Living and working in a global economy can be overwhelming, especially for those of us running small businesses but, thanks to social media marketing, even the smallest of small businesses can promote their brands or businesses using the same tools and practices as the industry big guns whose marketing budgets often run into the millions.
And, more often than not, it works.
By using social media effectively, many small businesses will start to see a modest increases in traffic and, certainly, fans on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube and/or Instagram. If they’re particularly good at what they do, they may even see more than a modest rise in the number of new friends, fans and likes on their social media accounts.
The best bit? Legitimate increases in social media followers will usually translate into increased sales or, at the very least, a lot more interest in your products and services.
However, for many businesses, a ‘modest’ rise in visibility isn’t enough and, some, succumb to the temptation of purchasing fans, likes and traffic in order to appear more popular or more influential than they actually are.
It’s definitely a tempting business proposition, but it’s not a smart one.
Admittedly, looking at your Facebook page and seeing you only have a few dozen Likes (if that), can be most disheartening. But, to remedy the temporary heartache of a slow-going social media campaign, some businesses feel compelled to artificially boost their virtual audiences by paying for Friends or Fans.
After all, a large number of Likes of Followers gives the company automatic credibility, right? It presents consumers with the impression that your business is popular and, hence, must be good at what it does.
And, when you can buy 1000 Facebook fans for just $20; 5000 Twitter followers for $30 or a whopping 250,000 YouTube views for $600, it can certainly be appealing.
The problem is this massive following is fake and, as such, does nothing to help your business’ bottom line.
One of the primary goals of social media marketing is engagement, which is interaction between your social media content and consumers, and many of the Likes and Followers you are purchasing don’t even exist. They’re a hotch-potch of fake accounts, usernames and social media profiles that are generated by scripts and robots or are just unused.
As such, they can’t engage with your brand – and they certainly won’t be adding any value.
A consumer engages with a company’s Facebook page, for example, when they post a comment or share a post. This engagement rate is the hallmark of a great social media campaign and any fake social media followers cannot engage with your business legitimately.
A Facebook or Twitter account with fake friends and Followers does not receive a fraction of the engagement authentic consumers would provide a company, nor do they share your content with legitimate users, so effectively, your page is not actually being seen by anyone and it certainly won’t be converting into enquiries, let alone sales.
So, really, what’s the point? You’re paying good money for ghosts – and risking your business’ reputation at the same time.
While the purchase of fake Likes and Followers may give a company a temporary boost in popularity, it isn’t possible to sustain that boost. Inevitably, the lack engagement from fake accounts has the potential to negatively affect a business or brand’s Edgerank, Klout score and Google rank.
Worse still, it waters down your own data, so you never get a true picture of what is actually going on with your social media and, therefore, have no way of discovering what actually needs improving.
Oh, and even if you don’t mind being followed by ghost fans etc just to boost your public figures, your customers will most definitely mind because you’re intentionally misleading them.
It’s a problem in many industries, especially ours, where some businesses appear to be boosting their figures artificially.
So, if you are approached by a company wanting to sell you advertising on their Facebook page or other social media channels, be sure to look ask yourself if their figures are real or whether you’re going to have your brand promoted to hundreds of thousands of non-existent users.
Here are some ways to weigh up whether or not a business’ social media profile is being boosted with fake or paid-for users:
1) Trust your gut: Is it logical that a start-up, one-man show would would attract 50,000 users overnight?
2) Look at the engagement of their fans. Is there any interaction on the page and, if there is, what sort of interaction is taking place? Is it just likes? Is it comments? What language are those comments in?
3) Where are the alleged users on the page from? Insights on Facebook allows you to click on the blue tab with the business’ number of likes and see where their core audience is located. If you’re an Australian wedding supplier whose target market is Australian brides and if the site offering you exposure has most of its fans located in Sweden, well, that’s not your target market and being popular in a country where you can’t make sales is absolutely useless.
4) Track their popularity: A site that has a few thousand fans one day and a few hundred thousand a month or so later has, likely, either gotten very lucky or they’ve paid for somewhat of a boost. Watch for large spikes or significant drops in an account’s engagement or popularity as that could be a sign that everything isn’t right.
Much of the behaviour described above is quite deceptive. It gives your business (and the industry in general) a bad name. Worse still, modern-day consumers are pretty savvy as to what appears to be legitimate and what does not.
And, don’t think inexplicable surges in fan figures will go unnoticed. There are myriad ways for your clients and competitors to check the authenticity of your Fans and Followers via sites such as Fakers, StatusPeople and TwitterAudit.
Oh, and if Facebook or Twitter find out you’re using high volumes of fake followers/likes, your account could be suspended or deleted and that creates a worse aura of suspicion around your company’s online presences, which nobody wants. Think about several high-profile politicians who were caught buying fans for their Twitter and Facebook accounts and what damage it caused their reputations.
In addition to these ethical concerns, there are security and safety concerns to consider. One of the current most prolific phishing tactics uses fake Likes and Followers who then go on to spam your few legitimate followers with links to equally questionable websites, products and services.
Buying fans (or traffic) makes no sense. It is unethical, unproductive and potentially dangerous, and the only surefire way to build your digital audience legitimately is to create value by offering great content.