Today’s marketplace places a huge emphasis on social media. Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and other social networks allow consumers to engage with their favorite brands and show their support via likes and follows and reposts. Conventional wisdom suggests that the bigger an online following you have, the more successful your marketing efforts are.
Sadly, some businesses take this in the wrong direction.
What is a Trophy Community?
A “trophy” community is an online following built up via less-than-genuine means. An example of this would be gathering “likes” on Facebook by either paying other people to “like” you, or creating fake accounts for that purpose. The former is unethical, and the latter is illegal (or, at the very least, against Facebook’s Terms of Service). Other manifestations of “trophy” communities include hiring people to post favorable reviews of your product on blogs and forums without them actually reviewing the product.
How Are They Harmful?
At first, one would think that “trophy” communities do harm to no one but the offending company. After all, they are just filling their social media profile with empty numbers that don’t translate into actual sales, or courting people who have no actual interest in the product and therefore would not be receptive to sales calls at all. It is the companies that are throwing money and effort into building an empty list, and it does no harm to consumers?
All those fake followers are meant to draw in curious consumers, who will be wondering what all the attention is all about. And while that in itself is benign, it is a breach of trust on the part of the company, who should be focusing on delivering value to his consumer, and not drawing attention via underhanded tactics.
Fake comments and reviews are even more dangerous to consumers. Misleading and erroneous reviews could lead to actual sales of products that may be inferior or defective. Desperate or unethical companies who are being assaulted with complaints and bad reviews may resort to these tactics in order to defend their product and gloss over their problems, instead of dealing with the complaints in a respectable and professional manner (i.e. issuing a recall and actually fixing the defects).
What Should I Do Instead?
If you are struggling to find support in social media, don’t resort to trophy communities to fill out your numbers. Instead, analyze your social media efforts and try to see where you are lacking. Do you need to engage with the community more? Should you reduce the amount of spam you’re sending out? Are there any promotions or sales that you can push out to the social media networks?
If you find that you still aren’t getting the right results, or don’t have the time to make a proper effort, then perhaps you should hire a social media manager to perform these tasks for you. They will be able to focus on building your community via legitimate means, which will get you a stronger and more participatory community in the long run, while you focus on growing your core business. Or perhaps you don’t have the time or resources for this at all, in which case it may be better for you to shelve the idea of social media altogether and let your customer community manage itself via word of mouth—which, as all marketers agree, is the best and most powerful form of marketing.