Public Relations

Can’t Buy Me Followers

In December, Instagram announced Selena Gomez as the most followed celebrity on the platform with 103 million followers. As a small business owner, I could only imagine having a following that large on my business’s social platforms, and what it could mean for my brand awareness. Social media, as we have been led to believe, is a numbers game.

Recently, I was alerted to the fact that websites promising fake social media followers exist. I can see the appeal. Who doesn’t want to have more followers? Having more followers generally means you have a popular account, and in turn, a popular product or service. However, using a website to generate or purchase fake followers is a faux pas in the marketing world, and here’s why:

First and foremost using a third party source to gain followers is against the code of conduct of most social media websites, whether you pay for the service or not. For example, Twitter outlines in their rules and regulations that any accounts found to have used a third party source with the intention of gaining fake followers will be shut down. One particular problem associated with these websites that promise followers is that they have access to your account and therefore can easily compromise it at any time. These websites have the ability to spam your account and your followers, which just happens to be another practice that will get you suspended from a social media channel.

Rules against these websites have been around since these fake follower generators have been, and they’re becoming especially necessary today. With all the fake news going around, social media platforms are cracking down on the amount of fake content shared on their channels, and one way to do that is by eliminating accounts that appear to have purchased followers or spread spam-related content.

To that extent, it’ not difficult to find accounts with fake followers. “Ghost Accounts” are easy to spot because they have strange names, follow a lot of people with minimal followers themselves and only post spam-related content.

As a consumer, I follow a number of brands on their social media channels. Say I go on to check out my favourite retailer’s page and I look into their followers. If I find a bunch of empty spam accounts, I’ll know they’d have likely purchased or subscribed to fake followers, and my trust in this brand will have almost diminished. While every brand aspires to have a lot of followers or likes on social media, deceiving your audience into thinking you have more than you really do positions you as untrustworthy.

In a previous blog I discussed the importance of Google Analytics. If a large majority of your followers are coming from third party sources or unlawful social media practices, the metrics will be thrown off. As a marketer, I adjust marketing plans based on the data I see from analytics, so if the numbers aren’t accurate, it’s difficult to come up with effective marketing strategies. In order to see a return on investment with social media, you need to be able to get your message across to the right people and create authentic content that will engage them. It’s hard to get engagement when your audience is 90% spam bots.

One thing I suggest to my clients when they want to generate more engagement and followers in a short amount of time is to boost content. Most social media platforms offer businesses an option to reach wider, more targeted audiences at a cost. Boosting is an authentic way to encourage people to check out your brand.

I have been working in this industry long enough to have seen the tricks that can be used to try and engage audiences and attract followers, but as a professional marketer and business owner I always want to provide my clients with honest marketing services that follow best practices. As much as we all like to see high numbers of followers on our social sites, if the followers were generated by a spambot site, then what value do they really have to your business? In marketing as in business, honesty is always the best policy.

 

 

 

 

 

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The Social Media Election

If you’re anything like me, you’ve been glued to the American presidential election since it began to heat up earlier this year. This election is different from others for a number of reasons. For the first time ever, a woman is the Democratic nominee for president. Her opponent, the leader of the Republican Party, is loudly entering the political arena for the first time. Whatever the outcome is tonight, the 2016 election will be looked upon as a “social media election”.

In the 2012 American presidential election, Mitt Romney and Barack Obama were the first candidates who really used social media to gauge voter interest in their campaigns. Facebook was a reliable channel for distributing key campaign messages for both parties, and Twitter was just starting to make waves. Obama successfully generated almost 20 million more followers than Romney did on the platform, and secured the presidency in November of that year. Obama’s victory tweet after winning the election became the most retweeted piece of content on the platform up to that point.

While social media had a huge influence on the last election, nothing can top how it’s altered the current presidential race. The two candidates have been using social media for years, thus allowing voters to tap into their past posts. Take this tweet by Donald Trump, for example:

Somehow I can’t see Ronald Reagan saying something like this.

The use of social media allows presidential candidates to give minute-by-minute updates on their campaign and gives voters direct access into their professional and private lives. Donald Trump has been successful in using his Twitter account to influence his voters throughout his presidential campaign. His brash language and brutal honesty has positioned him as a “no-nonsense” candidate. While some voters find this behavior unsettling, he has appealed to the untapped demographic of American voters who want to abolish political correctness.

