The Argument Against Astroturfing
By Ted Rubin
Astroturfing, the practice of simulating behavior from imaginary grassroots participants, is getting a lot of publicity lately. Unfortunately, in my opinion, the discussion has been all about whether it is ok to do it from a legal/ethical perspective.
I think the question shouldn’t have to get to the point of ethical or not… it is simply inappropriate, inauthentic, and a foolish path to follow. Eventually, you get found out. Very often sooner rather than later, and you do damage to your brand. Your brand/business is what you do; your reputation is what people remember and share.
Some think there are instances when these kind of marketing tactics are acceptable. In this day and age, when connection and sharing is a click away, you risk way too much trying to game the system. Personally it has never been an option in my marketing playbook, but even for those who think it is ok, it is simply too easy to expose today.
In today’s consumer led communications universe, the rise of digital and social marketing is cultivating the desire to figure out short cuts, because social media marketing is hard work and raising the bar for so many. Also there is the fear of what people “really” think. So now that all those opinions are out there, some feel compelled to tip the scale themselves. This is especially true of agencies and PR firms who are so used to shaping and controlling the message.
Many are saying that this is something the industry needs to address. It is not an industry question in my eyes, but a personal decision by each marketer and the brands they represent.
Be authentic. Don’t just act it. This might seem obvious, but authenticity is on the verge of becoming just another buzzword in social media and marketing in general. True authenticity (not just using that word often in your tweets and posts) will set your brand (product or personal) apart in today’s highly competitive market.
Ted Rubin is a leading Social Marketing Strategist, Keynote Speaker and Brand Evangelist. In March 2009 he started using and evangelizing the term ROR, Return on Relationship, hashtag #RonR. He is also the author of the book by the same name… Return on Relationship. Visit his web site at www.tedrubin.com for more information.
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