Says Senior Analyst Jenny Sussin at Gartner,
With over half of the Internet’s population on social networks, organizations are scrambling for new ways to build bigger follower bases, generate more hits on videos, garner more positive reviews than their competitors and solicit ‘likes’ on their Facebook pages.
These days it’s all about reputation: managing it, preserving it, mitigating the negative effects…. and now, paying to create a good reputation or maintain its good standing.
Google has had to deal with link farms, cloaking, article spinning, improper link exchanges, invisible text…. the list goes on… all tactics people have used to maximize search ranking results. And they’ve all been caught. Google has continuously tweaked their algorithm to ensure search results are relevant and legitimate.
And now, this is moving to the social domain:
Marketers are seeking more “efficient” ways to establish social credibility…That’s the irony!
It seems the best practices of social: authenticity, transparency, building value, and establishing relationships have somehow become too difficult to accomplish. The truth is marketers have been told that “Social Media” takes time and requires significant effort. The fact is: managing reputation on top of awareness-building has doubled the marketer’s workload.
I would have thought that by now people “get it”:
- There are no short cuts in social
- Buying ads to recruit fans or followers is not, in itself, sustainable
- Automated methods are discoverable and easily thwarted
- Social media is NOT about numbers, but the depth of relationship
But scaling reputation is a fast and easy play for companies who don’t have the time. Nor are they seemingly unphased at being found out eventually hence, the growing supply market to fulfil this demand. I was quite appalled to see companies like Amazon Mechanical Turk, that use APIs and programs to replicate the work humans do–at scale, including reviews. The site itself admits,
Mechanical Turk aims to make accessing human intelligence simple, scalable, and cost-effective
In fact, as a marketer, you need only to define their HITs (ie Human Intelligence Tasks), including the specific output desired, the format of the output, how you display your work items and how much you will pay to have them completed.
The FTC is beginning to crack down on this practice, admonishing those that attempt this tactic that they will be fined. But it’s difficult to enforce cross-border as in the example of Privacy legislation.
My friend @DannyBrown responded to this article in his blog offering a solution to combat this, stating: “If you want to leave a review, you have to log in with your Facebook profile, or LinkedIn account. This immediately adds accountability to the process – your name and business is inextricably tied to your review. This makes it far easier to see which is a valid review, and which belongs to a fake.”
What’s sad about what happens today is that the consumer is unaware and unable to distinguish fake vs. legitimate reviews. And the marketer continues to use this more efficient method until such time as the rug is pulled out from underneathe them. But does it have to come to that?
Danny and I spoke about this and agree that it’s a combination of policy, forced processes that mandate social integrity, plus good old fashioned education to put a stop to this before the market takes over.
Eventually the market, and the marketer will “get it”!