Each time a new product is launched, the company behind it works hard to deliver to make it a runaway success. Advertising and marketing activities are put into action, something that goes on for months before and after. We here at Tech2 have noticed a slightly different kind of marketing being done right under our noses. And that’s really annoying me and some others here.
We’ve seen user IDs, both on Facebook and on our Tech2 forum, created by die-hard fanboys and paid image management individuals. They’ve been using SEO and SEM techniques, to propagate and favour products made by certain brands. I won’t spell out names but they’re some of the most recognizable brands around.
It’s all done in a rather shameless way. These individuals or groups of people, have created IDs and either post on news or reviews of products, talking of how great their client’s products are. In some cases, we’ve even seen them making personal attacks on the author of the article rubbishing some of the sore points raised in a review.
It’s not just reviews and news that are being exploited, there’s also a lot of SEM stuff that goes on in the forum. We’ve noticed user accounts being created on a daily basis. The first post by many of these users usually are very naive questions on a particular technology. A day later, another random user appears on the forum, only to answer his question and very nicely position his brand as the best out there. Sometimes, this goes on for a couple of posts. It’s not just the usual computers and consumer electronics, but home appliances as well. I’ve noticed a ridiculous interest in quality of refrigerators and compressors on them. I’ve been on most technology forums for a while, so I know refrigerators and compressors aren't top most on geeky minds. There are also those who’ve become ‘frightened of all the cables’ and wonder if there’s a technology to get rid of them.
Pushing the limits of brand promotion
We decided to monitor some of the user IDs and found that they logged in via IPs belonging to SEO companies. So clearly, it’s not really a coincidence that so many members suddenly got interested in refrigerator compressors. There are also the occasional odd comments on stories, whose writers only take interest in a single brand’s news and are always there to ‘like’ it and sing endless praises of how it’ll change the world.
We’re fine with brand promotion and companies are free to use the mediums available to them, as long as it’s done through an official channel. But when you’re trying to disguise yourself as another reader or a forum user, then you’re trying to manipulate the perception of the public in this really sly way. Here at Tech2, we call it like we see it. Our reviews are unbiased and we are pretty transparent about our verdicts and opinions about products. So obviously, it’s annoying when our point of view starts getting manipulated and overrun by some jokers, being paid to play their dirty tricks.
It’s not like Tech2 is the only site being targetted. It’s a common practice that can be found on many other forums and technology sites. It’s in fact, done in a very systematic way and there are even sites and blogs talking about how to make the most of forums on the web. It’s not a rarity for companies to pay bloggers to sing praises of their products or mock products of other brands. Such incidents have been revealed by technology blogs as well where money has been offered by smaller, unknown agencies working for the large corporations. So, tactics involving the forum seem less harmless in nature, at least in comparison. In most cases that I’ve seen, these individuals are poorly equipped to answer and comment on articles or offer advice, so they end up sounding out of place.
Here’s my piece of advice to companies using these shams. Firstly, it’s not really working. It’s crystal clear that these posers are being used to recommend products. It’s clear to us and the techie crowd on our sites and forums as well. Most forum members can see through it, so if at all, it’s actually harmful.
If you as a reader have seen these kind of tricks being used, we’d like to hear about them and know what you feel about them.
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