Twitter’s Pinocchio Theory

A Canadian 20-dollar bill folded in the shape of a Twitter bird.

The truth about how to build success with your social efforts is right under your nose. But if you ignore the Pinocchio Theory, it can be difficult to see.

No, buying a thousand fake Twitter accounts from a Pakistani on-line vendor isn't like selling your soul – but that short-term gain may result in long-term pain. It can be tempting to skew influence numbers with a quick infusion of followers. After all, people do use the number of Twitter users that follow you, in part, as a measure of your trustworthiness.

And while many may tested the waters at one point or another, most reputable SEO and digital companies have learned a truth, best expressed by the world's only rhinestone rock star monster of a doll, William Earl "Bootsy" Collins, in his paean to honesty (and, of course, interstellar funkiness), The Pinocchio Theory.

"Don't fake the funk or your nose'll grow."

I reference it to give you a catchy, simple, and funky way to remember that artificially sourced influence metrics only serve to undermine your brand.

Last evening, The Wall Street Journal posted an article titled, "Inside a Twitter Robot Factory", which tells the story of a Jim Vidmar, who has amassed a Twitter army, through purchase, which he then can program to support clients.

It's an army that he can direct on an all-out attack on integrity, but it works. To an extent.

For musicians, like the ones referenced in this article, it may be a valuable trade off. After all, from award shows, to paparazzi photos, to flashy cars and clothes, ostentatious shows of attention helps drive much of the entertainment industry. And that attention can be earned or purchased.

But will it work long-term? And will it work for you?

Take, for example, Dave Murrell, the rapper/singer/producer/guitarist/fitness model referenced in this article. He obviously feels it's worth it: "If you're not padding your numbers, you're not doing it right. It's part of the game," he tells the Wall Street Journal. And I guarantee you there are a whole lot more people aware of him today than there were before the article came out.

But all publicity, despite the adage, is not good publicity. And while certain industries (entertainment, specifically) can get away with a certain degree of falsehood, not all can – or should.

The risk, in and of itself, is minimal. Chances are, you're not going to be outed for having a bunch of fake followers. But if the risk is minimal, so too is the reward.

I know an SEO practitioner who has, at least in the past, bought fake Facebook friends and Twitter followers for his or her clients. I know the clients, themselves, were dazzled and delighted by his or her wizardry and tricks. Once the show was over, these clients were inevitably left with an empty feeling. Yes, their numbers looked good. But what did they get out of it?

Not one sale. Not one true interaction. Not one solid lead.

That led them to mistrust any SEO efforts going forward. It didn't matter if you wore a white hat, a black hat, or no hat at all – the actions of this guru turned the company off of social media all together.

In this case, the company's discouragement with these bought followers didn't just cost them an opportunity to run a successful campaign; it has hamstrung their efforts from competing in an on-line race going forward. And that's a shame, because there can be real value in social media.

It just takes time. It just takes effort. And, most importantly, it takes honesty.

I've said it before and I'll say it again – don't count your likes; make your likes count. Sure, having 100 Twitter followers isn't as impressive as having 5,000... but would you rather have 100 people who are interested in your brand, actively engaging with your message, and likely to physically enter your bricks-and-mortar store or make a purchase on-line, or 2,500 fake followers who may retweet the heck out of your content, but won't spend a dollar.

Yes, there is an ethical discussion at play here. But sometimes "the right way to do business" isn't enough of an argument when the promise of a quick buck is at hand. The truth is that there are no short cuts to success in social media. And anyone who is selling you that promise is likely selling you a bill of goods.

The solution – hard work and dedication – is right under your nose. But if you ignore The Pinocchio Theory, it can be hard to see the truth.

Questions Answered

Should I buy Twitter followers?

Should I buy Facebook Likes?

If buying fake accounts is wrong, why does it work for Jim Vidmar?



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