Two social media experts who watch trends and monitor activity across multiple platforms and regularly comment and analyze both the best and worst of online behavior, today criticized Preserve Marriage Washington (PMW) for artificially inflating its Facebook fan base.
Yesterday, Washington United for Marriage revealed that there were four inexplicable and huge surges in PMW’s Facebook “likes” that corresponded with its favorite city displayed as originating in Asia or Northern Europe. For graphics illustrating the pattern as well as date stamped screenshots which show the spikes and the corresponding foreign cities, click here.
According to Anita Verna Crofts, associate director of University of Washington’s Master of Communication in Digital Media program, PMW’s tactics erode confidence in social media platforms.
“Virtual communities and causes that appear on social media platforms such as Facebook demand the same commitment to authenticity as place-based communities,” said Crofts. ”The practice of buying Facebook likes erodes trust with the public and in the case of advocacy-oriented initiatives, undermines the organization’s message.”
Beth Becker, the owner and strategist for Progressive PST, which consults with clients on online engagement, said while it is tempting to hype numbers on social media and it’s not all that difficult to do, it significantly erodes the ideal goal of genuine, online community engagement.
“Buying social media audiences is not difficult,” said Becker. “The problem is it’s fake, it’s inauthentic. People engage in social media to engage with people they know, people they’d like to know and organizations they support. At the end of the day, the number of likes a page has on Facebook is a pretty empty number. I call it the numbers fallacy. It has to be social, it has to be authentic and if an organization is not doing it, and creating a false environment, it’s simply not real.”