With social media becoming such an important platform in regards to search engine optimization strategies, it can be tempting to want to give your latest piece of content an assisted boost. What could be the harm in paying people to share, like, comment or retweet your content? This approach is called “black hat social media” and can be extremely destructive to your business.
Defining Black Hat Social Media
The phrase “black hat social media” has been used for years in describing the use of shady search engine optimization tactics or hackers to increase a business’s page rank. In doing this, search engine’s terms of services are violated and the system is being cheated.
To best understand where the line is drawn, here are some common examples of frowned upon tactics of black hat social media.
Generating fake social media profiles in order to share, like, comment, or gain information
Paying people to share, like, subscribe, comment, and/or click on your social media content
Using automated programs to follow and unfollow subscribers
Sharing spiteful hyperlinks
Leaving positive reviews on your company’s page or poor reviews on your competitors’ pages
Employing click farms to increase followers and likes
These are just a few of the most popular examples of black hat social media. While buying fans may be enticing, it will end up more harmful than good.
A Profit Won’t Be Made
Black hat social media does not increase sales. While you may have a remarkable amount of shares, likes, followers, etc, this audience will not stay around for the long haul. While you are spending money and time on an “artificial” audience, you are taking away valuable resources that could be devoted to actual marketing efforts – for example where your target audience spends their time.
In order to improve sales, you need to be aware of the needs and wants of your intended audience, such as where they live and their interests. When you have this information, you can form content that your audience is willingly to view and share – which should increase sales. If your company sells summer clothing for men, women in cooler climates are most likely not going to be the ones supporting your business. Keep your focus on the market best suited to your company and not the “fake” audience that has no impact on sales.
The Effect of Google
A prime concern in using black hat social media is how it can impact search engine optimization- mainly Google. Social media pages, such as Facebook and Twitter, are regarded like any other pages in the web index; meaning, Google is able to crawl these pages and return that information in their search results. Currently, there are no search engine ranking algorithms that track the number of followers or likes on a page.
Despite this, social signals still have some influence on search engine optimization by possibly boosting the content’s level of authority, particularly if the social interaction is crawlable. Regardless if Google crawls social media account or not, these SEO platforms have been interwoven. Referrals from social media account for about one-third of traffic driven to businesses’ websites.
Because of this, it is important to make sure that your reviews are genuine. Google has the capability to catch on to falsely generated reviews, whether leaving poor reviews for your competitors or paying for positive reviews, and they can take those reviews down. Online reviews are crucial, especially to local businesses. Through research, it has been discovered that 88% of costumers create their opinion of your business based on reviews.
Valuing Your Business’s Reputation and Credibility
As stated previously, online reviews are a large concern for companies, as customers value reputation and credibility in a business. Building a community and support around your company helps create advocates for your brand. Customers appreciate the authenticity that can be brought by a company. Paying for fake followers or friends strips the authenticity from your brand by creating an artificial community that contributes nothing, and takes away from actual customers who do contribute.
By participating in black hat social media, you tarnish your credibility and reputation. Customers like to be involved with companies that they respect and are proud to represent. If you are paying for social media, this can only ruin your current clients’ outlook on your business and most likely hinder new cliental.
Not Worth It
The end game is not worth tainting your company’s reputation and losing the trust of the people who make your business possible. If you were unsure before of whether your SEO strategies were right or wrong, the hope is that you have a clearer understanding now. As stated earlier, if your company is participating in click farms to increase popularity on various social media platforms, then you have joined the dark side. If you are promised something that sounds too good to be true, it most likely is. Hold your company to a higher standard, because in the long run, black hat social media tactics do not serve your business well.
With over 12 years of experience, we’ve experienced practically every scenario and explored an extensive range of strategies for online marketing success. Our team of creative, driven and experienced professionals can help you get where you want to be.