The business case for cheating your way to social media superstardom

cheating your way to social media superstardom

On a recent post examining the bribery that is going on over at Empire Avenue, reader Shawn Manaher asks:

“Do you feel paying for any kind of traffic to a website or social media post is appropriate at any time or any level? Just wondering if you feel that there is something inherently wrong with that or not?”

If you care about marketing and love social media, you are probably raising the roof with a resounding “NOOO!”

And, as much as I would like that to be the answer, I owe you intellectual honesty on this blog and the answer is YES — it might make sense to cheat the system — in one situation.

Faking your way to superstardom

Buying fake followers or bribing people for traffic will not provide long-term sustainable business benefits, but it can effectively do one thing: Build a short-term image of power, authority and popularity.

Several years ago, a social media celebrity confessed to me that he was a fake. He had purchased more than 100,000 empty Twitter followers on eBay. He organized a scheme on Empire Avenue to “like” his Facebook page and share his blog post. He even lied about having a book contract to create a facade of importance. He built a profitable speaking career on the foundation of pure fabrication. So, faking it worked … but we’ll return to his story in a minute.

Numbers matter

Truth is, people may perceive the value of an individual (or even a business) based only on the numbers — followers, friends, tweets, likes. Why? Because in our hurried world, these numbers are shortcuts to help us decide what to do and who to listen to. This is a well-known psychological concept — people believe something because there is a signal that other people are thinking something or doing something and that gives the content, idea, or individual credibility.

It’s a fundamental human process to assign legitimacy, validity, and value to those things we believe that other people are assigning value to, whether it is true or not.

It’s easy to be a fake

Perhaps you’re upset by people blatantly cheating their way to fame. The Internet offers an unprecedented opportunity to manufacture social proof through tricks and devices. It’s possible to market your own prominence through strategies that don’t have anything to do with real insight, authority or value.

Because of the Internet’s vast ability to grant social proof, and our willingness to accept that evidence as truth, the talent to manufacture social proof can be a legitimate source of online influence – even apart from an individual’s actual experience, ability, or personal accomplishments. 

That might sound icky, but the answer to my blog reader is “yes.” There is some value to bribing or paying for social proof because on one level that might be all that people care about.

In the short term.

Let’s go back to my friend’s story. The reason he was telling me that he was a fake was because he was also saying farewell.

In the short-term he was able to fake his legitimacy through lies but eventually, his customers expected him to deliver the goods. Real value. Real insight. The pressure to keep his real world in line with his fake world became unbearable. He was beginning to fail so miserably that he decided to drop off the Internet altogether. He folded up his fake tent and got a “real job.”

The courage to be real

I would like to end this post with an appeal for you to stay strong, stay centered, and avoid the easy temptation of faking it. Yes, being honest is the right thing to do, but there are solid business reasons for this, too:

  1. I sincerely believe that in the long-term, true authority and expertise will rise to the top. That’s why I don’t get upset when I see people cheating the system. In the short term you can fool a few people but in the long term, the real people will win. Do the hard work. Earn those readers, followers, and likes the old fashioned way.
  2. Building your social proof in an organic and honest way drives the right business behaviors. You will have to learn, adjust, adopt, and deliver value to create REAL social validation. Cheating is lazy and an addiction that will ruin your business.
  3. Finally, we should all be concerned about staying relevant and standing out in a crowded market. I believe one of the ways to do that is through radical honesty. These days, it is so easy to be a fake, and so common to be a fake, that the people who have the courage to be honest will be rewarded.

At least that’s what I’m counting on. And I know I’m right. So hang tough {grow} people. Let’s support each other and grow our businesses the honest way. Agree?

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