Many will agree that in the crowded consumer market place, reputation is everything. Brands need to be seen to be the most popular in order to trump their competitors. Channel 4 recently aired the eagerly anticipated ‘Celebs, Fans and Fake Brands’ which showed how agencies and brands will unlawfully cut corners in order to get ahead. These revelations caused anger within the agency world.
The hour long programme highlighted how some brands are using agencies and celebrities to push online engagement and increase their social media followers, through freebies and an envelope under the table. This is the first time the issue has been brought to the attention of the customers and consumers, who may have fallen foul to the social media tricks.
Too many brands are attempting to play the ‘numbers game’ and look to gain a large number of followers and fans without putting in the man hours. Brands should instead focus on attracting a relevant and engaged audience, who will provide peer recommendation and attract new customers. Some ten likes from genuine fans are worth more than 100 from ‘fake fans’ who have, more than likely, never even looked at the content.
Social media users’ needs are evolving. The sort of promotion mentioned in the Channel 4 programme is one that offers no real return for businesses. It is not engaging for the user and offers no informative content. Instead, brands should adopt a content marketing approach that involves the creation of relevant content to attract customers and encourage interaction with the brand.
Yes, numbers can sometimes indicate brand advocacy but audiences are becoming savvy to businesses cheating the system, looking to real peer to peer recommendations and engagement to inform their buying choices. Audiences are now wiser to the tactics brands may use on social media to promote their products and services. Customers will begin to question a high number of likes and become suspicious of brands that appear to have high volumes of engagement. Realistically, do hundreds of thousands of people really ‘like’ toilet roll and cat food?
Brands should be looking to the principles of content marketing to drive engagement and achieve business goals, whether these be selling products or increasing awareness and, most importantly, real likes or followers. By finding a problem and providing a solution, you show to the audience that you are a reputable company and one worth following. Social media is becoming a place to build sustainable relationships with customers and it’s only through relevant and insightful content that relationships will prosper.
Anthony Tattum is the MD of Big Cat Group.
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