per month). My goal was to help the community through being an active member of the MBA social network and in turn promote my skills/business as a GMAT tutor.
My initial feelings were of pride. I was excited about joining an “open and professional community… built on trust, transparency, and professionalism”. With bundles of enthusiasm I began answering questions and giving insightful approaches to problems posted on the forum. My responses even caught the attention of the Beat the GMAT team who reached out to me on numerous occasions to thank me for the quality and volume of my posts.
Being such an eager and active member, however, revealed an alarming trend: the majority (and in fact, very close to all) of the initial questions posted were from fake accounts. The fake accounts had traits that differed greatly from real accounts (see Appendix 1 for evidence):
- they only posted questions
- they posted a high volume of questions
- they posted the same number of questions per day, per forum, at the same time each day
- they posted easy/repetitive questions, with generic one-line comments at the end, never indicating where they got stuck
- they did not follow any Featured Experts
- they did not answer private messages
- they did not respond to questions regarding their posts
As I started to investigate this further it became apparent that all the most active users were fake (see Appendix 2 for evidence). At this stage the pride I had initially felt dissipated. I honestly felt sick. I reached out to Beat the GMAT with a bold accusation - that they were artificially manipulating forum activity and profiting as a result. Beat the GMAT’s initial response was to skirt around the issue claiming they had a “small number of volunteers” who may have acted outside their “guidance”. They even offered me expert status “on the house” if I continued to participate in the forums.
Not satisfied, I set up a call with Justin Doff, Director of BTGI. This was going to be interesting! Justin explained that given Beat the GMAT’s low level of forum activity and poor SEO versus its peers the team had decided to pay people to post questions on the forum. Through discussion it was teased out that all the most active users were paid and that this had been going on for over 6 months (most likely much longer).
What was most disturbing was that Justin could not come to terms with why I found this practice unethical. I had signed up to, and agreed to pay to be a part of, a community of users who I thought genuinely wanted help solving GMAT problems. I felt lied to. I no longer trusted Beat the GMAT. If they were doing this, what other unethical practices were they doing to artificially manipulate the number of users, posts, and page views?
It is for these reasons that I have decided to part ways with Beat the GMAT. To the real/genuine users on the site, I will find an alternative way to help you with your GMAT prep. To the Beat the GMAT management team, don’t create fake accounts and lie to your community – it erodes trust, plays with people’s emotions and ultimately ruins reputations.
Appendix 1: Signs of Fake Accounts
1) Fake accounts only post questions such that "Posts in Last 30 Days" equal "New Topics in Last 30 Days":
2) Fake accounts post a high volume of questions (see above)
3) Fake accounts post the same number of questions per day, per forum, at the same time each day. We can see below that user lheiannie07 will generally post 4 questions per day, one in each of the four forums: data sufficiency, problem solving, critical reasoning and sentence correction (in the same order and within the same time frame):
6th March 2018
7th March 2018
8th March 2018
4) Fake accounts post easy/repetitive questions, with generic one-line comments at the end, never indicating where they got stuck
5) Fake accounts do not follow any Featured Experts
6) Fake accounts do not answer private messages
7) Fake accounts do not respond to questions regarding their posts. No response to this message or any similar messages:
Appendix 2: All top accounts are fake
The most active users have the same amount of posts to new conversations (this applies to all top users except Roland2rule who has only 3 more posts):