Digital marketing firm LandingNet joins the social media malpractice debate and calls for the ASA to intervene

Channel 4′s recent Dispatches investigation “Celebs, Brands and Fake Fans” exposed how brands are buying social media interactions (  “likes” ) on Facebook and how celebrities are being paid to endorse products on Twitter. The documentary in particular exposed the practice of “click farms” in Bangladesh which involves companies using low-paid workers to develop fake Facebook “likes”, Twitter followers and YouTube views.

social media scams

The practice of celebrities endorsing products and brands on social media was also highlighted, with the Dispatches undercover reporter paying £1,000 to a company called Dynasty Media to entice celebrities to publicise a fake watch. Channel 4’s Dispatches also established links between Coca-Cola and Dhaka-registered Shareyt.com, which acts as a broker to connect companies seeking to boost their profile on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn and YouTube.

Dominic Sterland, Managing Director of Nottingham digital marketing agency LandingNet, points out: “In a week where social media like Twitter and Ask.FM have come under the microscope for ‘troll abuse and bullying’ by individuals, we now discover that commercial abuse of Twitter and Facebook appears to be rife. Channel 4’s Dispatches exposure of the high level of scamming that goes on within social media marketing is a worrying development”.

He continues: “Worshipping false social media gods and idols will only undermine the credibility of the digital marketing industry as a whole and discredits this relatively new online platform. However Channel 4 highlighting how brands can unnaturally grow their online engagement figures and the practices that rogue agencies and celebrities undertake to promote products, will hopefully now put a stop to this malpractice. For blue chip companies, brand integrity and reputation is everything and they will be very keen to put their house in order and distance themselves from any hint of social media impropriety”.

Dominic Sterland adds: “The reality is that commercial social media abuse is almost certainly practiced by a minority of rogue players, but to protect the majority of honest digital marketers, we need a thorough investigation by the Advertising Standards Authority ( ASA ), in order to achieve total transparency”.

The Technophobes Guide to Websites and Internet Marketing

Getting to grips with SEO, PPC, Google Adwords & Adsense, Google Analytics, Blogging, and Content Managing your Website through WordPress.

Computer FrustrationIf the headline and it’s subtitle appear to be total gobbledegook and fills you with dread, then stop, take a deep breath and read on!! It might appear daunting at first but the learning curve is easier than you might think and will not give you an attack of vertigo!! My story is that of a technophobe who was able to embrace the new technology and now wonders what all the fuss was about!! My story acts as a testament to the adage “that where there is a will, there is a way” and will hopefully instil you with hope and the faith to take up the internet mantle.

Two years ago in November 2009 I was made redundant from a lucrative Marketing job, like many in recent years. By terminating my employment, clearly my employer did me few favours, but what he had done in the previous six months was to enrol me on a series of free Business Link seminars on all aspects and facets of Internet Marketing. This was actually the biggest favour and present that he could have bestowed upon me, because it destroyed the myths and fears I possessed with regard to  the Internet. In the intervening two years since being thrown to the wolves of recession and the cold winds of austerity, these seminars stood me in good stead. They gave me the theory behind SEO ( Search Engine Optimisation ), PPC ( Pay Per Click )/Google Adwords and Google Analytics and all the other IT jargon that we are all subjected to. All I had to do was hold my nose and take the plunge and put the theory into practice!!

Having been made redundant, I decided that I wanted to set up an online public relations / press release writing service. LandingNet built me a basic website, using WordPress and it cost far less than I imagined it would. The key to using the WordPress model is that it allows you to content manage your own site, without relying on other parties, which is imperative because constantly adding content to your website is a must. And with a WordPress driven website it’s so easy, you would not believe it. In terms of rising up through the search engine rankings ( especially Google ), content is king.

Online Marketing MixSearch engines like Google reward websites for constantly adding new, fresh but importantly unique and original content. So constantly add new content to your website and the best way of doing this is through a news section or blog. Whatever you write, make sure you that you liberally sprinkle the article with keywords that your prospective customers will be inputting into Google and the other search engines like Yahoo, Bing, Aol etc. This is what is meant by making your website SEO friendly / SEO orientated. However a salutory word of warning. Make sure your website content is original – do not plagiarise text from other websites as Google will recognise this and ignore it.

Over a period of time you will drive increasing traffic to your website organically through continually adding new content. However if you wish to speed this process up and short circuit the process, you can subscribe to Google Adwords PPC ( Pay Per Click ), where you pay for sponsored listings in a prominent position on Page One for your chosen keywords that your prospective customers will use. If someone clicks through from your Adwords Advert / Sponsored Listing, a cost will then be deducted from your Adwords Account. The cost varies and depends on the popularity of the search term ie estate agent, hairdresser, taxi / cab firm will be more expensive per click than astro physician or neurologist. This is also an excellent way to see which keywords are going to convert into actual business and you can then create more unique content based around those keywords to help you pick up on free traffic that you will know will work for you.

Once your website is established, ask a company like LandingNet to set up a Google Analytics account, which will give you a breakdown of all your traffic statistics, in the most comprehensive and minute detail. If this sounds as dull as dishwater, it’s not. I promise that you will become addicted to tracking traffic sources as a vindication of all your hard work adding all that new content to the website on a regular basis!! Believe me if a “technophobe” like me can become hooked, then you will.

Finally once you have built up a reasonable volume of relevant traffic, it might be worth adding a marketing tool called Google Adsense, whereby the Search Engine will add adverts to your website that are appropriate, compatible and complimentary to the nature of your website, it’s products or services. However be careful that you do not end up with a conflict of interest with competitors advertising on your website!! I recommend that you contact an internet marketing company like LandingNet for more information and assistance, they will talk to you in a language you understand and rather than treat it like a dark art they will empower you to make informed decisions yourself and develop your own online marketing strategy.

I hope that this has helped dispel many of the Internet myths and welcome to the IT Age. Embrace the IT Revolution and learn to enjoy it – it’s here to stay!!

Guest Article written by Simon Sterland who’s company Rhetoric offers marketing services for SME’s