Dec 29, 201202:30 PMSocial Media Marketing Tips

Get Real with Social Digital Media

Dec 29, 2012 - 02:30 PM
Get Real with Social Digital Media

PHOTO: Optima Public Relations

Tom Anderson

Are your social media friends, fans, followers and likes from real people? Does it even matter?

On Aug. 24 an article was published by Alex Fitzpatrick on revealing that of President Obama’s nearly 19 million Twitter followers, approximately 5.7 million are fake (spam conduits). In the other camp, Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney has approximately 900,000 followers and 15 percent, or about 135,000, are fake. A previous article by Chris Taylor on Aug. 22 stated Facebook has 44 percent fake Facebook account followers and Twitter has 33 percent.

The social media challenge for businesses and nonprofit organizations, just like in political messaging, is to attract and hold the attention of real people.

Whether the audience targeted is potential customers, clients, donors or even voters, the challenge for public relations and advertising firms is tapping into a salient branding theme for a client that gets people watching and focused.

In Alaska, the potential for social media is vast. Many businesses barely have a modern and updated website, let alone an engaging Facebook page or Twitter account.

Using the two most popular social media platforms in the United States as examples, Facebook and Twitter afford the luxury of free messaging to your targeted audience. It is a no brainier they should be activated, aesthetically contoured (look nice), and then routinely updated with new and salient content.

However, even with the best and most beautiful Facebook page or engaging tweets, spam—and sometimes unwanted foreign bots—can permeate your pages and suddenly distort your measure of audience interaction and interest.

So what’s the remedy?

Well, beyond ensuring that you know exactly what your target is for a social media endeavor (e.g., sales, marketing and new customers, visibility, reputation building, votes, damage control), some rules apply:

(1) Review and re-review your followers/fans/likes—Twitter and Facebook allow you to research those who own profiles. The other day, I looked through my likes for my PR firm’s page and also for my radio show’s page, and realized 11 people between both pages had passed away in the last year-and-a-half, while there were also a number of out-of-state and foreign profiles. The question in my mind then surfaced: “Do I keep these people on as likes because it gives me credibility having more likes, or do I delete them so I can accurately measure who is following and interested in the content I’m posting daily?” I deleted the ones I knew were deceased, but it just goes to show that even for PR professionals, inactive accounts or ones that are obviously not real or are spam (i.e., tawdry and scantily clad young women with a whopping four friends on their Facebook account and no content or messaging) sneak by us when we don’t stay focused.

(2) Content management—Keep your tweets and Facebook posts unique and fresh. Stale content or repetitive posts will result in dropped followers or attract spammers and marketing opportunists to connect to your audience and infiltrate your messaging. Watch grammar and punctuation since your messaging reflects on your organization and brand. New content that curries interested viewers is the biggest reason to utilize free social media unless you’re looking for a date, are a diehard gamer, or just plain bored.

(3) Make your advertising effective—Facebook justified its initial $100 billion estimated value by distinguishing itself as a medium with real people, absent avatars and fake profiles. But we now know this isn’t true. A good-sized chunk of Facebook users are not real. That means your advertising should be targeted to zip codes and cities, and even further delineated with age, gender and broad category interests. In Alaska alone, a check of ages 13 to “no maximum” reveals Alaska has 434,720 active Facebook profiles. Winnow that number down with demographic pinpointing and your likes, fans, followers and friends will typically be real and actually WANT to read your posts and tweets. That’s a huge endorsement in and of itself since people’s time is valuable and their attentions hard to keep.

(4) Use an online status checker service—There are new online services that go through your followers’ profiles on Twitter or your Facebook friends list and compare these profiles to a specific set of rules that highlight spam. Follower-to-following ratios in Twitter and the number of friends and content in a Facebook profile can be generally determined, but remember it’s not an exact science and you have to pay for the service.

(5) Avoid black market services for consumer engagement—New startup companies, nonprofit organizations yearning for a make-over, and small businesses desperate for inexpensive attention and marketing may Google websites and find what appears to be a treasure trove of (mostly foreign) virtual assistants and web “consultants” boasting the ability to generate followers on Twitter and likes/fans on Facebook. Caveat emptor! I tried it with five different services, and either they couldn’t produce in the Alaska market or the connections made were from fake Twitter and Facebook users. One client, for whom we paid for the service last year, discovered that of the more than 1,000 likes generated for the company’s Facebook page, nearly 600 were not real Facebook users (e.g., new profile with only one to nine friends and no personal information, photos, or content posts since creation of the profile) and almost all were from Asia or Eastern Europe.

Ultimately, the pervasiveness of fake profiles and accounts, whether for spam purposes or for business purposes (or as a political campaigning tactic) will always exist. That means patience plus diligence is the name of the game for businesses, organizations and candidates seeking social media interest online.

Use a thorough and assiduous content manager or contract out the service to a local firm. Keep your profile and messaging updated regularly. Recognize a respected social media presence takes time.

The last thing you want is for people to think your followers and likes/fans are spam bots or deceased. The same goes for your solicitations through posts and advertising. Should you expand to a global target? Does having a 16-year-old kid from Malaysia or Ukraine as a fan/like/follower really mean anything to your messaging and help you achieve your goals? And if your true local customers find out the bulk of your social media populace is fake, inactive or from oversees, will it compromise your integrity and devaluate your messaging?

Making sure your social media audience is real is a critical component to your branding and will set you apart from your competitors, whether in the business world, the non-profit arena, or even when trying to become the next president of the United States.

Tom Anderson is managing partner at Optima Public Relations in Anchorage/Mat-Su. Optima specializes in graphic and web design, TV/Radio production/placement, media relations and social media management.

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