I’m pretty sure that most digital gurus and PR Savvy people tuned into channel 4 last night to watch a programme that uncovered some hidden truths about the online marketing world.
The best quote from the documentary was ‘Puttana Aziendale’ (which means corporate whore in Italian) I actually couldn’t stop laughing and wanted to promote this brand myself. On a serious note, the programme identified the black hat world of social media, where unethical tactics are being used and social media ‘experts’ are buying fans and followers to enable quick wins for their clients.
If you didn’t watch the programme you will be wondering where this activity is taking place and why? Well, mainly in click farms based in Dhaka where men are manually building fake profiles and anonymous accounts to manipulate fan pages and twitter handles. All of a sudden the Joe blogs fan page increases from 800 fans to 52,000 in the space of four days! Sounds like a great idea, yes? Well the truth is ….NO! This is completely unethical and can be a detrimental way of building a social following. After all fan pages are for those who are and will stay a fan of your offering in the long term, buying your products or services.
You can click on the likes of a fan page and check out where the majority are coming from.Example below:
Unfortunately in the early stages of my career, I came across this activity and felt very uncomfortable with it. I can see why it would be tempting to small brands who do not know what the implications are and are desperate to build their brand overnight. However, spending a little more time, money and getting the right person for the job is far more beneficial for long term results. This is why I am passionate about being a strong PR professional and sticking to a genuine service where building up a natural following via hard work and consistent effort is priority rather than cheating the system.
The worrying thing is, is that you can’t actually tell who is doing this. A lot of agencies are less transparent these days and if SEO is a major focus, this activity will become increasingly popular. My advice is ‘do your research and ask to see examples of their methods.’
“Bad agencies and lack of client understanding means that some brands are still blinded by likes or follows. What they need to finally learn is that interaction rate is the key result.” Dan Beasley, head of mobile at Jam @ Engine
The other part of this interesting programme raised the topic of gifting celebrities in exchange for twitter promotion, which I think is a slightly grey area. I still struggle to see how this is any different from direct advertising? Money or gifts have been exchanged for the same activity which will lead to a fairly similar outcome. In my own experience not all celebrities will tweet for a gift and there tends to be a lot more that goes on behind closed doors. Maybe the introduction of #add will be the answer to this problem.
The programme didn’t highlight anything new to most people in the digital marketing industry, but it did open the eyes of the public which will no doubt change the landscape of social media and encourage people to keep a closer eye on the brands they are following.
Read another great review of this programme on 8 M S blog.