This post was written Ella Davidson of consumer awareness and savings site, Coupons.org. Coupons works to naturally grow their following with top-retailer coupons, visual-consumer related journalism and an up-to-date blog.
Social media is gaining attention as a tool for judging consumer interests. By observing trending Facebook “likes,” Twitter “tweets,” and Google+ “+1’s,” companies can interpret what customers are desiring and focus their market accordingly. While this method of research is valid and often leads to accurate data, the emergence of payments for “likes,” and other indicators of people’s interests, has corrupted the ability to observe unbiased information. This corruption is directly visualized in the majority of search engines which do not have the capability of determining which fan “likes” are legitimate and which are bought.
The craft of paying for the various forms of “likes” is an attempt by businesses to extort the value of legitimate processes composed by the consumer. If the practice of liking existed in a state unaccompanied by the lingering dilemma of paying for them, businesses and products would receive their due share of “likes” according to factual consumer data. However, that is not the case at the present. Attempting to increase their fan base, or apparent validity, some businesses are thus shifting the focus from performance, to a dependence on illusions and the mirage of stability. Keying into the growing dependence of users on social media, Google claimed to Wired magazine that they note “the clicks on +1 buttons as a signal that influences the ranking and appearance of websites in search results” (Wired) in a misguided effort to aid its audience. Hoping to offer better and more popular search results, Google has been undermined by the process of buying “likes” since there now exists internet domains which are dominating the once reserved for closely connected websites first few entries of a Google search.
So what exactly are businesses attempting to accomplish through their purchase of “likes?” When we take a look at the numbers presented, it is apparent that while the mass number of “likes” or “tweets” and so forth do create the appearance that the business is in fact more popular than it actually is, there exists the fact that the numbers are empty and provide the company with no direct communication with the consumer. Social media depends on the communication of individuals to exist and flourish. Built around the concept of sharing ideas, when a company bypasses the proposed means of use, it becomes simply another platform for posting information and no longer a dialogue of individuals. Ideally for the company, buying “likes” and their perceived credibility of the mass number of likes” would attract real customers and create an organic influx of real people. Yet, without means of effectively communicating to its real audience, companies are not going to have the same influence as if they gained, organically, “likes” and “tweets.”
Unfortunately, this concept that a company’s purchase of “likes” would be ill perceived solely for their own purposes, fails to consider the fact that whole social media outlet may be weakened. Since search engines are incorporating purchased “likes” as well as real ones into the determinate for key spots on the search list, those same search engines are allocating unreliable sources to their users. This in turn pushes out the legitimate companies which have chosen not to dance around the line of ethical business decisions and observe fair practices.
After examining the decisions of companies to purchase “likes,” “tweets,” and “+1’s,” it is clear that their mass amount of numbers are simply ghosts; objects that give the illusion that a reality exists. What has been failed to understand is that numbers in themselves do not hold the true power in social media. Active participation of users and a dialogue is what really peaks consumer’s interests. Additionally, while the numbers do not hold the real power, they do in effect alter search engines at this point and grant an unfair bias towards those companies that appear to have more of a social standing. This contradiction afforded by the search engines is in need of a renovation to level the playing field once again and to promote ethical business practices.