Channel 4 last night aired its eagerly anticipated – if you weren't featured that is – episode on the scamming that goes on within social media marketing, highlighting how brands can unnaturally grow their online engagement figures and the practices that rogue agencies and celebrities undertake to promote products, despite the regulations now in place. The Drum highlights some reaction following the show across the agency sector.
Craig Le Grice, chief innovation officer at Blue Rubicon
Kristal Ireland, strategy director at Enjoy Digital
It frustrates me to think that there are still brand side marketers who wouldn't question a sudden rise in fans/followers on their social media estate and who seemingly don't value the real compelling reason for social media communications in building brand loyalty, genuine engagement and advocacy.
The real message from the show tonight is that the consumer is waking up to this fakery. Personally I think this is a good thing - social media is not an essential channel for every brand. If your message or ads are crap, fake or disingenuous they are just as likely to be ignored by the consumer in the social space as they are on any other channel.
Adrian Johnson, MD of Umpf
What next? Brands exposed for asking agencies to game Google to appear higher in search rankings?
Apparently, Dispatches is Channel 4's "award-winning investigative current affairs programme". I don't think last night'soffering will be troubling the BAFTA judges this year.
We were approached earlier this year by an FMCG brand who wanted to buy Facebook and Twitter fans. It's crazy that senior directors of such a company would put that in a brief just to reach a 'number'. And that was their only rationale, reaching x level of 'fans'.
We put forward our argument of why this was a bad idea and what they should do instead. We didn't win the brief but we did the right thing.
Dan Beasley, head of mobile at Jam @ Engine
Ron Schott, head of Spring Creek UK | IPG Mediabrands
The big message that I hope brands took from this is they need to not only trust their agencies to deliver results, but must also trust them for being ambassadors for their brand. At the end if the day, it's the brand that is held responsible - shouldn't they want to have transparency about practices and ethics all the way? Ask questions - the hard ones - and work with partners who really get your business, brand, and goals.
Robin Grant, global managing director, We Are Social
It’s clear that agencies that don’t really get social media are taking illegal shortcuts to achieve KPIs, either by buying fake fans or through non-disclosed paid-for celebrity endorsement, without their clients’ knowledge.
I urge the Advertising Standards Authority and the Office of Fair Trading to crackdown on the offenders, and for the relevant trade bodies – the ISBA, IPA & IAB, to take firm action to ensure that clients are aware of the legal risks these unscrupulous agencies are exposing them to.
This issue risks unfairly bringing the whole industry into disrepute, despite the top tier of specialist agencies leading the way through a pioneering and ethical approach to social media marketing.
Graham Hodge - global head of branded content, DigitasLBi
Omaid Hiwaizi, planning director, SapientNitro
Statistics have also been showing that Facebook's core younger profile audience is becoming less engaged, instead moving towards more private, discrete platforms. News like this will confirm their feelings and increase their cynicism.
Craig McGill, digital strategist, Weber Shandwick Scotland
It's also incredibly lazy comms work because digital engagement – like any meaningful relationship – is built up over time and with honesty in mind. I don't want a relationship with anyone who lies and cheats to get my attention. Earn it the proper way – by respecting me as a customer.
It would help of course if the PR and digital engagement industries could agree on proper metrics and measurement for the digital sector and move far beyond Likes/Pins/Followers – all of which are little more than new fangled ways of having AVEs. This is something for the CIPR and PRCA to look into.
There's an element of education here as well though because if a client/stakeholder gives the digital communication team the right levels of access they can go and calculate proper measurements like ROI and make every piece of social media and digital engagement is aligned to profitable business goals. It's not rocket science unless you're doing the social media for NASA.
What the industry needs to be careful of is not being overly dismissive of what was said in case it becomes one of those stereotypical myths around the PR industry – of which there are far too many negative ones already.