THE DARK SIDE OF SOCIAL MEDIA MARKETING

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    In the world of online marketing, there are plenty of scams and shoddy practices that propel business – and social media marketing is no exception.  Perhaps you have seen a recent example on your Facebook News Feed lately, as this practice has become commonplace.

    How does this happen and what can you do about it?  A further look can shed light on the situation.

    A Lot of Fans = Big Money

    You could pay several thousand dollars to own a popular Facebook page.  Becky Worley reports that owners can solicit paid ads, transforming a simple Facebook page into a lucrative business for some.

    She tells the story of a mother who noticed that her daughter’s picture, a child named Katie who has Down syndrome, was used without consent with the following text:

    This is my sister Mallory. She has Down syndrome and doesn’t think she’s beautiful. Please like this photo so I can show her later that she truly is beautiful.”

    The page received 3.5 million likes.

    Once the likes, comments, and shares come in from these types of posts, it can result in pages with staggering followings.  This can mean a hefty price tag for owners that want to cash in on the advertising exposure that they crave.

    Black Hat Social Media and SEO

    These types of stories define the essence of black hat marketing.  The “black hat” term is often associated with SEO, but it works with social media, as well as any marketing arena.

    Here’s what it looks like for social media and SEO – on two different levels:

          • Social Media: Katie’s exploitive story represents some of the worst practices on social media.  On a lower level, pages can ask for a like or a share depending on an answer to a question, or ask eye-catching questions simply for the comments (“I bet you can’t name a city in X that doesn’t contain the letter ‘E’”)
          • SEO: Some sites earn plenty of money by targeting popular search queries; they simply pile in the keyword phrases and ad spaces, which generate income based on the number of visitors.  On a lower level, companies can take keywords too far, such as if a dining establishment has “best Mexican restaurant in Chicago” in the last five titles of their blog.

    These practices can be illegal and/or unethical.

    What Happens?

    According to Worley, pages like this one on cuddling will go for sale for $7,000.  Some websites built around black hat SEO techniques could still make a profit.

    Yet, there is good news on the SEO front: Google is pushing less-than-respectable operations into oblivion, punishing them for spam, paid backlinks, and more.  It’s creating a lot of problems for those who don’t embrace the best practices of SEO.

    Social media is much more difficult to control.  Worley notes the “cat and mouse game” nature of regulating sold pages and fraudulent behavior.  But even if that occurs, it won’t stop unethical posts that deceive people.

    You can unlike pages and posts.  You can report spam to Google.  However, the best option is probably to take the high road – ignore the black hatters, spammers, and sources that may simply not know better.

    A site like Snopes can help you determine if a viral story is true or false.  Before you comment in outrage that baby carrots have chlorine, execute a quick search and read a few posts.

    And for those of you that are engaged in social media marketing, take the high road.  After all, just seven bad tweets or Facebook posts could ruin your business.

    A strong social media and website presence will translate into success.