Social Media networks love to keep us on our toes. They're constantly changing their algorithms, adding new features or opportunities and making social media marketers learn the latest and greatest. That means that being a social media brand expert isn't for the faint of heart. Executing effective social media strategies for businesses takes work (a lot more work than most realize). No wonder so many brands and social media firms try to shortcut the required effort. Rather than putting forth the energy needed to attract a social media tribe, many shirk the responsibility and instead apt for shady, fake or, at best, disappointing tactics. These tactics are designed to gain followers for followers sake as opposed to cultivating relationships with your target audience (the people who are actually likely to purchase from you). They concentrate on the vanity metrics such as followers and likes because they think that large follower and like counts are the priority. However, that approach ignores the fact that truly successful brands use social media to create genuine, raving fans.
What is worse is that anyone with a basic understanding of social media (note: your customers can often tell too) can easily spot a social media brand account that is full of bots, fake followers or paid/fair weather fans. It isn't nearly as subtle as those who perpetrate these faux efforts think. For instance, have you ever seen a new brand with say twenty thousand followers and a sea of lackluster posts and wondered how they got that many followers? If so, you have likely been exposed to a brand account that is trying to game the social media system. This is a short term play that gives the impression that your fan base isn't real and your strategy is all about appearances. What social media user wants to connect with or follow that?
To avoid looking like a brand without a social media clue, below is a list of the worse offenses when it comes to truly connecting with your unique target audience. A few of these tactics are either on the rise or not going away any time soon, but don't let the volume of companies engaging in these practices fool you into thinking that this is actually sound strategy. If you're using any of these tactics, please consider the unintended ramifications that these inauthentic initiatives can have on your beautiful brand:
Follow/Unfollow: The first poor practice or action to avoid is known as the follow/unfollow dance. This dance begins when one Twitter account, for instance, follows another Twitter account in the hopes that by initiating the follow that other account will in turn follow them. However, if the account doesn’t follow then the original account unfollows them. Other than making you dizzy, why is this poor practice? First, let’s remember the Golden Rule of treating people the way you want to be treated. If you don’t want people following and unfollowing you then don’t do that to others. Second, the goal of social media is to create a relationship, dialogue and trust between your brand and followers who are interested in your content. Follow the people and brands that align with your target audience, engage with them on a regular basis (show them that you care about them), and your follower count will grow organically without any trickery.
Don't Use Automated Follower Tools: For some reason, these companies are everywhere right now. They claim to automate your follower efforts and grow your followers on Instagram by using BOTS to track relevant hashtags and follow, like, and comment on those hashtags on behalf of your brand. While this might sound like a dream, don't be swayed. These automated services are a violation of Instagram's policies, and like all things faux social media, they are easy to spot in action. For instance, let's say that you want the BOT to comment on posts using the hashtag #healthyliving for example, and you provide your list of pre-determined comments such as "epic!" or "looks delish." Suddenly, your brand's comments are being seen on a video post of a woman who is talking about her struggles to maintain a healthy lifestyle, it is heartwarming and vulnerable, but your brand's comment courtesy of your BOT friend reads "looks delish." Well needless to say, it is clear that a human didn't say that so following your brand back just became a non-starter.
Don’t buy followers: While it may be tempting to beef up your follower count by purchasing social media followers, avoid this at all costs. Doing so will artificially increase your follower count but will hurt your engagement. Remember it is better to have smaller follower counts of true fans than a bunch of fake accounts or paid followers. Moreover, it is essential to remember the true goals associated with social media. These goals include driving additional traffic to your website, engaging your customers and prospective customers on a regular basis and ultimately increasing your leads/sales. None of which will be accomplished by purchasing followers who have zero interest in you or your business.
Don’t join groups specifically designed to share or comment on your content: This might be a new one to you, but I'm hearing more about "groups" that come together to share and comment on other people's or brands content with the goal of boosting post engagement as well as follower counts. They're effectively trying to game Facebook's engagement metrics by getting people to agree in advance of the seeing the post or content that they will share, comment, etc. While this might not sound like a bad idea, the truth is that people would naturally engage with your content if it were engaging to begin with. Orchestrating a group of people who will act like they think your content is engaging with the goal of increasing your follower count is just another way of avoiding the hard work associated with creating true social media engagement with your target audience. Don't go down this path. Facebook is probably already working on an algorithm to identify these groups and shut them down.
The truth is that growing your follower count with true fans takes a great deal of dedication and effort. It requires that you get real and honestly connect with your target audience. There are no quick fixes to accomplishing this. That means that your brand needs to develop a relationship one person at a time to ultimately build a community of raving fans. While growing your community using real tactics and strategies may not have the fanfare of using trickery to grow your follower counts by the thousands in a short period of time, it will result in you actually preaching to the people who want to hear your sermon, and that, at the end of the day, is smart social media strategy.