20 Tips to Help You Avoid Shady Social Media Providers

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tips-to-avoid-shady-social-media-providers-1I just couldn’t let another day go by without sharing my best tips to help you avoid shady social media providers.

It’s frustrating to witness unsuspecting businesses (and individuals) falling for shady tactics when they believe they’re paying for quality social media marketing. So, enough is enough already.

Fake is the new trend and a lot of people seem to be in style.

Before we get to the tips, let me say that it’s never been more important to recognize the “red flags.” A provider may look as though they’re credible, especially if they’ve been awarded a “preferred provider” status by a manufacturer or corporate office.

But because social media is such a buzzword, and so many companies know they need it, the chances today have increased 100+ times that you’ve either been a victim already or you’ll be subjected to the riff-raff very soon.

I’ve been compiling a list for a few months and curated this information from actual social media accounts, some clients and some prospects. Shady social media providers are abundant and I want you to have the tools you need to avoid them.

1. Low-quality, duplicated content

You’ll often see posts from various pages that are the same exact content, with some even posted at the same exact time. This is never going to get you results from social media because the content has been seen before and it’s not unique. This tactic provides zero relevance and makes the business seem like it doesn’t care about its customers.

2. Lazy or outdated tactics

Uninspired posts produce uninspired viewers.

Some examples:

  • Asking “How many likes can we get for this…” Outdated.
  • “Caption this…” Just don’t.
  • Images without stories fall flat.

3. Buying likes, fans and followers

I’ve seen countless Facebook pages, Instagram and Twitter accounts where a shady social media provider promised to deliver a huge audience. The only problem is that those likes and followers will NEVER buy from you.

Why? Because this fake audience is made of bots (fake accounts), typically based in foreign countries, making it a complete waste of time and money.

Fake fans, followers, likes, and/or shares falsely inflate the content’s level of authority, especially if the profile listing the social interaction is public and crawlable by Google.

Always look at your audience and make sure it consists of your target customers.

4. No “brand discovery” to kick things off

Before you “take to the airwaves” of social media, you should be able to articulate your company’s brand values. If you can’t, your customers certainly never will.

In a world of noise and dubious facts, it’s important to stand out as a trusted resource. If you don’t know why do what you do, your customers won’t either.

If a social media provider is producing content for you then they should be asking (and you should be answering) what it is that makes you different; what you do better than your competitor that compels people to buy from you.

5. “Foot-in-mouth” posts

Remember, nothing dies on social media.

  • Grammar and misspelling
  • “Moments of dumb”
  • Exploiting human tragedy (even if it was innocent)
  • Violation of trust
  • #Fail (the dreaded hashtag of “foot-in-mouth” syndrome)

6. No mention of social media strategy

Beyond the Brand Discovery needed at inception, you need a marketing strategy plan to define your goals so that your results can be measured to establish ROI (Return on Investment).

If you fail to plan, then you plan to fail.

A well-developed social media strategy, including social ads and marketing automation is key. It will provide you with a plan to accomplish your goals and action steps to keep you on track.

7. Ridiculously low price

Right now, there is a social media provider that’s charging $150/month via a manufacturer-preferred vendor program. There is simply no reason to engage in this nonsense.

Social media cannot be automated. It takes actual humans to be social.

Whether in-house or outsourced, there are negatives and positives on both sides. Your best choice depends on a few factors. If you are considering outsourcing, remember, you get what you pay for.

Add Facebook ads management and a budget for the ads and you’ll begin to see why it’s important to get serious about what works best for you. $150/month is not realistic.

8. Lack of true results

You may believe that having a lot of likes and followers is a sign of a successful social media profile. I’ve seen many pages and profiles with a “large audience” that are not getting the true results they need.

There are dozens of specific social media metrics but most of them should address one or more of the following questions:

  • Are you reaching YOUR target audience?
  • Are you engaging your target audience?
  • How many of your social media fans are inquiring about your product or service?
  • How many of them become customers?

9. No tracking or reporting

If you don’t know where you’ve been, how will you know where you’re going?

Insist on a regular report of your progress and an outline of your social media marketing milestones.

10. Violations of Facebook Community Standards

The world witnessed Mark Zuckerberg testifying on Capitol Hill. One of the outcomes of that was a major update to Facebook’s Community Standards. The standards are divided into 6 categories:

  1. Violence and Criminal Behavior
  2. Safety
  3. Objectionable Content
  4. Integrity and Authenticity
  5. Respecting Intellectual Property
  6. Content-Related Requests

Our Community Standards, which we will continue to develop over time, serve as a guide for how to communicate on Facebook.

If your social media provider isn’t up-to-speed on each of these Standards and can easily provide you with how they handle each one, that’s a very bad sign.

11. Too much emphasis on growing likes and followers

If your social media provider starts talking about attracting ‘X’ number of Facebook likes or ‘Y’ number of Instagram or Twitter followers, stop them and ask:

  • How will they build an audience of in-market fans?
  • How do they plan to engage with that specific audience?

