There’s been a lot of interest and comment on the Dispatches episode on Channel 4 this week, ‘Celebs, Brands and Fake Fans’. Following on from a quick look at my behind-the-scenes involvement with the programme, I’d like to also share my opinion on how we may interpret the results.
It was a fun project to work on and one that created more interest than we’d imagined it would.
Lets face it - we’re all being duped in some way. Some methods are just more underhand than others.
Social’s a very well developed marketing channel but, for many brands and consumers, it’s still in its infancy. For many, we’re still at a stage not unlike when scam emails were new and an unhealthy percentage of new users thought they were about to inherit an African diamond mine once their bank details had been shared.
Until we’re experts we’re fairly gullible - and that’s the audience for exploiters to exploit. Yes, that’s unfair - but the list of things that aren’t fair in this world is a pretty long one so, big deal. We can’t stop them all and probably shouldn’t waste the effort trying - instead, we look to educate and expose in order to drive awareness, and that’s exactly what the Dispatches programme was trying to do and, for that reason, I was proud to play my part.
Some brands’ obsession with follower numbers and Likes is worth looking into a little…
A genuine amount of Likes may be impressive - but who are brands trying to impress? Rival brands? Consumers?
Personally, I don’t think that high numbers of followers particularly impress that many people - it’s more to the point that low numbers can look embarrassing versus the effort made to get them.
You also have to question what a ‘genuine’ Like is. By definition, it’s one made when a real human presses the Like button of their own free will. But while Brand A may be adored by its customers and not need to even ask for the Like, Brand B may be saying ‘Like us and we might give you an iPad’ - if Brand B gets the bigger number does it make them the better brand?
When I see that my friend Kevin Likes a certain Dishwasher brand on Facebook, I can be 99% sure that they dangled a big enough carrot for him to do so, as he’s certainly never mentioned his dishwasher-love down the pub.
We advise brands to interact with their audience and start a conversation, but your mobile phone provider asking you to tell them about your first kiss, or such like, is just as much bollocks in my opinion - do they really care?
Whether looking to establish B2C relationships of quantity or quality, being genuine holds huge weight.
When you think about it, a Like without the ability to Dislike is pretty pointless. There’s no context. The ability to rate a brand on your favourite social network should get them working much harder - sure, you could still fake it, as you can anything on a screen - but it might be a step in the right direction.
The brand may still plead with you to Like the content they’ve just delivered, but they’d have to give you the opportunity to be critical of it (à la YouTube) - they’ve just stolen some of your valuable time after all. But Facebook is currently still positively rose-tinted - which benefits its advertisers, as well as those of us who create content for them and, ultimately, Facebook itself.
Make it more real-world and would the advertising model break? Kevin might hate his dishwasher brand and so might everyone else. Ouch.