On a recent episode of THE MARKETING SQUAD podcast we talked about the rise of Black Hat Social Media. My co-host Brandon Uttley also presented the topic over on the Social Fresh blog as well. Black Hat techniques have been long associated with SEO but for the Social purists, it was that thing we don’t practice. We dare talk about it quietly in our little circles when we see or suspect it. We all know who does it and how. Like all media, there’s smoke and mirrors but by and large, it just has no place in the world of “engagement” and “authenticity”. If you want a true reading of your audience it has to be effective circulation not quantity.
One of the activities we talked about on the show is the art of jacking your follower numbers up. In the early stages of twitter people did it by manipulating the API, nowadays you can pay $5 bucks, or get in on a seed program and get thousands. Why would you? Simply put, because mass attracts. Everyone wants to hang with the popular kids whether you’re a brand or a public figure. Then you’ve got businesses doing it because departments have pressure from bosses to show numbers, clients want numbers to justify investments in time spent being social, and wannabe celebrities (Guru’s, Experts, Ninjas, Rockstars, etc.) in all industries, want to be seen as successful and influential.
So, I’ve noticed for some time now that certain members of my social media streams have been jockeying pretty hard for a better position on the public figure fame train. LinkedIn updates, posts, statuses, and project listings across the sphere have been more frequent and more polished in the way they were presented. I mean, don’t get me wrong – coming from the radio entertainment world and providing marketing strategies to businesses, I get it. We all have to package ourselves and find our brand tone and you can’t sell it if you don’t tell it. More power to ’em.
One post from the short list membership caused me to click on his Twitter profile where I saw he had 12,000 followers, following only 99 people back. That seemed …odd. I mean, come on! I know he’s more connected that 99 people. Plus, he’s not THAT much of a celeb (but he’s trying), or prima donna to not follow anyone back. He hasn’t said anything, or written a book, given industry presentations, nor done anything on a mass scale that would’ve garnished THAT much attention either.
As I’ve done with other accounts where I thought the braggadocio and back patting weren’t in proportion with the stats, I ran a report through one of my social media management tools. Sure enough, there was a huge spike. Without calling this person out by name or avatar I posted the screenshots.
Despite my spell check deficient post – like Shark chum, it got a reaction and reposts from the purists; everything from disgust to suspicion of who it was.
I was pretty much off the grid over the weekend, but this morning when I logged into my Twitter account, I saw I had gotten PUNK’D. My follower number had jumped 28,000. I had to rub my eyes a bit to see it clearly, but even without Ashton Kutcher to be found, it was evident I’d been PUNK’D.
Someone decided to teach me a lesson and slap me with a horde of unqualified bots and tech companies from India to my account. As I said earlier, we talk about it in our little circles when we see it. We all know who does it and how. By afternoon, it had dropped by 11,000.
Attrition will continue to happen because of the quality of the followers, but I guess I’ve learned my lesson. Like FightClub…you don’t talk about Black Hat Social Media. But you can employ it if you need a little extra help to make you or your brand appear A LOT more interesting and credible. At least at first glance. Maybe for a little while.
Yeah, yeah. I get it. Don’t hate the playa, hate the game.
I’m off to crank up a little auto-unfollow for all the residue I’ve picked up so my account can go back to its natural “authentic” state.
Nicely played Mr. Black Hat. Nicely played.