How to ruin social media

August 26, 2010

Did you see the FTC’s announcement today that it settled charges with a pay-per-post agency?

Public Relations Firm to Settle FTC Charges that It Advertised Clients’ Gaming Apps Through Misleading Online Endorsements

In this case the agency was hiring people to pose as consumers on the web and post positive reviews about its client’s products.

Glad to see that the FTC is on it – but I think this is a much more widespread problem that just this one agency.

This kind of behavior really bugs me because it has the long-term potential of poisoning the Social Media well. How much of this kind of astroturfing can go on before consumers stop trusting what they are reading? Do we (marketers) really want SM to become the next “email” or “telemarketing” where a bunch of spammers ruin the channel for everyone? I don’t think so.

Social Media (as a channel) is a great place for companies to engage with consumers – but it is not a great place for direct advertising and promotion. If you want to be effective here you have to behave in helpful, human and humble ways. It is not just about selling the next thing.