• Don't buy likes and follows. Just don't

    Don't buy likes and follows. Just don't

    I attended the Ulster Bank and Small Business Can event on marketing earlier this week in The Mac Belfast. It was a great gig. Fantastic audience participation. Much of the discussion was on social media, and it struck me how much some of the audience were stuck in the trap of chasing follows and likes. There was a feeling that to be credible on social media, you have to be seen to have lots of followers.

    Of course, I can understand why they think this. But it is completely the wrong approach. It’s not the number of followers that counts; it’s who your followers are and how you are engaging them. Some members of the panel made this point.

    To use an analogy from the ‘traditional’ PR world; if I say to a client that we got 1,000 media hits in January, is this better than having 2 media hits? Not necessarily. My 2 media hits, could, for example, be the front page & centre pages of Business Telegraph and the lead story on the BBC Radio Ulster business news. If my client is a B2B company operating in Northern Ireland, would they be happy? I think so. The 1,000 hits could all be on obscure websites that no one that my client wants to target reads. Which is better?

    Similarly, which of these is more valuable? Having one follower on Twitter who is Barrack Obama, or having 227,000 followers, the vast majority of which are actually fake accounts? I have come across someone in the latter category. On first glance, he looks like a highly influential Twitter user. But scratch beneath the surface and he is actually achieving next to nothing. He has absolutely no influence on Twitter. No one retweets his tweets. No on engages with him. No one is listening.

    The reality is that he, like some others, has simply gone onto a dodgy website and paid a relatively small fee to buy followers. There’s only one side actually really benefiting from that transaction. You can do the same for Facebook likes. There’s an industry around it.

    If someone’s following looks too big to be true, it probably is. They’ve probably bought it. I implore you not to fall into this trap. It can be counterproductive and can damage your brand. Anyone who knows anything about social media will see through this quickly. It could lead them to see you as a company that takes short cuts, isn’t ethical and is happy to create a false impression. Would you organsie an event and, instead of working hard to get an audience of interested, relevant people, pay a group of uninterested actors to sit in the crowd to pretend? Would you fill the seats with dummies?

    On social media, as elsewhere, you have to work for your following to make it effective. Much better to build your social media following by offering something of value (insights, thought leadership, offers, timely information, advice). Take my client @ramseconomics for example. He “only” has 1,127 followers (I say “only” as 1,127 seems small in comparison to 227,000). But they are influential people. They are top business journalists in the UK and the island of Ireland. They are influential global economists. They are top business leaders. They are former members of the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee. They are relevant and influential. He has built them up by offering good analysis, timely information and wit. It’s not easy, but it’s worth it.

    Here is a list of just some of the reasons why you shouldn’t buy followers:

    • The followers you will get will probably be fake accounts or will have no interest in what you have to say
    • You often end up having to follow lots of spammers as part of the deal which means that your timeline will be clogged up with things you’re not interested in
    • Social networks are acting to shut down fake accounts, so you could have 227,000 followers on Twitter one hour and half that number the next – how is that going to look to your genuine followers?
    • It’s not ethical
    • It will create a bad impression of your brand to people who know about social media
    • It will soon become apparent that it’s fakery
    • Your rankings on social media will be negatively affected if you have lots of followers and no engagement
    • People are becoming more and more social media savvy and will become more adept at spotting fake followers or likes
    • This kind of activity will get more and more media attention and doing it will become taboo
    • It’s a waste of money

    Here is a list of just some of the ways you SHOULD be building you social media following:

    • Offer something of value and relevance to the people you want to engage with (insights, relevant and interesting links, timely information, offers, competitions, deals, analysis, views etc)
    • Engage constructively and in an informed way with people who are influential in your field
    • Include your social media details in your emails, on your website, in your e-newsletters
    • Get a blog, add good content and link it to your social media channels
    • If you have a place of business that your customers visit, put a sign up in it inviting them to follow your key social media channel for offers, deals etc
    • Be interesting
    • Be funny
    • Be social!

    Follow me on Twitter: @chrisjharrison