When Self-Promotion Goes Too Far 2

With so much buzz about social media marketing these days I can’t help but wonder how many people think manufacturing fake word of mouth is a good marketing technique.

I’m referring to people who get onto sites like Quora, a collection of good questions and answers, and recommend their own stuff without saying it’s their own stuff.

One thing is answering a question by linking to your own website, book or blog post. I’ve done that myself, in Quora — but only sparingly, when the link directly answers the question, and never without disclosing my bias.

It’s quite another thing to troll the web looking for places to recommend your own stuff as if you were an objective third-party person recommending it. People trust objective recommendations, so maybe this works. But does it work over the long term, when they do it as a marketing method? Wouldn’t that kind of marketing cut into long-term business health by killing your credibility?

In Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook we at least have the on/off function, like channels, follow or not, friend or not, which helps somewhat. But in Quora, it’s question by question, and if this continues, eventually we’ll have to wade through the fake answers to find the real ones.

John Jantsch summarizes marketing as getting people to know, like, and trust you. If your introduction starts with something fake, can you gain credibility later?

And meanwhile, this kind of fake word-of-mouth or stealth marketing in social media sites threatens the value of the sites. I’ve been spending a lot of time in Quora lately, and I think I’m starting to see it more and more. It seems like a damned shame, really, because Quora has started out as an excellent collection of really good answers to really interesting questions. The more it gets polluted by fake recommendations, the less valuable it will be.

I hate to say that spam obviously works because it keeps coming. And some other unpleasant tactics that show up in social media must work, because they keep coming. But are we too dumb to see through these fake recommendations? Does that work too?

About the Author Tim Berry is the founder and chairman of Palo Alto Software and Bplans.com. Follow him on Twitter @Timberry. Follow Tim on Google+ Read more »

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  • http://www.mcloughlin.ca/insights Dan

    Well, that is what the emerging trend is.

    You discuss, then you see if it leads to sales, Tim.

    And the emerging trend with QR Codes is that marketing becomes discreet.

    We leave it up to the consumer to make that choice based on information presented to them.

    The consumer still has the ability to make a conscious choice- they can do their research, see the testimonials.

    And real-time social media allows for a brand’s reputation to be put at stake.

    So when you consider all the elements, it’s a fair game- because if you’re marketing this way, and your product goes horribly wrong, you will get ripped to shreds by your consumers virally, and not just through word of mouth.

    So it promotes honesty.

    And that’s something that hasn’t been online in all the years I’ve been connected.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100003406013856 Mahmud

      Kristi-Twitter,Linkedin,Facebook and Quora that’s the way I make my list. I am a twitetr lover and Hootsuite has taken my twitetr experience altogether to a new level. Linkedin is a great place and before I was active in sm, I landed one of my jobs via Linkedin back in 2009 so i guess now people will value more. Facebook fan page was dead for months but then few articles by MariSmith and SMExaminer changed the way i looked at it. Now we have a decent community and trying to give our best efforts to keep it engaged.Thanks for ur post, helps a lot