Last week I met a well trafficked and well followed tech personality. As I work agency-side in social, he tried to sell me on the value of sharing "review units." He enjoys talking to people about tech, but his big excitement in this area was the "review units" he gets from PR firms and brands. He was gushing energy as he told me that all he had to do was mention that he was impressed by a digital photo frame, and the company sent him a complimentary review unit. He has also received a number of high end cell phones and other devices. He now legitimately loves these brands. After all, he's a geek and they give him great gifts! Shameless.
2) The Agency Hired Gun
About two months ago I noticed that someone I followed on Twitter was suddenly talking quite a bit about Brand X (not the real brand name). When I contacted her via DM to ask what her hashtags meant, she said they were part of an effort she was launching for a client, and that she was personally excited about this. I have been following her for quite a while, and she never spoke about this brand, or even their product category. She didn't bother to disclose that they were a client, or even put a personal spin on her tweets to make them more relevant to her typical discussion. Shameless.
3) The Brand Manager
What does this mean to me?
A friend of mine was recently working with a brand that suffered terribly from lack of conversation and occasional negative conversation. When presented with a comprehensive plan for addressing customer issues and building advocacy, the client pinged their PR agency who suggested they simply engage influencers. I'm all for engaging influencers as part of a broader program, but do you really believe that we are sheep that follow the influencer? Is this even a band-aid short term solution? Or is this a C.Y.A. tactic that shouts of the voice of your real customer?
Social is only as powerful as the trust people have in each other. If you behave shamelessly, you lose that trust and that value. Respect people, act and communicate with integrity, and inspire people to communicate positively and you've got a chance. Everything else is just a game.