Scraping the bottom of the social barrel?

A wise person once said to me that it’s better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to open your mouth and prove it.

And I am regularly reminded of this pearl of wisdom by the foolish notion that a business should post ‘content’ frequently on their social networks to be considered ‘alive’, and to make matters worse, business managers are buying into it.

Many business owners have told me they don’t know what to post on their social channels, and there’s always a queue of people lining up to take their money in exchange for this particular ‘skill’.

I use the word cautiously because, repeatedly, I see intelligent, educated business people paying someone to scrape content from the bottom of a barrel.

Supply and demand

Of course, where there is demand, there will be supply. But you know what happens when the supply dries up? Yeah, that’s right, it doesn’t dry up, the quality gets weaker until you’re scraping the bottom of the barrel.

I wrote recently that so-called marketers were taking business customers for a ride by ‘managing’ their social media feeds. It’s rife, it’s fake and it could be costing you thousands of pounds.

I’ve written more on this (Faking your social media is killing your authenticity and wasting your money), but I thought I would look a little bit more closely at what these fake marketers are pimping your feed with, and just what skills are they providing for your monthly budget.

Taking over your social life?

You wouldn’t hand over the running of your social life to a contractor, so why would you do it in your business? Nobody knows your business better than you do and getting an outside agency to pretend to be the voice of your business is not a good look. Their voice is unlikely to sound anything like your voice and all of a sudden your social feed looks and sounds like a frilly cupcake… with emojis.

This can manifest itself in the newsfeed with all the detritus listed below, or in Messenger, that brilliant piece of technology that leads you to believe you can contact customer service without having to check their opening hours.  

I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve contacted a company through Facebook or Twitter, only to have a nice exchange of greetings, but they can’t actually answer my question. It’s a huge blight on a company hoping to provide a good level of service. To be honest, I’d rather send the message, then sit back and wait for someone who can answer the query, than see three dots start bouncing before I’ve finished my question. Don’t get me wrong, Live chat is a great thing, but a one-to-one with Pippa from the PR company is probably not going to lead anywhere.

Social media calendars

Brace yourself for this one. One of the first tasks your social media marketer will do is ‘create a calendar’. They might call it a content calendar, or a social calendar, but basically, it’s a template off the internet with a space for each day. Well, it’s a calendar!

You’ll be expected to give a blow-by-blow account of your business activities for the next 30, 60 or 90 days (and you must take selfies during the course of your work) and hey presto, you’re halfway to a filling your feed. Your marketer will simply fill in the gaps with international theme days, contests and roving teddies (more on these later).

The only reason you believe this will work is because you’ve never actually tried it and have nothing to compare it with.

Buying followers

I can’t believe I’m saying this in 2019, but yet agencies and marketers are bolstering their reports with fake numbers. Buying followers may be satisfying, but it is incredibly damaging to your reputation.  I do believe that most business owners wouldn’t take the decision to buy followers because there’s definitely a scepticism towards the practice, yet they are being subjected to this nasty technique without their knowledge.

I know that some agencies are buying followers without their customers’ knowledge. Look out for your marketer promising a rapid increase in followers, this isn’t a skill. People will follow you organically at ratio in line with your activity. Anything unusual should start ringing alarm bells. Don’t be afraid to ask your marketer if they buy followers and get the answer in writing.

The truth is that bought likes are mostly bots or inactive accounts and have no interest in your company at all. They will almost certainly be located in  Africa, India or other places where cheap labour is available.

Days of reckoning

I mentioned this above. Some days you don’t have anything ‘relevant’ to post, it’s a fact, suck it up. Unless you’re a candidate for Number 10, some days will be quiet. So on these days, you might just get on with your work, however your marketer will be paying a visit to where every day has a theme, or two or three. Today is Iced Tea Day AND Ball Point Pen Day. It’s also Love Your Burial Ground Week, June is Dairy Month, Candy Month, Pride Month, Guitars on the Beach Month and International Mud Month, and the list goes on. Honestly, it does, go and see for yourself:

These days were devised for marketing, so I’m not saying don’t use them, but use them wisely, sparingly and put a bit of effort into how you celebrate them. Don’t let them be an excuse for your marketer to make sure they meet a ‘daily’ schedule.

Illegal and useless competitions

You’d think that someone who professes to know about Facebook knows that ‘like and share’ competitions can get your page banned. Yep, you could potentially lose your page overnight if you don’t follow the rules clearly laid down by Facebook.

Apart from being against the rules, many shares will be hidden from page admins due to security settings of the entrant, which means you won’t actually see who’s sharing!

Competitions are popular with social media marketers because they act as engagement bait. Who doesn’t want to win stuff? But there’s little evidence that they generate business. They’re perfect fodder for marketers’ reports, but correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t think you can bank your likes, comments and shares.

Running a private social network

This is rife, and I’ve studied it. It’s where admins of pages like, comment and share other pages they’re running for their customers. Now if you can imagine that a marketer or agent could have access to tens of customers’ Facebook pages and similar Twitter accounts, the the dark power of this technique becomes apparent.

They will use their customers’ accounts to like, comment and share other customers’ posts and pages. On the face of it, seemingly innocuous, and I do actually think they think this is harmless. My take on it is that it is fake, because the engagement is not delivered by the real customer, and the second, more worrying trait is how it affects the algorithm. A computer will soon pick up patterns of repetitive, biased behaviour and act on it.

The reality is that you are led to believe that a real person or business is interacting with your company, when actually, it’s just a human bot building a monthly numbers report.

Copycat tactics

There are very few genuine ideas left for people to effectively post on their social networks and that’s often why they get marketers in. Unfortunately, they’ll just copy things they’re using on other pages, such as competitions, teddy bears on their travels, staff profiles. There’s nothing wrong with these in themselves, it’s just that when people start to see the same ideas on more than one page, it looks lazy.

Marketing ideas are best served when they are original. Do these unoriginal efforts really represent your company ethic? An idea that worked once doesn’t mean it will work over and over. Try it with a dead horse. You’ll soon get the message.

I could go on. I don’t think I really realised myself how sinister this all is until I wrote it down. It’s a plague. It’s far too many cooks spoiling the broth. The reality is that Facebook is designed for consumer engagement, and business pages have been dying for a long time, and I put the blame fairly and squarely in the hands of quick-buck marketers. They are the ones that have collectively made Facebook and Twitter (and they’re doing it to Instagram too) such as shitty place to promote your business.