For today's #ThrowbackThursday, I'm jumping to the topic of buying your friends, or more specifically, not buying them.
Buying Website Links
There are plenty of online services offering to increase the traffic to your website, increase the number of links pointing to you website, increasing the number of Twitter followers you have, and increasing the number of people who like your Facebook page. More often than not, these services are simply scams using automated systems and thousands of fictitious social media accounts to increase numbers, but not sales.
When I wrote the original Nugget in 2011, it was as a warning against buying website links. Eventually Google deployed the Penguin Filter that zapped those who did buy links.
The idea behind paying for more website links was the hope that more links would bring more organic traffic. It actually worked, but Google realized that companies were gaming the search system, and so Google birthed Penguin.
Buying Social Fans
While the link building market has mostly shriveled up, I find it interesting now that you can run ads on Facebook to get more likes to your page and ads on Twitter to attract new followers. Naturally, if you build a larger fan base on Facebook and Twitter, you are likely to also increase the organic reach of your posts to those networks.
What's a Facebook Fan Worth?
Every update you post to Facebook will only reach a small portion of your audience, so it seems to make sense that you should build the largest fan base possible to better your chances of being noticed. Some small businesses have reported good success with targeted Facebook ads, while others have no luck at all. Meanwhile, stores with a large Facebook following of a few thousand or more customers seem to be doing just fine when they post to Facebook.
The key metric here seems to be that everyone should strive to increase their Facebook fan base. However, Facebook fans acquired through customer service and audience engagement will be far more loyal than those acquired because an ad convinced them to click the Like Button, i.e. you bought your fan.
The loyal customer will be willing to read your status updates, while the purchased fan will quickly skip over your post. Facebook will eventually realize they don't care about you anyway and will stop delivering your posts to their news feed.
While it might seem worthwhile to run an ad campaign to increase the number of people who like your page, my opinion on this is that it's not worth it. Purchased fans will never bring the business that you can gain from customers acquired through real engagement.
Are Paid Twitter Fans Worth Anything?
Twitter is such a free-for-all of internet noise that it's difficult to measure the results of any individual tweet unless you also build a way to track clicks from your tweets.
Through your Twitter for Business account, you can create a promoted tweet that attracts more followers. Once again, the idea here is that attracting more followers will translate into greater organic social reach. However, Twitter is also flooded with thousands of robot accounts and spamming companies, and you're likely to attract several of them to your promoted tweet.
Again, while it might seem pretty impressive to gain thousands of extra Twitter followers, those numbers don't mean anything unless you can lead them to a sale. Odds that an automated robot Twitter account will lead to a sale are pretty slim.
I've seen a lot of proven value in paid Facebook ads and seen plenty of data to support the use of Twitter ads (no direct experience in that yet), but the idea of paying for social fans stinks just like the old methods of paying for website links. If the social stature of thousands of fans and followers appeals to you, go right ahead and pay for them; otherwise I advise you to stay away from those types of social media ads.