The other day I was approached by a business that promised me a certain number of social shares for any new content on my website. The offer seemed too good to be true, and I knew there had to be a cost. I would never consider buying my way to the top, but I was interested to see what was going on.
The Social Shares Company System
When visiting their website, I looked at their process. The company would monitor your website for new content and then ‘encourage’ social users to share the content once published but it doesn’t make reference to how these social media users would be encouraged.
However, there are just three ways I can think of ‘encouraging’ users to share your content.
- Having great content.
- Paying the social user.
- Controlling the social user.
Considering that the company can’t guarantee the quality of the content, the top option is probably not the answer. Paying for the social share might happen. However, if the company were to break even (the cost of this was just £20 per month), they would pay a maximum of 3 pence per social update. For a social user to make £10 – they would have to share 334 updates.
I can’t believe that anyone would do it for that pay.
That leaves just controlling the social user. This is more like it. Having numerous social user accounts allows for them to automatically share content.
Alarm Bells Ringing
Immediately, there were alarms ringing in my head.
Firstly, paying for any social interaction is against the terms and conditions of all the social media platforms. Buying followers often gets the most news, but buying social shares is frowned upon just as much.
The action that can be taken against you for buying social shares can be severe – you can lose your account. This would result in a long time rebuilding it and that can be infuriating.
Secondly, the website has a rolling screen stating who has tweeted what. What caught my attention was the lack of a link to the social updates. A link to an update is the perfect social proof that it is a real update and if this had been the case, I wouldn’t be writing this article.
However, they did give the name of the person (not the username). With the tweet and name, it was easy enough to go hunting. The first update I looked at was by Lorie Moran. However, I couldn’t find the update anywhere on Twitter. Nor could I find a mildly active Twitter account with that name.
Then I moved onto Samantha Thompson. Again I found no exact matching account on Twitter nor was the update there going back at least four hours.
Then I noticed something. The same people were posting the same Tweet repeatedly.
This is something that just shouldn’t happen. Firstly, Twitter doesn’t allow for duplicate publication of Tweets within 24 hours. Also, if they were able to resubmit the same tweet, by maybe changing a single hashtag, the content would be viewable on Twitter in the search results.
Is This Important?
Essentially, yes! It indicates, but does not prove, dishonest practices and a system that does not work. After all, the site claims to have large publishers as clients. Why not advertise the tweets, Facebook likes and such forth from these clients?
Privacy can’t be an issue as they are highlighted on the front page. Surely it would do no damage to show the social shares from these clients.
Then there are the clients themselves. I looked at a couple. Forbes, you couldn’t really tell whether there was a bump in social shares on Twitter. They have over eight million followers, yet they do have a lot of social shares.
However, Search Engine Journal, looking back on their social accounts, they have few blog posts that have more than 10 social shares. When the site promises between 20-50 for a single blog post, either they aren’t delivering or the company isn’t really a client.
The Ethical Decision
Let’s put aside whether or not the system works or not. Is it ethical to buy social shares? If the question was about buying social followers the answer would be no. You wouldn’t buy friendship or a review – so why buy a social follow?
The answer is simple, because the importance of social indicators, like shares is high. However, cheating is not the way forward. Instead, you need to look at the long-term benefits of creating the right content for your brand.
If you create strong content, people will share it. People will interact with you and this is worth far more than any purchased service. If you are looking for help with increasing your social shares, give us a call, we’ll be happy to discuss the options with you in detail.