More Likes Than Friends – The Truth About Facebook Likes

Facebook_like_thumbWhat if I told you I could get you a hundred followers on your Facebook page in under an hour? How about two hundred? Five hundred? Would you believe me if I told you I could get you 1000 followers, and you won’t even have to lift a finger? It’s true. But that’s not necessarily a good thing. This is called “Like Inflation”. While it forced social media industry to focus more on engagement, it has become a self-inflicted wound in the social strategies of companies who see large numbers of followers and likes as the bottom line.

It’s an easy trap to fall into. You are a small company or just someone who wants to launch a social media page or account in hopes of getting attention from potential fans and followers. The problem is that without a large following to begin with, you think people won’t take you seriously, or worse, fail to recognize the legitimacy of your page or company. So you reach out to a company or person who can guarantee thousands of likes and followers for a small sum of money. The truth is they can deliver on their promises. Most of these services come from India where, for a small fee, several workers will log in and out of thousands of accounts to add likes or followers to your social media accounts. More efficient “companies” will have computers set up to automate this process. Your accounts will explode with false popularity literally overnight! The problem is the aftermath.

fb-edgerankSocial networks have advanced algorithms, like Facebook’s EdgeRank, that determine the “worth” of your posts by measuring the quality and frequency of engagement with followers, fans, and communities. The more engagement you have on your accounts, the better your posts and ads will do on news feeds an ad space. With Like Inflation, your accounts are suddenly littered with thousands of dummy accounts that have no real history of engagement or even real people behind the accounts at all! They are profiles made by a single person or corporate entity for the express purpose of selling likes and followers to small businesses hoping to gain an edge over their competitors, or simply to give the impression of popularity. Now when it comes time to spend some money on actual advertising, a vast majority of the news feeds you reach belongs to these empty, personless accounts. By the numbers, you’ve reached THOUSANDS of people, but of those thousands, a tiny percentage will respond. To the algorithms, your dismal engagement rate makes your posts very unimportant, which diminishes your social media strategies. In short, a short term solution will become a deep hole from which you’ll have to work much harder to escape.

logo1There are also online services like AddMeFast that advertise “Like Sharing”. You open an account and submit links from your social media pages that you want people to like or follow. By liking or following other users’ submitted links, you are granted points that act as currency, which you then spend when someone likes or follows the links you submitted. Users set the “cost” of their links between 1 and 10, and the higher point values are assigned greater priority. Sound like a great idea? Like and share with other active users – what harm can come of it? Well, it hardly stops anyone from creating dummy accounts simply to rack up points for their own links. And since any link can be submitted by anyone, you can even use “Like Inflation” to foil the social media strategies of your competitors. In my personal experience, services like AddMeFast are driven by selfish motivations, not active communities; there is no search function or filters for any of the links. They are randomly generated and serve no other function than being an AddMeFast ATM.

declineIf you find yourself in such a hole, there are some ways you can reclaim a foothold over your social media influence. One such way is paid advertising. By targeting the interests of your intended followers and creating visually appealing ads, you can increase the popularity of your social media accounts and direct traffic to your sites and landing pages. However, it might be very costly to maintain this strategy considering the time it takes to gather enough active users. A less costly method is reaching out to your customer base through email marketing. Many of these people may already be followers, but it’s worth it to reach out to those who haven’t responded yet and give them a little nudge toward your online presence. Although you pay for the mass email service, this method might be the closest thing you have to significant organic reach.

At the end of the day, it’s tempting to turn to an easy fix for the lack of social media presence, but they are short term solutions. Very short term. The whole point of social media marketing, the very essence of it is to be SOCIAL. Injecting fake accounts into your social pages is the same as filling an auditorium with mannequins for a lecture, then wondering why no one’s responding. You’re perfectly free to do it, but it will be a detriment in the long run.

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The End of Google Reader

google-reader-issuesMany of you may have already heard the news: Google Reader is shutting down due to a decline in users. Some of you might even be asking: “what is Google Reader, and why should I care?” Technically you don’t have to care if you’ve never used it, but it’s been an invaluable tool for me in my hunt for bigger and better jobs. Essentially it’s a tool built into your Google account that allows you to consolidate all your job search terms into one convenient reader that continually updates in real time. Job search sites like Indeed.com, Mediabistro, and Craigslist have included very convenient RSS Feed buttons in order to aid you in this endeavor. Simply type in your search, however broad or specific, and click the RSS link to add it to your reader. Once you have a bunch of feeds, you can create a folder labeled “Job Search” and drag all your feeds into it, then presto! You have job listings from all your favorite job sites in one convenient page! Simple, convenient, fantastic. But since not enough people are utilizing this tool, Google will be dismantling it and focusing their efforts elsewhere.

ReaderLuckily Google isn’t cutting us off cold turkey. You can still find the Reader under “More” though for a few days last week it was absent from the menu. The announcement was made on March 13th 2013, and the shut-down transitional period will happen over the next 3 months. During this time you can save your RSS feeds and use them in other readers that are still available.

While this may be a good move in a business sense, Google Reader’s demise might spell trouble for its current users. For many small publishers  like MG Siegler, it has been the lifeblood (or flower) of his traffic. He explains that Reader’s design may have been the reason for its failing: “The key element of Reader, of course, is that it allows readers to consume content without visiting a site if they choose to.” There may be a much larger user base than reported in Google’s metrics, but due to the overly convenient nature of its design, those metrics just could not be measured.

But don’t despair, RSS fans, because where one good feature shuts down, another will quickly fill the void. The top contender appears to be Feedly, who has now monetized this portion of the RSS world in the mobile app sector. Maybe Google Reader will come back one day. It’s hard to imagine that such a large and innovative company wouldn’t be able to make something this awesome work!