Hands up if you have ever wished your social media following would just grow wildly overnight. Almost every brand and influencer has wished this at some point (for some it’s an ongoing thought). Have you ever posted to Instagram only to check every 5 or 10 minutes to see if anyone has liked your photo?
Because everyone wants to “go viral”, social media has become a bunch of users and brands just trying to be the loudest in the room rather than thoughtfully engaging with the followers they do have. Of course, we throw statements like “fake it till you make it” into the mix and you end up with people buying followers and engagement to try to appear more popular than they actually are.
Whether you are partnering with influencers or other brands or you are just trying to build your own social media community, it’s time to take note of what’s really important.
You can tell if someone is faking it
It’s important to know if someone is faking it if you are doing any influencer marketing or brand partnerships, but it’s also good to remind yourself that people can tell if you are faking your popularity.
For any sort of partnership, you want to make sure that the parties you are working with can help you to reach your goals.
Here are the things that will help you figure out if someone is the real deal or not (and provide a good guideline for your own social media):
- Genuine comments: Are the comments genuine or do they seem really generic and unrelated? A bunch of comments like “Great shot!”, “Cute!”, and “Nice pic!” are generally from automated bots that you either pay for or are spam. Also have a peek at the last 10 to 20 posts to see if it is the same group of people commenting over and over in the same ways.
- Real likes: While Instagram removed total likes counts, you can still see who liked a post. A quick scroll through the list of names and profile pictures will give you a good sense of whether a profile is real or not.
- Real followers: A fake follower will often have one or more of the following: random typos in the name, random numbers in their name, the generic egg profile image instead of an actual picture, low post count – we’re talking one random image on the feed, and often seems to have nothing in common with the person they are following. Most social platforms are starting to crack down on fake followers, but it’s definitely an uphill battle.
Keep in mind that your audience is also looking at you under the same microscope you are evaluating partners. It’s not worth it to fake your own brand popularity. There is no replacement for good strategy, great content, and meaningful engagement.
Why brands should keep it real
In a world where your customers and potential customers are armed with more information and the power to choose between an increasing number of options available to them, honesty is always the best policy. Also, with the increasing conversations and research studies about how social media is directly tied to mental health issues, you don’t want to be a part of the problem.
Knowing what we know about social media and what can happen if your target audience doesn’t trust you as a brand, here are some things to remember about keeping it real on social media.
- Quality is way more important than quantity: You could have 10,000 followers and no customers or 100 followers and 50 customers. It doesn’t matter about how many people are in your community as long as they are engaged and loyal to your brand.
- Prioritize meaningful connections above everything: Remember that social media should be social. The conversations you have with followers – whether they are customers, influencers, or other brands – should drive your overall strategy.
- Don’t let social media become too commercialized: Social media isn’t about hard selling or telling influencers what they have to It always comes back to relationship building and dialogue.
- Buying followers and likes will only hurt your credibility in the end: In short, people always find out and once they do, they will never forget.
There is no silver bullet or magic carpet that will carry you to successful growth on social media. You may be tempted to pay for followers and engagement because it’s so easy to do it, but if that opportunity ever tempts you, best to avoid it. Not only are you feeding into a toxic social media culture rather than fostering a positive channel for people to interact with your brand, but you could actually do more harm than good to your brand reputation.
Candace Huntly is Founding Partner at SongBird Marketing Communications, an award-winning agency working to take organizational and individual brands to the next level. With a passion for all things related to creativity and strategy, she specializes in business intelligence, marketing & branding, content strategy & development, media & influencer relations, and social media. Basically, if you need to put your brand, product, or cause in the public eye, she will find a way to do it, while making the approach unique to you.
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A version of this article was originally posted to the SongBird Marketing Communications blog.