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NY Times - Social Media Bots Offer Phony Friends


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Social Media Bots Offer Phony Friends and Real Profit 

"...a giant pyramid scheme has emerged on social media, where fake friends now command real money."


Earlier in the year I attended a presentation given by Black Enterprise (BE). BE is a publication I respect and have supported for many years, I sold countless subscriptions to the magazine for years, though not as many in the last few years.  I also subscribed myself, though not currently.

BE held a presentation on social media in which they touted the benefits of using the major social media platform to promote your business.  I'm already a bit tight because I feel BE should be promoting the Black owned social media platforms, that are are struggling (like the vast majority of Black platforms online).  But I decided to go figuring I might learn something of relevance to me as a Black entrepreneur.  

During the QA I suggested social media might not be as beneficial as the panelist were making it out to be.  One Brother on the panel said he "rejected" my supposition.  Unfortunately, it was his show and I was not given an opportunity to elaborate or respond. 

At any rate, it dawned on me that I may as well have been at Facebook or Twiiter given his reaction.  I was disappointed because naively I was thinking the presentation would be more centered on benefiting Black entrepreneurs rather than promoting corporate social media platforms.

At any rate, BE is not not unique; few in the Black community seem to truly appreciate what is going on in with social media, and are still touted it as the best thing that has happened for us since emancipation.

The majority community however is all over it.  Perhaps one day the Black community to catch up and do something about it. Better yet we will stop falling for the okey doke, hook line and sinker... everytime.

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I was a subscriber to BE. One of my virtual mentors, Paul C Brunson just earned the host spot on the Our World syndicated show for BE. With that said, I stopped subscribing to BE because the magazine didn't really speak to me. The various "stories" or examples used to discuss debt or entrepreneurship always seemed to feature people/couple who made six figures and were facing debt around 20-30K at the worst. I kept a lot of those magazines and I still look in there to make a point. There was hardly ever any information for first generation college grads who had done everything right, but through no fault of their own ended up in serious debt from college and from actually attempting to eke out a living. My wife and I eventually got fed up with the lack of advice for starting a business with nothing, which is what I eventually did with my sneaker company and online shop. 


It doesn't surprise me in the least that they are taking the corporate position. As far as I'm concerned that's what they've always done. They are just staying the course. It's unfortunate that you didn't have a voice, but that pretty much sums up why I no longer subscribe. How is that you end up at the conference and not on the panel? It always seems to me that the people who really need to be heard, aren't given the platform. They have to take the platform or build their own to reach the masses.

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Chris the panel appeared to have a good mix of people.  I was able to find the original flyer below.  It definitely was a social media love fest. I expected to gain more insight into social media.  I was not expecting a full on sales pitch fr social media.

I did not even stay to network afterwards, very disappointing evening...



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As an individual, in the short term, I would lose time time, energy and money.  Collectively, we lose our in independence.  It is the last reason that concerns me the most.

Individually I can use strategies that benefit me.  Collectively I'm pretty helpless.  I can share articles like the one above.  I can talk to people.  I can become the anti-social media nut no one wants to be around, but if we (content providers) all turn to social media as our primary internet presence we all lose, not just us content providers, but the readers.

When we relinquish control of what is seen, by depending corporate controlled social media, only interested in showing what is profitable, we all lose.

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I'm finding a lot of events are not what they could be. I also find that most of these things are great money makers for those involved and nothing more. They don't have any real numbers or research to verify the success or failure of a campaign. It simply is regurgitation of the same info. It's like I used to tout Gary Vaynerchuk as a social media guru... Then I realized he was a millionaire before he began and that the majority of the social media "success" stories all tend to come from the well of more established media people, if you catch my drift. Do you need social media, yes. Does it help build a brand? Yes but certain forms are not very good or as advertised. If you know this you start to win a little bit.

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  • 1 year later...

Social media doesn't build brands and  never has! An effective communication program builds a brand. 

A good communication plan includes using many channels to send a message  not just one to achieve the goal.   

Further, social media websites are part of what communication practitioners, such as me, call New Media.

New Media is one channel you use to communicate to and with your audience.  There are as many websites in this media channel as there are people. Therefore, to use one website in the channel to reach your market gives you the same odds as playing and winning the powerball jackpot.  Dude on the panel that shut you down @Troy was either on payroll or he's incompetent. 

