With more people around the world getting online everyday, digital marketing is becoming even more powerful. Social media in particular is playing an ever-increasing role in digital success of any product, service or campaign. Platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn have evolved from local networks to global channels. Tapped into correctly, they can provide a return on investment unthinkable even a few years back.
But together with this potential, exists the undercurrent of pseudo content that degrades the worth of online channels, imposing barriers for sustained success. Off shore reviews, timeline content or even worse, fake friends and followers are some examples.
Have you ever felt while reading an online review that it was staged? Or, did you ever feel that there is a sudden though odd increase in support for a product, service or campaign online? Sometimes it might even have made you wonder that a certain brand had a surprising number of followers. This case looks even more obvious when you find that the page for that particular product, service or campaign has insignificant number of comments while they have unbelievable number of likes or followers (A good rule of thumb is 0.5 – 1% of a real fan base comment or like a post).
This practise has been recently observed in Facebook and Twitter where we can see an incredible swell in the number of followers in an unbelievably short span of time. One example is when US presidential hopeful Mitt Romney’s Twitter page collected over 100,000 followers on one single day last July.
The problem stems from a combination of variables. Support does assure an initial good impression – therefore, it is a lucrative business for off shore armies – designing packages like those that create millions of fake profiles, often copying part of legitimate profiles to aid credibility, offering 10,000 likes for $19.95! On top this, the significant influence of Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) rankings and content creators provide equally large incentives.
Now the question is, is there any value in these low cost alternatives? The answer is yes, but with a considerable warning. If you are not incredibly savvy about the inherent value and potential dangers of illegitimate content or followers, it can have a long-termed detrimental effect on your business. You even need to be aware of the onshore providers outsourcing your work for incredible mark-ups. In the end, nothing beats well earned and real supporters, who will be engaged by your online strategy and become positive advocates of your brand reputation.
There are no short-cuts to your online brand management, social media popularity and content strategy, as such. But done right, you can create consistent new online channels to promote your brand. Here are our top five tips to achieve this goal:
(1) Plan: Plan out the content strategy for your product and/or service at least 12 months in advance. Make sure that you stay true to your brand values and developing online character. Incorporate a good mixture of campaigns, general discussion, competitions, advertising and affiliate networks. It is always good to know where your visitors are so that you can customise your products/services to local regions.
(2) Be your brand: Interested followers are the ones you have relationships with. If everyone else is talking about a particular current event, add a creative, on-brand slant on the topic, or simply post about something else. Think of your brand online as a person with a consistent character with a touch of liveliness. It can mature in time, but the personality shouldn’t jump around.
(3) Listen to your audience: Not just online, but at restaurants, offices, shops, salons etc. Social media is all about transparent brand recognition so listen and respond to both the positive and negative opportunities. Don’t just monitor the social channels you have a content strategy for, search consistently or purchase a cost effective software tool to help monitor in near-to-real time, to hear discussions of your brand transversely, over all online platforms. Transparency is a possible key to success here.
(4) Go the extra mile: More and more people are getting socially savvy. Stories that inspire often have similarities to old-world service. Go the extra mile and truly connect with your customers and clients. You will convert followers to advocates and constantly build a positive brand reputation.
(5) Avoid Fakery. Buying fake followers or fake reviews will not benefit your brand for long term. People are becoming more and more aware of fake stories, reviews and profiles. It’s like the old buyer beware warning: If it is too good to be true, it often is. Be genuine. Then the clarity you provide to your audience and your analytics will be real, measurable as your channel grows bankable.
It is obvious that social platforms are worried about their revenue a lot more than mitigating grey and black hat content. However, we will also see platforms become more responsible and close the gap for our very human need for transparency. For example, Facebook is rolling out Graph Search, which will bring another level of clarity to ‘real’ endorsements.
I know it may be alluring to have hundreds of thousands of Facebook fans, twitter followers and farm out your business reviews so you can have a hot rating, for, say for your restaurant on Urban Spoon. But as people and platforms become more attuned to counterfeit content, steering clear of it in the pursuit of genuine strategy will at the end bring in sustained and long-term success for you.