The Only Easy Day Was Yesterday: White & Black Hats

I am blessed for one million reasons, one of them is for the growing professional and personal affiliation that I have with Pam & Josh Moore. They are at 110% the real deal when it comes to social & integrated media brilliance and professional decorum. That being said Pam's most recent article regarding "fake fans" and black hat tactics brought me to my own revelation.

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1% of My Followers Are Fake • How Many Fake Followers do You Have? • http://sttsp.pl/swy7 @StatusPeople #FollowerSpam

I am extremely pleased with the metric you see. It’s important to me because I take great strides to right my ship out here on the turbulent sea of personal branding. But I won’t the first one to throw stones at people who have used gray- and black-hat tactics. Because I have been one of them.

I have … 

… bought followers.

… tried #followback tactics.

… used Tweet-adding software.

… automated cross-fertilization against social channels.

… designed and choreographed fictitious accounts.

… deployed topical redirect content.

… created rogue microsite content.

Am I a social-sinner? Yes.

Do I do it anymore? No.

I repented and turned my back on such directives. Now I’m trying to stay on a more righteous professional path. And who better to counsel sinners than one who has already lived in the darkness?

Now before you respond hastily with your twitchy finger on the “unfollow key,” let me tell you a little more about my youthful tactics.

Strength in experience; regarless of its shape

I would rather endlessly train to be the social-media equivalent of a Navy Seal than trust a room full of eager kids with new gadgets and untested abilities. That may sound like an old dog talking. But to be fair, I’m just as eager as any one of them to learn and understand absolutely every possible strategic and tactical scenario that I can. Most of you know that #FOMO is my middle name and all I want to do is learn.

One of the many things you have to do in a fledgling industry such as social media is kick the tires on just about everything. Nevertheless, as our industry has now shaped itself into a mature discipline, there is a need to work in concert with traditional inbound and outbound processes. Cheating the market and buying likes doesn't do you any good except with the uneducated viewer who perceives that higher numbers equal a better brand.

Status & Perception are the new deadly sins

It's this type of user that fueled these tactics over the past few years. "Perception versus reality" is something all integrated marketers have understood and crafted around to ideally tell an authentic story about their client’s product services or education. This uncontrollable desire for said perception is also the equivalent of the Devils contract.

To be clear, I've never used any of these tactics on a paying client. Nor have I ever knowingly destroyed a competitor's credibility with social media but I know how it's done. More utilizing my own personal brand is an experimental, or incubation test lab for these tactics. And just like bad grades in high school it has taken me 100 times more work to get back to a clean slate than to have muddied up with a quick fix.

Construct your vision

But of course there are some simple rules I would implement with any new client. One of which is simply make sure that you have ample content in your blog and social channels prior to letting the world know who you are. This is what I would refer to as a perception strategy and has the best intentions for both the product and the audience.

And let's talk about the audience. The social media strategist needs to understand that beyond a shadow of a doubt, their audience is learning faster and digesting more than every before and is unwilling to align with anything less than what they perceive is 100 percent authentic. Social media experts talk about "crisis management. But what they really need to think about on a day-to-day basis is likability, consistency, and being naturally infectious.

Create disciples not numbers

One of the most important things I’ve learned from the brilliant mind of Seth Godin (while I don't believe in everything that he says unconditionally) is that it is better to have 1,000 passionate individuals following you loyally than it is to have a million people see you as an acquaintance. This even stands true in my personal life. As a young man in my 20s you would have found me out on the town seven nights a week. This was not only fueled by my insatiable need for social interaction with my friends and growing networks, but also the narcissistic and insecure belief that I would be rendered irrelevant without constant presentation.

Who are you recuriting to your platoon?

This is when you need to take an honest look at your social brand and ask, "Who is following me? Why are they following me? And what do I need to provide them to create indefinite lifetime value?"

The audience should perceive your brand almost as an individual – a living, breathing person. Your brand should have the sense, persona, tone and manner of a best friend, mentor or subject matter expert.

Many within my collective will ask me if I would ever use these tactics again in the future? It's easy for me to say no, but I'd be lying if I said I don't want to know how they're implemented, what to look for, and how they could affect the future of my clients and their growth. Think of it like this: It's better to know how to shoot a gun and never use it.

Socially Born Again?

It's pretty much what you would expect the "Good Guy Manual to Social Media" to contain: 

  • Confront weakness with evolution
  • Create interesting and engaging content
  • Be fearless. But more importantly, be humble
  • Fall on your sword when you make mistakes
  • Continue to challenge yourself, and then challenge your audience
  • Be thankful for the numbers you have, because in your mind that "number" must = a "real person"

ROI: Return On Influence, Intelligence and Infectiousness

The bigger picture here is what you as a client want out of your integrated marketing firm/social agency. ROI still seems to revolve around increasing the number of followers, likes and subscriptions. What you don’t always see as a defined ROI marker is the bond you are forming with the clients you already have or are earning. This "earned media" is the staple of your social media power.

While it is important to grow your following, it's tenfold more important to nurture existing relationships.  So the next time that you sit down to discuss goals and objectives, scrap the fatigue of pressuring your marketing to generate a specific behavior — and focus on something more attuned to a "family behavior."

Check your head

Want to know how many fake followers you have? Just enter your Twitter handle in the handy-dandy little “Fake Follower Check” tool from Status People. I would love to hear your numbers, your thoughts on them, and about whether or not you are happy with your current tactics. Trust me, no stones will be thrown here ;)