I’ve been thinking about you lately. I’m worried you’re not seeing what I’m seeing, or at least not taking it seriously enough, so I decided to write you this letter. Often, personalized outreach is more effective at communicating important information. At least that’s what studies say. So, I thought I’d give it a shot.
It all started a few months ago when I read an article in New York magazine entitled “How Much of the Internet Is Fake?” I couldn’t stop thinking about it because, as a marketer, it was just scary. And it made me think of you. I’m worried about you.
I’m worried about us.
Here’s what the piece had to say:
- Studies suggest that less than 60% of web traffic is human, and some years a healthy majority are bots.
- In one scam, 7 million computers were infected with malware that directed web traffic to “spoof” websites, which served up a video designed to fool advertisers into thinking their ad was shown on a premium site like Vogue or The Economist.
- Bots get more and more advanced. Today they’re capable of fake clicks and even mouse movements so they appear to be real, live people.
- Facebook admits to overstating by 60–80% the amount of time users spend watching their videos, but some say they’re overstating it by 150–900% and have sued.
- Anyone can buy 5,000 YouTube views—for as little as $15!
The article, frankly, gave me nightmares. In the middle of the night, I lay awake, agitated, forced to confront certain philosophical questions. What makes social interaction “real,” anyway? How many real people are our social media campaigns reaching? How can we ever really know anyway?
How can we know we’re really talking to anyone at all?
Well. I’ve thought about it. And here’s what I came up with.
The thing that really matters? It’s engagement. No matter the marketing tactics employed. No matter who’s talking to whom. It’s the only way to sheer away bots and phony clicks and stick with real people.
That’s why in my social media campaigns, I ignore the number of followers and track the number of comments and shares each post receives. I feel far more confident that those are real people talking—not bots.
Even more importantly, I use word of mouth marketing to develop real connections with real people. I go outside of the internet and social media and meet real folks. If I or a team member can share a conversation with you or your friends, I can be certain it’s really real. I’ll know if my story really connected and made sense to you, because you’ll try my products. If my story matches your experience, you’ll share it with your friends and family. And because you told them my story, they’ll trust you.
And then they’ll try it. And share the story with their friends and family. And so on, ad infinitum.
It might be slower than social media, but at least I’ll know it’s real. And anyway, there’s nothing slower than talking to thousands of robots and faceless computer programs online.
So what can we do about this, my social media marketing friend? Can we go on believing that what happens on the internet is what matters, that social interaction on social media really is real? Can we go on believing that “influencers” really influence, that “clickbait” really attracts clicks?
Or can we do better? I think we can. Through the use of word of mouth marketing and through strategic social media campaigns that put the emphasis in the right place, we can have the best of both worlds: real connections in real life and authentic contact with folks online. We just have to change our ways and stop depending on disproven, click bait-y, social media-centric strategies.
I know it’s something I plan on doing. I hope you’ll join me.
TopRight Principal and Word of Mouth Marketer