Forget Real Friends, Just Fake It

If someone “likes” your brand on Facebook, or gives your website or blog posting a “thumbs-up,” is that a meaningful metric as a marketer? If your Twitter followers keep increasing, does that mean you’re publishing valuable content and helping position yourself as an industry thought leader? I used to think so, but I was disappointed to learn how disingenuous the entire process has become.

If someone “likes” your brand on Facebook, or gives your website or blog posting a “thumbs-up,” is that a meaningful metric as a marketer? If your Twitter followers keep increasing, does that mean you’re publishing valuable content and helping position yourself as an industry thought leader? I used to think so, but I was disappointed to learn how disingenuous the entire process has become.

In pre-Facebook days, if we liked a brand/product/service, we would talk positively about our experiences. We’d gladly refer colleagues when asked, or write an email or letter praising the organization. If we were truly brand ambassadors, we’d proudly pontificate and evangelize at the drop of a hat.

With the creation of the digital “thumbs-up,” a click of the mouse records your endorsement or disagreement in a split second. And, as marketers, we greedily record and compare those statistics as a justification for the impact that our brand might be having on the target market.

Every time I post a tweet, I can’t help but glance at my increasing “follower” statistics and wonder what 140-character pithy remark prompted them to start following me. It also adds a bit of pressure to make sure I keep my followers interested and engaged with my marketing insights.

But on several occasions, when scanning a discussion group on LinkedIn, someone has created the challenge: “Like me/our company on Facebook and I’ll like yours!” My reaction is swift and from the gut… “Like you? I don’t even KNOW you.”

Perhaps I’m naive, but I was under the impression that if your brand provided quality products and services that were deemed useful to your target audience, or you posted information that was helpful/funny/smart, then your reader/user gave you the good old “thumbs up” as a reflection of their approval. So imagine my surprise when I found a site where you can buy Facebook “likes” or Twitter followers!

For a few bucks you can add hundreds or thousands of “likes” to your page, or increase your Twitter followers instantly … all with the goal of seemingly increasing your brand popularity and, in turn, helping your site move up in rankings and search results.

Who thinks up this stuff?

Clearly an entrepreneur who has figured out that anything worth having is a business just waiting to happen—even if it means that what you’re selling is a tool to help companies scam potential customers.

And what about those companies that purchase “likes” or Twitter followers? Perhaps if they spent more time and money on running honest and helpful businesses that customers truly liked and felt good about, they wouldn’t have a need to purchase fake “friends” to boost their fake popularity.

I know how hard it is to build and sustain a business in a world filled with ruthless competitors. But I can promise that your business won’t get ahead by faking friends.