Buying Friends on Facebook

-Deb DeFreeuw, Certified Brand Strategist, Force 5

The title of this article seems to have mutually exclusive terms – “Buying” and “Friends”

An article in Advertising Age September 4, 2009 reported on a company offering to sell you friends for your  Facebook and Twitter Account.  Amazing!

The Brisbane-based firm, USocial, offered this week to sell Facebook users 1,000 friends for 177 dollars and 5,000 friends — the limit imposed by Facebook on a standard profile account — for 654 dollars.

Facebook “fan” pages have no limits and USocial said it could supply 1,000 Facebook fans for 177 dollars and 10,000 fans for 1,167 dollars.

On its website, USocial said “the simple fact is that with a large following on Facebook, you have an instant and targeted group of people you can contact and promote whatever it is you want to promote.”

USocial chief executive Leon Hill, in a statement promoting his service, said “Facebook is an extremely effective marketing tool as anyone with a large number of targeted friends or fans can attest to.

Supposedly, these are “targeted” lists—having the demographic, income, interests, etc. that your are looking for.  USocial says each fan can generate at least $1 of sales per month.  USocial is clearly labeling Facebook and Twitter as another marketing and advertising channel.

The first thing that pops into my head is “Ok, so you have purchased these followers, do they really care about you? Heck, they don’t even know you!”

Kind of getting away from the “social” aspect don’t you think?  Can social media sites be marketing and advertising sites? To be sure.  Many bands and other organizations use facebook to promote, but……

The purpose of social media is to develop relationships. Authenticity is key here. Tactics like buying fans these dilute that authenticity. To me it is the same as paying a blogger to give you a great review. Social media for business is part of your brand.  At Force 5 , we encourage our clients to participate in social media, but do it authentically and for the right reasons.

“Buying” friends and followers might look good as far as pure numbers, but does it add value? No. Your pseudo followers will likely not take notice and listen to what you have to say. It is like paying the most popular kid in high school to be your friend—their heart is just not in it.

The same company that has friends and followers for sale also sells votes on Digg and Yahoo Buzz. This ruins the intention of the sites. Votes affect page placement, they should be earned, not bought!  Social media is about the collective attitude or opinion, start throwing money into it for people to “have” a specific opinion, you lose the value.

Be careful out there.  Social media is important, can help you connect, and hear from your customers.  But don’t make it another e-commerce channel—or the benefit will be lost.

My advice, make a plan, build your list of friends and followers, listen, stay in touch, be authentic. Social media will pay off.  Buying friends—I don’t think so.