Even if a billion people visit one website, such as Facebook; the first rule of Marketing 101 indicates everyone in that billion is NOT in your market.  Save for impulse buying of teeshirts on facebook through page set up like storefronts (See: Threadless Tees) most people come to facebook to be seen. [Update: I just went to Threadless Tees facebook page and the store is gone!] 

McDonald serves a billion customers - and they use every channel available to reach them including premium promotional  imprint channel. 
HEADS UP for our resident children book authors/illustrators

Sellers are always looking for short cuts and there's always a shill willing to sell it to them. 

While It is true people buy from people they know; producers have to remember SOCIAL media is for developing and maintaining relationships. In fact, @CDBurns said as much in another thread. He offered access to him here on AALBC.

Social = relationships! bots not included.

As for marketing and sales, a competent marketing strategist knows it's better to first determine who is in the market for her product. She then determines how best to reach them (communication) and then she employs her media strategy (communication plan) to take her sales message to them.  

Note: While a producer may have a brand in mind for his/her product, it is the CONSUMERS , in the market, who define the brand for that product.

For example, United executives want to brand themselves "flyer friendly" but until recently the market said the airline was anything but friendly. 

~ Signed a longtime Marketing/Communication strategist who began her career marketing books for BIg 8 publishing houses (now Big 5)who was fortunate enough to work in Broadcast news both in front of the television camera and behind the mic in Radio. 

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Wow it is interesting to re-read my thoughts from over two years ago.  On a whim I looked up the Brother that reject my supposition, Alfred Edmonds.  He actually follows me, but he follows over 48,100 people (more people than follow him).

My position over the past two years has become more nuanced regarding social media.  But the underlying foundation of what I believe has not changed, I guess that is because it part of my nature.  We HAVE to figure out how to use social media rather than having it use us.  

Just this morning I got this message on Facebook from an author friend of mine:

"Hey Troy:  Have you tried Facebook Custom Audiences for AALBC?  Seems like it would be a good fit for advertising to newsletter subscribers.  Check it out here: https://www.facebook.com/business/a/custom-audiences"

I have an open mind and am willing to take advantage of opportunities but after following the link and watching the video (twice), my reaction was; are you freaking kidding me?!  Facebook wants people to upload their list of contacts (100 names minimum), so that we can target those contacts, who are on Facebook, with advertising--advertising that we have to pay for no less!!

The fact the ANYONE thinks this is a good idea is mindboggling.  I have a mailing list that I've developed over the past 18 years, why on Earth would I just hand it over to Facebook?  I can already reach my contacts through email (even the ones not on Facebook).  Why the hell would I pay Facebook to reach these folks through an advertisement most will ignore and virtually no one will click? 

Now I know there are social media gurus running around happily exclaiming what a great new service Facebook is offering us.  The Black Enterprises of the world will have their Facebook seminars, someone like me, will describe what a stupid idea it is for anyone to use this new "service" and they'll be soundly rejected.

That said, there are ways to effectively use social media.  My most successful social media campaigns were the result of organic, not paid, reach.  Organic reach is platform independent.


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LOL... You guys are so right and on point. I typically always have something to add, but not this time. Troy knows how I feel about it all and I think Mel gets it. The only solution is to continue doing what we are doing. When I see Mel's work come across my Twitter feed (What's your Twitter handle?) I will retweet it and if we are linked on Facebook i will reshare it. As long as the content goes back to a place where you benefit I will retweet and reshare it. That's the best we can do. This is how we use social and not be used. For example, Troy posted a great video on Youtube yesterday. I liked it (which automatically tweeted it, which shared it to my Facebook) and then because it fit my online course I'm doing I created a post for it and then tweeted from my site. Now it may only get an additional 5 views from that, but it is now indexed by Google on YT and through my site and through social. That's how we build community. 

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3 hours ago, CDBurns said:

(What's your Twitter handle?) I will retweet it and if we are linked on Facebook i will reshare it.

Good looking out!  I will do the same so please share. 

Twitter : @Mel_Hopkins_  
Twitter:  @The_Leadstory  
Google+ = +NickyJett  
Youtube: NickyJett

I deleted my facebook account.  

And thank you for heads up on @Troy new video! #Shared

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Followed you on both Twitter accounts and subscribed on YouTube. I'm getting better at Twitter, but I definitely need a tag or something to actually check it. I am doing the YouTube Bootcamp right now, but I will check out the videos as well. This is all really good networking.

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