Last night, Channel 4 broadcast ‘Dispatches: Celebs, Brands and Fake Fans’, an exposé of social media fakery and deception that was, for a social media manager, highly disturbing.
And it seems I am not the only one to find the information that the documentary discovered highly shocking. Social networks and blogs are awash with comments, opinions and, in some cases, sheer outrage.
If you haven’t seen it, here are some of the key findings that were most shocking:
- You can ‘buy’ 1000 Facebook ‘likes’ or Twitter followers for just $15 from a Bangladesh-based company
- At these ‘click farms’, employees each had around 1000 fake profiles which allowed them to log in and out and ‘like’ pages as many times as the client had paid for
- Soft drink giants Coca Cola were alleged to have bought YouTube views but the company have gone on record to deny any of these allegations
- Celebrities are often paid to endorse products or brands through their personal Twitter pages, with the amount you pay based on the number of followers the celeb has
- Freebie events are set-up to which celebrities are invited to grab some of the goodies on offer on the basis that they will hopefully tweet at the brand and therefore give that brand a fantastic amount of exposure, driving sales and website traffic.
While I was watching this last night, I was dreading coming in the next morning as I half expected to have every client on the phone asking if we dabbled in any of these dodgy dealings. Thankfully, I haven’t heard from any of them yet which either means they didn’t watch the show or they trust us.
I am hoping it is the latter as, here at MINT, we believe that every part of online marketing, not just social, should be done in an authentic, ethical and transparent manner.
In social terms, every ‘like’, follower or +1 should be earned the right way; through hard work, being an engaging member of the social community and giving people a reason to have an interest in what we and our clients do.
While growing our clients’ fan base on the social media accounts is part of the whole strategy, it is not the main concern. What we look for and love is engagement with others; creating conversations, spreading information and posting the odd GIF of Jim Carrey dancing in a tutu.
Here at MINT we also know that our audiences and the majority of social media users are far more savvy, sceptical and analytical when it comes to things like a relatively unknown brand having 20,000 ‘likes’ or a celebrity tweeting about how much they love wearing a certain brand of jock strap. It’s like the old Abraham Lincoln and the internet joke: you can’t and shouldn’t always believe what you read on the web.
However, these revelations shouldn’t make you distrust all companies on social media. There are some companies that do absolutely fantastic work that provides their brand with a strong, likeable identity, gives their customers another way of engaging with their brand (for better or for worse) and build huge audiences because they have earned every single fan/follower.
Social media will always be open to fakers and fraudsters, but 99% of agencies out there are dedicated to creating authentic and engaging audiences that will be of huge benefit to their clients in terms of brand awareness, brand identity and hopefully sales. It is important that we all remember this and trust in agencies and companies to do things the right way and weed out those who look to cut corners and cheat the system.
If you haven’t yet seen the show, you can catch-up on 4od for the next 29 days.