They might try to blind you with numbers but a small, switched-on and engaged audience offers you much more value than a bunch of fans/followers from outside your market area.

12. “Click Farms”

Paying individuals to like, comment, subscribe, or click on your social media content is big business. 

Artificially inflating your engagement is not only black hat (re: lacking integrity and bordering on criminal activity), it will get your account deleted. You’ll wake up one day and your page or profile will be gone, never to be seen again.

And if your customers get wind of it, say goodbye to all that positive brand reputation you’ve worked so hard to attain.

13. Manufacturing fake negative reviews on a competitor’s page or positive reviews on your own.

According to Forresterthe Internet will account for or influence 59% of U.S. retail sales this year, up from 52% last year. 

That means that as product reviews, blog commentary and peer-to-peer social media posts increasingly influence purchases, the FTC wants to ensure that the online and social media content that consumers use in their decision making is accurate and trustworthy.

There are MANY shady social media providers who make promises to boost your online reviews. It’s a red flag if they promise to get you positive reviews without implementing a well-defined, proven process of building a review funnel to capture your actual customer’s feedback.

14.  Not including Facebook Ads

Facebook is now “pay to play.” What was once “free” must now be paid for. If a social media provider does not use Facebook Ads as part of a promotion strategy, keep looking for one who does.

I’m a big proponent of Facebook Ads. With a specific strategies to promote your products and services, they have no equal.

Social media has matured and that growth brought more and more people into the mix. You want your content to be seen and Facebook Ads is how that happens.

A word of caution: like everything else that is popular, there are experts at Facebook Ads management…and then there are shady providers. Get to know what your paying for by asking the right questions.

15. Discussing politics, sex or religion

My grandma used to say, “Honey, in all social situations, never talk about politics, sex or religion.”

Now, because we live in tumultuous times, where it seems like everything we do and say is somehow politicized, you must be extra diligent about what gets published.

If your business is tied to public policy, then of course it’s okay to talk politics. Just be careful to communicate the right messages.

Pro Tip: Due to the current politically-charged social media environment, people will make comments to you and others on your posts. Be diligent and monitor these conversations. If the tone seems negative and doesn’t sit well with you, it’s perfectly fine to hide the comment, delete the comment or even ban the user.

16. Promising to make your content “go viral.”

Let’s face it, who doesn’t want to go viral, right? But it’s not a strategy. It’s not something anyone can plan for or replicate. That’s what makes viral content so special.

If your social media provider is promising to “go viral,” beware.

17. Focused on “self-promotional” content

Your brand is no longer what you tell consumers it is. It’s what consumers tell each other it is.

It’s in bad taste to promote yourself through social media content. A better content marketing practice is two-fold:

  1. Create a strategy to get others to talk about your brand
  2. Leverage Facebook ads to promote your product to interested buyers

18. Responding to online reviews with canned, corporate speak

The quickest way to make your company look bad on review sites is to respond with benign responses to reviews. I’ve seen this over and over and often it’s due to shady and/or inexperienced social media providers.

Responding to every review is important and I recommend it. But whether the review is positive or negative, each response should be personal and from the heart.

19. Heavy automation

Don’t get caught with the wrong content at the wrong time. You could end up being seen as insensitive, disingenuous or lazy.

Instead, reach out to others in real-time by retweeting, sharing, replying and commenting on their activity. Check your automated publishing schedule frequently, and don’t schedule too far in advance.

20. Responding too quickly or too slowly to negative comments

Negative comments are always tricky. It’s not a question of if but when the negative comments will appear. Focusing attention on these comments should be a priority to your social media provider.

Responding too quickly to negative comments won’t allow time for your audience to support your position. In specific cases, you may find that not responding at all is the best choice.

Responding too slowly could make the situation worse. This would be the case where someone wants to be heard right now, such as a customer service issue. Timely responses in these situations are always best.

In every case, take the time to think about what you need to say and in the calmest, most thoughtful way possible.

In some cases, you’ll need to delete the comment or ban the user.

Ensure your success by implementing a social media policy that you and your team can refer to for guidance.

Now that you’ve made it through these 20 tips, I have one more.

Bonus Tip: Scant Social Media Presence

I could name you at least five social media providers right now (but I won’t) that are selling ‘social media marketing’ to companies and they themselves have no social media presence.

They don’t have a social media footprint and neither to their principal owners and managers.

Social media is people. It’s not technology, it’s not the channels, it’s not the stats nor analytics. People are social; conversations foster sales. If your provider is putting themselves out there as an expert of social media marketing, and they’re not participating, ask yourself, “How does that work exactly?”

Putting it all together…

Shady social media providers should be focused on promoting your good name and brand. Instead, their approach is to exploit the popularity of social media for their own gain.

Be aware of the warning signs. Where shady social media providers lurk there many red flags. Pay close attention to what you’re publishing and what you’re paying for. As always, please get in touch with me if you need help figuring things out.

The more we share, the more we have…
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