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Buying Social Proof – Is It Worth It?

When it comes to building your online presence, there’s not a lot that you can’t buy. Businesses are using black hat social proof and celebrities can be created from thin air. With services like Fiverr, it doesn’t even cost that much to buy followers, shares, and even testimonials. The question is, should you? Here is…

When it comes to building your online presence, there’s not a lot that you can’t buy. Businesses are using black hat social proof and celebrities can be created from thin air. With services like Fiverr, it doesn’t even cost that much to buy followers, shares, and even testimonials. The question is, should you? Here is a look at all of the things you can buy to boost your social media and the pros & cons of each.

Followers

Building an audience on social media can be an uphill battle for many businesses, large and small. So it’s tempting to jump onto services that will give you hundreds, even thousands of followers, fans, and connections overnight.

The question is, what will you gain by a numbers inflation?

On the pros side, there is something to be said about the instant credibility of having a Twitter profile with thousands of followers vs. a handful of followers. Twitter is really the best network to get away with the purchase of followers because the general public as a whole will not be able to tell whether your followers are purchased.

Facebook fans, on the other hand, can be a little more audience. Even with EdgeRank hiding many of your page’s updates, there’s still going to be a discrepancy between having purchased thousands of fans and having zero interaction on your page.

When you purchase followers, fans, connections, etc. for any social network, you’re just buying the numbers. In most cases, even when you are promised “real” people will follow / like / circle your business on the specified network, you are going to receive fake, automated accounts. These are not the kinds of accounts that will actually engage with your business, share your updates, or ultimately lead to conversions on your website.

That said, there are some perks to buying a social media audience. For example, on Facebook, you can’t choose a username if you have less than 25 likes. You can’t see page insights if you have less than 30 likes. You can’t create Offers if you have less than 100 likes. You can’t use Promoted Posts if you have less than 400 likes. It doesn’t matter whether these likes are relevant, real, or otherwise – when you have them, you can use these (and other) features on your Facebook page.

There are more downsides to buying fans and followers other than the lack of engagement and conversions. For starters, you might end up paying more for certain services because of your number of followers. Facebook Promoted Posts rates are generally based on your current number of fans – the larger the number, the higher the cost per promoted post. Third party tools such as AgoraPulse, a powerful Facebook CRM tool, charges based on your total number of fans. There are also tools like Fake Folllower Check that people can use to see if your account has real or fake followers.

You also run the risk of having your account suspended or deactivated based on activities against the social network’s terms of services. While most don’t have a rule directly against buying followers, some do have rules against automation and connecting with people you don’t know in real life. Facebook has also taken the initiative in the past to purge fake accounts on their networks.

So what are some legit ways to build a social media audience?

  • Pay for advertising such as Promoted Accounts on Twitter and Sponsored Stories on Facebook.
  • Add official social following buttons such as the Twitter follow button or Facebook Like button on your website.
  • Add links to your social profiles in email signatures, forum signatures, business cards, brochures, etc.

Shares

Another way to inflate social proof is through buying shares. This includes tweets, likes, +1′s, and so forth. Depending on the service you choose to purchase your social shares, you most likely will not see any benefits in terms of increased click throughs, traffic, or conversions. Again, you’re just buying numbers.

The reason you won’t see any additional benefits besides bragging rights to a page or blog post with thousands of tweets is that most services use automated accounts to create these shares. Usually it is one account that is being followed by thousands of fake accounts that automatically retweet anything the main account tweets.

Again, there are some perks to buying social shares. First of all, your average audience will not feel the urge to research whether your shares are legit or not. Second, since networks like Facebook base whether they show your page’s post in the newsfeed based on popularity, it wouldn’t hurt to have some likes to give it an initial boost so more people can see it. Third, networks like LinkedIn give articles a push in their LinkedIn Today section based on the number of shares it receives.

So what are some legit ways to increase your social media shares?

  • Create amazing content that begs to be shared.
  • Use social sharing buttons to encourage shares.
  • Pay for advertising such as Promoted Tweets on Twitter, Promoted Posts or Sponsored Stories on Facebook, Discovery on StumbleUpon, and similar services.

Testimonials

When you have products or services on your LinkedIn company page, a local business on Google+, or a recommendation box on your Facebook page, you will likely want to have some positive testimonials added to them. False testimonials are against most networks policies – networks like Yelp will slap you with a consumer alert. Google will take them down. LinkedIn will close fake profiles, which are often used to create fake recommendations.

If you have a great business, product, or service, then you can usually encourage reviews from your customers by simply letting them know where they can give you a review. While you can’t give them incentives to leave a review as this is against most networks’ policies too, you can point them in the right direction. People who like leaving testimonials or reviews will generally recognize their favorite network’s logos if you place them on your website and they will go from there.

Bottom line: of all things to buy, don’t buy testimonials. These will probably get you into the most trouble. And if anyone does any digging into your testimonials and finds they are fake, that will really make people lose trust in your business.

So what are some legit ways to increase your testimonials?

  • Link to the social networks / review sites you would like people to leave a review on your website and in email newsletters.
  • Grab friendly comments you’ve received across multiple networks and create a testimonials page. Then link to the networks you would like more testimonials to be added to on that page.
  • Be active on those particular social networks. The more relationships you build with your customers on networks, the more likely they are to leave a review.

What are the pros and cons of buying social proof? Are there legit ways to do it? Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comments!