Seemingly ratified by research reported on earlier in the year, promises of cheap social media marketing success and those who are considering it abounds. Superficially, it may seem an attractive marketing proposition – minimal spend and effort for (supposedly) greater dividends. According to the Mashable headline anyway, in which it looked as if each individual likes on Facebook was worth $174 apiece.
So, what can be gained from such a strategy? Seemingly a lot, for very little. Reasons that may draw business to adopt such an approach may include:
Instant exposure – Facebook alone has 60 million global users log in each day, with Twitter not too far behind. In fact, as far as traffic is concerned these two social media behemoths stand only behind Google in terms of numbers.
Affordability – The costs for buying likes and followers is low, which, given how much exposure the sites get would indicate a very high return on investment
Sheep mentality – Fans of buying fans advocate that it’s not necessarily the numbers of those that you purchase but the knock-on effect that this has on others, given our herd mentality. If something is perceived to be popular then people will follow suit.
Higher sales – more likes and followers of a business will increase the number of sales – given that more people see your brand it makes sense that more will engage with it. Right?
Well, this is where the strategy falls down somewhat. When you buy likes and followers how much do you know about the validity of such accounts? More often than not, these are actually fake or inactive accounts. As a result is you are actually diluting the proportion of ‘real’ fans as a percentage.
This can have a knock-on effect on your page edging rankings but it will also become transparent to your genuine followers; any sudden spike in numbers without tallying with increased activity will arouse suspicions and possibly alienate your genuine fan-base.
But what about the oft-quoted $174 number? First, let’s put that in to context. It was a study of high-worth brands and actually looked at the behaviour of fans versus non-fans and what the likelier higher spend of the former would mean to that particular business. The study didn’t take in to account the impact on any SMEs, which presumably would have significantly reduced the average difference in value. Furthermore, it was a study carried out by a social media strategy company, presumably looking to use the information to garner high profile clients – in which case the study should perhaps be treated with a degree of caution.
Not only then are genuine Facebook fans and Twitter followers likely to be of less value than you may believe, ones that you have paid for run the risk not only of proving to be less value but actually detrimental. And this is before taking in to account the moral and ethical implications. If concern over those is not enough then the fact that Facebook itself may notice your tactics and remove your page for contravening its rules ought to be.
The fact is, like much of marketing strategies in general, there are no short cuts to achieving success. This relies on a well planned and well executed sustained and sustainable marketing campaign, not to mention of course, a saleable product.