Google+ is here. What now?

We have recently published a deck on some of our thoughts using Google+ over the first three weeks. It's meant to be a thought starter and overview of how the service could evolve in the coming months and what marketers and brands should think about.

Written by myself and Damien Le Castrec. We'd love your feedback!


The Dark Side of Social

A series of services, like uSocial, are now selling fans, followers and views on the cheap. They prey on users and brands who are looking to build a base quickly and don’t really understand that social media is about engaging actual people, not random – and likely fake - accounts.

Brands know that they should focus on user engagement instead of how many ‘Likes’, followers or views their social community has. However, total membership is the metric that most people seem to think about first. Anyone who has ever said, ‘We just launched a Facebook page’ knows that the follow up question is always, ‘Cool. How many ‘Likes’ are you at?’ No matter what platform the brand is using, the Like/Follower/View count is the first stat that users and marketers think about.

That being said, the proposition of gaining 250,000 ‘highly targeted’ Facebook fans or 25,000 Twitter followers in a matter of days is an interesting one, especially when you consider the cost. Here are a few of the offers currently listed on uSocial:

  • 250,000 Facebook Fans for $8,997.30 (and plans to get up to 20 million Facebook fans…quotes only available by direct contact)
  • 100,000 Twitter followers for $3,479 in 365 days (get 25K in 90 days for a measly $869.75)
  • 100,000 YouTube views costs $653.60 and takes between 150-200 days to deliver

These prices seem to good to be true (and they are). When you consider that many brands use the $1/fan metric through traditional Facebook advertising, you can see why some are jumping at prices less than $0.04/fan.

The problem, that anyone who has actually built a community knows, is that social media doesn’t work this way. Unlike link farms of the early 2000s that were more of a ‘you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours’ set up, people don’t just follow, view or ‘Like’ specific accounts at random (even if they are being paid $0.04 for it). Accounts need to give people a proposition that shows users why they are worth following. They need to continually provide content that matches this proposition and keeps users interested, active and engaged over time.

But there is a reason these services exist – because people use them. And I suspect that many ‘social media experts’ who are struggling to find ways to be credible, due to lack of actual brand experience, figure that boosting their follower count for a couple hundred dollars is the best way to jump to the top of the 'guru' heap.

Just remember that the next time someone talks about how successful their social community is in terms of Likes, followers or views, there might be a simple answer – they were bought. Not earned.