Like Me? Follow Me.
For many people the most frustrating thing about Twitter is the undecipherable trends that appear from what seems like billions of 6-year-old users. You know the kind - the likes of '#Bieberfever', 'One Direction <3', 'who is Paul McCartney?' and '#youareapoobrainbecause'.
For others, it's the rudimentary search function that makes it near impossible to find anyone or anything in fewer than ten minutes.
And another bugbear is for many are the scantily-clad spam bots that tweet you nonsense every time you mention an Apple product.
But for me, the single most annoying thing about the social network is the things that people tweet to celebrities. (Made up) examples: "@GeorgeMichael Hi George yur my fav. I went to the toilet this morning can I get a RT?" or "@JamesCorden Takin my driving theorie test today for 12th time can I get a RT for look plz?"
I'm all for people trying to raise awareness for a good cause by trying to get a retweet from someone with a lot of followers, but soliciting luck from a celebrity simply clicking a button? Madness.
Companies Trying to Trick Celebrities into Retweets: A Growing Trend?
Anyway, this brings me to something I noticed on Twitter the other day. For some reason I follow footballing neanderthal Wayne Rooney and noticed a curious retweet from his account.
The original tweet, which also went to a range of other celebrities, was from a user whose profile picture contains a man in army uniform and read, verbatim: "It's disgusting Soldiers like me have been mis-sold PPI. Help our Heroes get their money back http://www.xxxx.com." (Not the real URL, I just don't want to give away the name of the firm)
The link went to a landing page for a PPI claims company offering to help troops reclaim PPI that they have been mis-sold.
Now, the cynic in me says that this is marketing ploy of some kind.
It is possible that the Twitter user had used the company to reclaim PPI and was simply trying to raise awareness of something he thinks is important and that he has been affected by. After all, the user has had an account since 2010 and his tweets appear authentic, so it doesn't look like it's a fake account. What's more, mis-sold PPI can be an issue for members of the armed forces, as the government is supposed to cover credit repayments in the event of illness or injury.
I might be wrong, of course, but the tweet just looks plain dodgy. Why would the guy suddenly pipe up about PPI one day, having never mentioned it before? To be honest, it looked a lot like the guy was being paid by the company to do it.
If deliberate, the way the tweet is written is very clever, and got poor Wayne hook, line and sinker. I doubt Rooney will have actually clicked on the link, as he gets so many mentions from mere mortals and has so little time to kill (ahem). The keywords in the tweet are "disgusting", "soldiers", "Help Our Heroes", "get their money back". So he sees it and thinks: "Oh no, soldiers who are protecting our country are wrongly having their money taken away from them? That's awful. Isn't Help Our Heroes that charity for the armed forces? This is a good cause. Let's retweet it." Err, that's Help for Heroes, Wayne.
After a bit of digging around the next day, I saw that the user in question had actually deleted the tweets, as had Rooney. Other people must have noticed it looked a bit marketing-y and informed both parties that all may not have been what it seemed.
After more digging around, I found the Twitter account for the company whose URL was included in the original tweet. The account had been around since November 2011 and the tweets were generally the same, promoting PPI services. But the firm didn't tweet at celebrities with RT requests, like our soldier friend.... until, funnily enough, the day after the soldier's tweets were deleted. And boy did they make up for lost time. They tweeted the exact same message (on reclaiming PPI for soldiers) to no fewer than 120 celebrities and high-profile accounts in a space of just seven hours. The fact that the company took over Operation Spam Celebrities from the soldier the day after he deleted his tweets suggested they were in cahoots, which seemed to confirm my suspicions that the soldier's original motive was to do some cheeky advertising on behalf - and, probably, at the request - of the firm.
In the short amount of time I spent looking at the tweets, good old Les Dennis was the only person to oblige.
Why Desperately Seeking Retweets from Celebrities Might Ultimately Damage Your Brand
This is the only time I've noticed a company seemingly trying to get coverage on Twitter, and ultimately custom, by what appears to be dishonest means. But I hope it's not going to become commonplace.
At I-COM, it's our job to work with clients to create a good, engaging social media campaign that will achieve the desired results without damaging the brand, or people's perception of the brand.
Spamming celebrity after celebrity with the same message hoping for a retweet wouldn't be a strategy we'd recommend. And trying to trick celebrities into retweets is even worse. At risk of stating the obvious, here's why:
- I understand it can be difficult for some , but it can be very rewarding building a good base of followers by sharing appropriate, interesting content on Twitter
- In the online sphere, appearing - and consequently being branded - a spammer is can have a huge detrimental effect on a brand. People of all ages now have enough experience of the internet to know what spamming looks like and they won't touch anything with a barge pole. Causing people to steer clear of your company is hardly going to help
- It might have legal repercussions. While the law regarding the internet is still developing and many people are unsure of the rules and regulations of using the internet, trying to essentially trick celebrities into marketing your company could be deemed false advertising
- It may also, god forbid, get your favourite celebrities in trouble! A lot of household names are contractually forbidden by sponsors to advertise competitors or other brands. And we wouldn't want Wayne Rooney to get in trouble now, would we?