Money Can’t Buy You Friends, or Can It? The Art of AstroTurfing
They say that money can’t buy you friends but that doesn’t apply strictly when it comes to social platforms. It is true though that money might not buy you true-from-the-heart friends, but it might buy you others that could help boost your popularity. That is, if you are really interested in becoming popular.
Authenticity – and uniqueness – have always appealed to me so I try to look for it in every corner of the world. Still, I like to consider myself open-minded so I also understand why some people – or brands – would go for the so popular trend of buying friends. Or “followers” in this case.
We all know that popularity doesn’t grow overnight. And this also applies to social networking, although in this case, popularity spreads faster compared to the ‘real world’ . But to become popular you still need talent, charm, authenticity and lots of time, work and dedication to develop relationships, right? Wouldn’t it be easier to skip all this extra effort and go straight to the top by speeding things up a little? After all it’s not that hard, or expensive, to do.
There are too many companies in the market these days that offer amazing packages, at great prices, to improve your follower count on popular platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube or Pinterest, to name a few, through Astroturfing. A fancy 2.0 word? Not really. AstroTurf is a brand of artificial grass, or synthetic turf as they call it. So the verb to astroturf is nothing else than the action of being artificial.
But AstroTurfing is not a new phenomenon. People have been buying popularity since the world’s been turning, the difference is that it has become a lot easier to do now. Just one click and a few dollars and you can see your popularity skyrocket. Even though for some it’s worth doing and can even go unnoticed, specially if you already have a very large community, others chose to grow their communities gradually because artificiality backfires eventually… quite fast!
And here is why: this not-so-sophisticated-as-one-might-think systems inflate your follower, like and share quota overnight. You have 1.000 followers today, you’ll have 10.000 or 100.000 tomorrow. It all depends on the price you pay. And the price you pay has a price in return: major social platforms are becoming less and less flexible with these kind of practices so you will probably lose your 100.000 followers the day after. It would feel like being “a star for a day” but compromising your reputation, and some money, in the process.
Now think for a moment that you could be lucky enough to stay off-radar from the ‘networking police’: how many of these “bot accounts” do you think will be your brand’s ambassadors? Zero. None. They’re all fake and they don’t even exist.
Thanks to the social media revolution, and evolution, ‘we’ the people have the power in our hands. We publicly like, share, review and comment for good and for bad and we decide who and what to follow. But we need to see some kind of reciprocity from the followed as well. Building communities means sharing interests and communicating between the members. Thus, the secret of real popularity will lie on the 10 basic principles of friendship itself: commitment, care, closeness, compliance, frankness, comfort, advisement, correction, contribution and compassion. People expect all, or some, of these principles from other people to develop a real relationship, so why not expect the same from a brand? In the end, brands are people. Entering the social media realm might welcome vulnerability but also a lot of opportunities: moving from an unattainable state to becoming reachable; building closer relationships; getting to know each other; offering transparency and good will. This will bring you reliable followers in return.
So here’s an advice: you can always improve your followers, likes and retweets by paying. That much is true and that’s what promotion and advertising is all about. Take Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Pinterest for instance. These three major platforms offer several advertising models that can be used for specific purposes such as attracting more fans and followers or enhancing reach to improve engagement with your communities at a very reasonable cost. But an extra effort is also required to achieve this. Content is key so no matter how many people you reach, if the content you share is not interesting, your numbers won’t be improved so easily. Social media networking is a combination of creativity, persistence, strategy and investment. Investment of time and money.