Didn’t we learn anything from Manti Te’o?
Surely you remember the former standout Notre Dame linebacker who was publicly embarrassed—and worse—last year when Deadspin
revealed the dead girlfriend he’d been mourning in the national news media was not real.
It was a major PR crisis. The revelation came just before the NFL draft, and the ensuing scandal and questions about Manti’s motives helped deflate his draft status.
His “relationship” started with a fake Twitter profile in 2011. You would think that would be a powerful cautionary tale for any public figure tempted to flirt with online fakes.
Yet, this month, Politico
published an article about notable elected officials with huge fake Twitter followings: President Obama, Sen. John McCain, and Gov. Chris Christie, to name a few. The writer speculated that overzealous campaign workers eager to impress their bosses purchased “bots” to artificially inflate followings.
What’s the benefit of a fake follower for a politician? A bot can’t vote. And if they’re retweeting your messages, it’s likely only to a bunch of other bots who can’t vote either.
As the article points out, there are tools easily accessible to the media, the public, and to political enemies that can estimate the percentage of fake in a Twitter following. Whether you’re a politician or a business owner, the odds are good that you’ll be exposed.
So far, it hasn’t hurt the politicians much, but then, they have little credibility left with the voting public anyway. It’s far riskier for business owners.
That’s why it worries me that so many of them and/or their marketing consultants continue to buy fake followers. Just last week, I had to tell a new client that his previous social media marketing firm had built him a Twitter following that was almost 90 percent fake. The client wasn’t happy to learn that all those followers could do nothing to help his business.
Because people are still falling for the idea that there’s value in thousands of followers bought dirt cheap, let me be clear: Fake Twitter followers are useless.
They can’t go on a date with you, vote for you, use your product, hire your service, or read your book.
Some “digital marketers” say their value is in the status and credibility a huge following conveys. That might have been true in the early days of Twitter, when the legitimacy of a following couldn’t be verified with an online fake following tool
. But social media users are getting savvier and more discerning: Not only can they see through scams and fakes, they avoid the perpetrators like the plague.
In business (and politics), credibility offers far more benefits than any false following can. That crucial credibility can take a big hit if your competition uses one of those fake follower-checking tools to expose you and your brand. You’re going to look just as fake as the bots you bought.
Instead, invest time in building a legitimate legion of Twitter followers who depend on what you (or your clients) have to say every day. As we move forward in the social networking game, engagements are really what you’re after. When you can get that user to take action (like a communication that can lead to a date, a vote or a purchase), you’ve done an effective job executing on a social network.
At speaking engagements around the country, I teach business owners that if they want to build a legitimate Twitter following, the basics of marketing still apply:
1. Identify your target demographic
2. Create content that appeals to your target demographic
3. Engage with (tweet at, follow, retweet, favorite, etc.) that target demo
4. Work hard every day repeating steps 2 and 3
As with anything else in marketing or life, if you stick to the basic rules and don’t take shortcuts, you can achieve sustainable success.
If only that were true in politics.
Alex Hinojosa is the vice president of media operations and strategy at EMSI Public Relations. Follow the firm on Twitter @emsiPR.