Hilary Clinton might not be as “honest” as Donald Trump, but she also has an impressive social media presence. Her slogan “#ImWithHer” has been shared millions of times all over social media. Due to her large celebrity fan base, Democratic social media influencers like Katy Perry and Lena Dunham continue to share supportive messages and images.

Trump relies heavily on his Twitter account while Clinton has broadened her social media presence through Snapchat, blogs and apps. While running completely different campaigns, both candidates have secured a huge social media following. Twitter and Facebook accounts are free to use, but don’t let that fool you into thinking social media hasn’t cost each campaign dearly. Donald Trump’s campaign spent $200,000 to purchase the promoted hashtag of the day, allowing it to be seen from every Twitter user in the U.S. through sponsored posts and the trending hashtags sidebar.

What has me so concerned as a marketer is that social media has provided voters with an inside look into the candidates, but it might not be the most reliable way to judge a future president. As we all know, social media is great for storytelling but that doesn’t mean it always reflects reality. One thing I have noticed throughout this entire campaign is that we’ve begun to lose sight of the actual issues at hand. Stories about Donald Trump’s latest misogynistic tweets are as much of a story as the crisis in Aleppo. While social media has played an important role in this election, it’s important to note that it is not the only factor Americans should be looking into when electing their next president.

So where do we go from here? I think it’s safe to say that neither candidate will have their own true voice on social media if they are elected President of The United States.

From a marketing standpoint, both these candidates have utilized social media to their advantage by creating consistent content marketing campaigns to appeal to their voters. However, voters in the United States need to consider that a candidate’s social media personality is likely to change once they have been elected, so they need to be confident in their candidate as a leader, not a tweeter.

Marketing Needs PR: Handling Crisis

Over the past few months, I’ve noticed more and more of a convergence between marketing and PR. The shift comes, I feel, as a result of the increasingly blurred lines between advertising and public relations as I mentioned in a previous blog, but also in part because marketing is so much more in the public eye than ever before as a result of personal brands.

As marketers today, it’s not uncommon for us to look at influencers, sponsor social content, and engage bloggers with opportunities to invest our marketing budgets. These approaches, one could argue, would typically have been part of a PR campaign, but with this paradigm shift many of us in marketing are taking note and making sure our marketing strategies include public relations.

The need for PR as part of your marketing can be highlighted in a situation of crisis. We see it almost daily: big brands make headlines after a bad social media post or a viral video, and because now bad social means bad PR and bad PR can mean a loss in customer and brand loyalty, these PR crises can become marketing nightmares.

As marketers, we need to have resources at hand to handle any scandal or branding nightmare. It’s important to have a plan in place should a crisis develop. In true PR fashion, but with a marketing twist, here are my tips for handling a branding crisis.

 Act quickly- but not recklessly

Once you’ve heard the bad news, it’s important to gather your team and address the situation. Find out what went wrong, and how you can fix it. If you speak first, you control the story, but it’s important that you have all the accurate information you need before you release any information to the public.

Take responsibility

While you might not feel like this was your fault, if your company was in any way responsible for this crisis, it’s important to take ownership. Shifting the blame around just makes consumers think you are dishonest and untrustworthy.

Create a solution

After you have received all the information needed and have accepted the fact that you need to apologize to the public for what has transpired, you need to come up with a solution. People want to know that you see where things went wrong, and you know how to fix it. After apologizing for your company’s wrongdoing, outline how you are going to ensure this never happens again. Once people know that you are fixing the problem, they will begin to move on.

 Rebuild

In the moment, it feels like this situation will completely ruin your business, but it’s important to remember that eventually, a new scandal comes along and people will forget about your organization’s indiscretion. In your effort to rebuild your brand, focus on creating positive buzz for your company, especially if it counteracts the original scandal.

I hope scandal never erupts in your business, but better to be prepared, which is why I advise clients to have a crisis PR plan in place as part of their marketing strategy. This will allow your business to act quickly and effectively, making sure your organization and brand comes out unscathed.