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Inbound Marketing Blog

    Are You Practicing Black Hat Social Media?

    Posted by Bill Faeth

    Any of These Social Media Tactics Sound Familiar?

    Black hat is inbound marketing slang term originally used to describe the practice of writing content for search engines, not people. Black hat SEO can involve keyword-stuffing, spinning articles and buying links. If you're writing content for the sole purpose of improving your search ranking and deliberating breaking rules in the process, you're probably wearing a black hat. Black hat practices are deliberately deceptive and focused on profit.

    Recently, conversations in the inbound marketing arena have shifted towards black hat social media strategy. While there are a number of ways companies can try to outsmart Facebook, Twitter or Google+, almost all are a sure recipe for disaster. If you're wondering if your company practices black hat social media, check out some of the most common ways businesses try to bend the rules.

    Buying Followers

    Buying Twitter followers is almost universally recognized as a black hat social media practice. The practice is inherently deceptive and offers little benefit over the long run. For brand-new, local businesses, gaining followers fast to develop name recognition can seem like an urgent priority. Go about building your followers list the right way, by joining conversations, searching hashtags and frequently posting high-value links.

    Fake followers will never offer feedback or contribute a cent towards your bottom line. If you choose to practice black hat social media and purchase a few hundred thousand followers, you could even end up breaking trust with social media-savvy contacts. If a small-town business has a hundred thousand followers and almost no engagement, it's a likely sign that they have resorted to black hat social media.

    Fake Personal Profiles

    One of the stranger trends in black hat social media is businesses setting up fake personal social media profiles. Facebook isn't quite as adept as Google+ when it comes to brands masquerading as real people. The benefits of this practice aren't entirely clear, though some people may believe they will experience better engagement on a personal profile. Some companies could even believe they could target different segments of their contacts with different profiles.

    Remember that your customers are adept at filtering out irrelevant content, and you can still drive the right people to landing pages with a single profile. Managing multiple accounts for the same organization is a serious violation of Facebook's terms of use, and the practice can get you banned. There are few things that can break trust with your real business contacts faster than the suddenly disappearing. The black hat social media practice of building multiple profiles is a sure recipe for failure.

    Targeting Competitors

    There are a series of very fine lines when it comes to social media and competition. Checking out your competitors social media profiles for ideas on their promotions and engagement is a universally recommended practice. If the information is public, it's fair game for market research. Hijacking your competitors' twitter lists for new leads is downright sharp. The definition of black hat social media practices when it comes to your competitors is difficult to define, but avoid deliberately harming your competitors brand. Your content or paid social media advertising should never be focused on trashing competition. If you're having to resort to black hat social media to come up with enough content, you should focus a little harder on defining the value of your own brand.

    If you are guilty of black hat social media strategy, stop trying to drive traffic and focus on the social media metrics that matter. From engagement to likes and shares, you can gauge the success of your outreach by the rate at which people are talking. Stop spending time trying to outsmart the system, and focus on reaching out to the people who matter.


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    Image credit: Salvatore Vuono/freedigitalphotos.net

    Topics: Social Media