Friday, 9 August 2013

Review: #FakeFans by @C4Dispatches

The latest Channel 4 Dispatches programme, 'Celebs, Brands and Fake Fans' has managed to cause quite a stir in social media circles over here in the UK. It's not a new practice - in fact, I've written about it before.

Like many people working in social media, the most upsetting part of the programme for me was finding out who the businesses and agencies  that are actively taking part in blatant dishonesty and rule bending.

It's frustrating to see them do it, but really, it's not surprising. Often, the first question that less socially-savvy business minds ask you when they come to see you is 'How can I get more fans to like our page', closely followed by 'This global super-brand has XXX million followers, I want my tyre company to have the same amount'. Often, they will ask you if they can just run a Facebook competition - normally one that blatantly breaks Facebook's terms and conditions.

If you say no (which, fact fans, is the RIGHT answer), they'll come back with an answer something along the lines of 'Well, my mate runs a business, and he did it'. You'll then explain that they shouldn't have done that - which is not the answer they'll want to hear. Often (thankfully), they'll just pick up sticks and go and find an agency or a business that will do it for them, and you'll get to wash your hands of their slightly dubious business practice. I've experienced it a few times (times, locations and businesses will, as always, remain anonymous), and I always advise anybody I work with that it's not a good idea. I'm very proud to be associated with some really honest people that work in this industry, and I intend to keep it that way. But sadly, our honesty is why businesses like SM4B and Dynasty Media (UK) exist - they'll make money off of the less ethical stuff, because that's their business model. They're like the dodgy market traders of the social media marketing industry - the bottom-feeding barnacle on the hull of digitally-minded businesses and individuals.

But what are the real revelations?

That celebrities, like most of us, get a bit greedy when presented with lots of free stuff? We knew that already.

That brands pay for fans? Yeah, we know that too. It's shit. But less of them do it than you think.

That the documentary makers have no problem with calling women 'Whores' in Italian? Not cool, Channel 4.

It's all a bit grubby, and I have to say that I really enjoyed the show - and I am very glad that the public have more information on the subject now, as knowledge is power (and all that).  But I felt a bit dirty after watching it. Like the industry that I work in had been soiled in some way.

However, with all that said, the biggest learning that I took away from the whole situation was from this article in The Drum, where I noticed a trend of creative agency heads trying to look edgy by having their picture taken with, or near, a brick wall.

Surely that's got to be worth at least a Tumblr blog? 

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