Receiving a designer watch or bag as a gift is always exciting. These gifts are the Holy Grail of accessories.
But what if you discovered that the watch or bag was a knockoff? Your friend indicated it was the real deal, but upon closer inspection, you realized the gift was nothing more than a fake. How would you feel? You’d feel a little betrayed, your trust would be damaged, and you might even be a bit upset.
This is the same scenario companies face when it comes to building a social media following. During efforts to grow their social media presence and popularity, some companies choose to buy thousands of Twitter followers or Facebook fans to boost a page’s follower or fan number. So while the product (or social media account) looks high quality, it’s actually an illusion.
There is a valid perception that the more people who follow you, the more popular your brand is. The point of demise happens when your real followers and fans discover your trickery. Just like the person who received the knockoff Rolex or Fendi bag, your real fans will trust you less.
We saw this travesty play out in November 2011. Pepsi added more than 70,000 followers in one day, bringing its total follower count above Coca-Cola’s. When the media discovered what Pepsi had done, bloggers and media exploited the brand’s deception. Pepsi was positioned as the loser brand — and not just in regard to its social media.
Besides damaging relationships and losing credibility with real fans, buying fake fans can have other adverse effects, such as:
- Your posts will be seen by fewer people than before. If you have 1,000 real fans who actively post on your Facebook page, and then you buy 10,000 fake fans who don’t interact with your page, the percentage of fans who interact with your page drops. Facebook looks at this percentage in comparison with your page’s velocity of activity. If Facebook sees low relative activity, it will stop showing posts even to your real fans.
- Your insights will be less relevant. With thousands of fake fans, how do you create content your fans will love when you don’t know who they are?
- Your competitors will laugh at you. Don’t underestimate the tenacity of your competitors. When you’re up against a handful of competitors for a huge deal or new business, competitors will look at things like your social media presence. If you’re found out, they will reveal it publicly, damaging your brand and possibly your deal.
In an age of transparency and authenticity, buying fake fans is a reputation nightmare. When the truth comes out, some blogger or media outlet will be sure to maximize your discomfort.
Don’t get caught flaunting a fake. Once your authenticity is questioned, your customers will start wondering about all your other claims: Are they as real as your fan count?