Here’s What to Watch Out For

There was a bit of a hullabaloo in the Twitter-verse when Mitt Romney’s audience suddenly jumped by more than 100,000 new followers – in one day.

He’d been attracting 3,000 to 4,000 a day when, on July 20, that number shot to 24,000. The next day, it went through the roof – 117,000 new followers!

No, he hadn’t tweeted anything particularly profound or surprising. He was getting just a few hundred mentions by others on the social networking site, nowhere near enough to account for all the interest.

Those in the know quickly guessed the reason: a social media marketing firm.

Many marketing companies promise to build your audience by thousands of followers for pennies apiece. “1,000 Twitter followers for $14,” reads one typical ad on Google. Some PR firms promise to manage your social media accounts and get you lots of new followers for a monthly fee. It’s suspected that purchased followers like these account for the GOP presidential candidate’s spike.

People using social media to promote themselves, their products, company or books, want a big audience for obvious reasons. Every follower can expose you to all his or her followers, so your reach grows exponentially. And a large following can (note, I said can, not will!) give you lots of credibility.

But whether you’re paying a onetime $14 fee or $2,400 a month, you may be throwing away your money if you don’t know what you’re buying.

Some of those promising big numbers for a few bucks are fattening your following with faceless “bots” — accounts to which no human being is attached. They may also include accounts set up to spam other users, people in far-flung countries who don’t speak your language, and people with absolutely no interest in or relevance to your topic.

When others on Twitter realize your following is fake, guess what? Any credibility you had is lost! Right now, there’s a slugfest among the stars of “Real Housewives of Orange County” over who’s buying Twitter followers. The accusations and denials make it clear (if you had any doubts) that buying followers has the same seedy connotations as buying friends, or buying sex.

When Tamra Barney accused Alexis Bellino of paying for numbers – “explosive allegations,” The Christian Post called it – Bellino responded, “Beyond crazy. I wouldn’t know the 1st thing about this & would never want fake fans following me.”

Yes, it’s OK to hire a social media marketing firm to handle your accounts. Just make sure it’s attracting followers with a genuine interest in your topic. At EMSI, these are some of the ways we ensure our clients’ new connections not only have the right stuff – but that it’s apparent to anyone who sees the account.

Build connections organically. We search for people having conversations in interest groups that relate to our clients’ interests. We look at their profiles to see who they are and what they’re about, as well as how often they interact.

Interact with followers. Lots of followers and few or no interactions tell others your account is suspect. You should have more followers than people you’re following (or you may look like a stalker!), but you should also be following many of your followers. Comment on their posts, retweet the posts you like and otherwise engage in some way at least once a day.

Share valuable content. If your message is simply “buy my product,” Twitter users will avoid you like the plague. Share tips, information from your blog if you have one (it’s a nice way to get people to your website), observations on issues and trends in the news, and the occasional personal tidbit so followers can get to know you.

If you have a company managing your account, check out your followers every now and then. Look at their profiles to make sure they’re real people who may have some interest in your message. See how often your representative is interacting on your behalf and what he or she is saying.

In the Twitter-verse, big numbers do not automatically build credibility – sometimes, they destroy it. Which is why some observers think Mitt Romney’s huge spike is no reason to accuse him of buying followers.

Rather, they say, it’s more likely someone was out to get him.

Tweet, tweet!

Click Here to Read More About a Social Media Marketing Firm on Biznik

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