Don't Do It Yourself

8 Sneaky Social Media Tricks: Are They Worth Your Time?

Everyone knows social media can provide a huge boost to traffic and engagement on your website.  For many bloggers, the race for votes and “likes” has become just as important as search engine rankings and SEO.  And just like SEO, services have emerged for those bloggers looking to take short-cuts to build followers and get votes for their blog posts. 

When used correctly, some of these techniques are perfectly reasonable and can help build traffic…although some are just plain sneaky.  We’re going to take a look at each of the following social media tricks:

  1. Paying someone to comment on other  blogs for you
  2. Contests and giveaways
  3. Paying for Tweets
  4. Paying for Twitter followers
  5. Paying for votes on social media sites
  6. Encouraging friends to vote on social media sites
  7. Paying for Google +1’s or FB Likes
  8. Create a ranking system

You can find people on any of the top freelance sites to do these things for you at very low prices.  In fact, in the Social Marketing category on Fiverr, you can find almost all of these tricks (or gigs as they call them) for just 5 bucks!  But just because they’re cheap doesn’t mean they are worth the time.  And you need to be cautious because in some cases you can even damage your search engine rankings and reputation. 

Since there are varying opinions about each of these social media practices, I decided to ask a panel of bloggers how they feel about them.  The following bloggers have kindly agreed to share their expert opinions with us today:

David from Happy Guy Marketing

Glen from Free From Broke

Tom D. from Canadian Finance Blog

Miranda from This Time, It's Personal

Andy from Money Release

Gerald from Search Engine Marketing Group

Tom S. from Capture Commerce

Emory from Clickfire

This is a long post because I've collected a lot of opinions, but if you're considering use of any of these tactics I'm sure you'll find it worth the read!

Sneaky Social Media Tricks

Social Media Trick #1Paying someone to comment on other blogs for you
How It WorksYou pay someone to leave comments on other blogs and link back to your website.
David’s TakeThis works if you do it right.  Most of the services out there don’t pick blogs worth commenting on, mostly because their comments are too crappy to stick on worthwhile blogs.  But if you do it right, this works as well as any other ghostwriting gig.  Just remember that you get what you pay for.
Glen’s TakeIt can work, but it can also look real spammy and backfire on you. The real key to social media is to build trust and relationships. Once someone sniffs anything other you lose.
Tom D.’s TakeI think it seems odd when I get comments from someone I know doesn’t run the blog they’re linking too, but it’s better than having someone truly ghost write your comments as you. I might encourage staff writers to leave comments elsewhere in the name of the site they write for, much more natural and legit. Most of these comment links don’t have a lot of value, since most sites won’t let you leave a keyword only user anyways. I know I’ll delete comments from a guy named "credit repair tips".
Miranda’s TakeIf you are trying to build community and connections, it can be time consuming to post comments. As long as you hire someone to make insightful comments and you trust them not to be spammy, this could work. I wouldn’t want someone leaving insipid comments on behalf of my site, though.
Andy’s TakeI put a lot of weight on being as genuine as possible when it comes to interaction with readers, so any comments should be on relevant blogs, of course, but you can do a much better job and provide higher quality comments when you do it yourself. It’s especially important to do so if your personal reputation is what you’ve built your business on. Why outsource to someone who doesn’t know your industry, doesn’t care what they say, and could sully your name with profane language and poor grammar and vocabulary?
Gerald’s TakeDepends on if they are leaving short spammy comments or actually reading the post and leaving meaning comments. If we are talking about the latter I think it’s a good idea for someone that has limited time. However if it’s just leaving spammy comments looking for a quick link then I say helllllls no! Don’t do it. Also if you do this be sure they have enough knowledge to comment intelligently. The last thing you want is someone leaving inaccurate information in comments and making you look dumb.
Tom S.’s TakeThe only way I would do this would be if I knew the commenter had insight on the topics discussed on the various blogs and left a thoughtful comment. Blog editors like comments that add to the conversation, but when you say stuff like "Loving the information on this internet site , you have done great job on the posts," it’s going to get deleted.
Emory’s TakeIt’s possible that this could work under the right circumstances. You would have to have a trustworthy commenter working on your behalf, someone you wouldn’t want to sink your brand with foolish words or inaccurate info. Or you would have to have some quality controls on the commenter so that you could review and approve them ahead of time. I’m not a big fan of impersonators so I’d leave this one alone for the most part.
My TakeThere’s a fine line between comment spamming and relationship building. Because most comments are "nofollow" there’s little SEO value to leaving comments all over the blogosphere. However, if you have an intelligent commenter and you give them the proper guidelines, new connections with other bloggers can be a boon to your business. If you use someone like Crystal it can really help drive traffic to your blog.
Social Media Trick #2Contests and giveaways
How It WorksYou run a contest on your website giving away cash or prizes. To enter the contest you ask people to Tweet, leave a comment, provide a backlink, or promote you on social media.
David’s TakeThis is awesome.  This build engagement and it creates referral traffic.  Try to make the giveaway a tie-in to your theme, and find ways to leverage the contest for offline publicity if possible.
Glen’s TakeThis can really work well to build up social media and links. But be warned, you can also end up with a bunch of people there only for the prize who disappear once the contest is over.
Tom D.’s TakeI’ve held giveaways in the past, and they can help get RSS readers, twitter followers and Facebook likes, if you make those conditions for bonus entries. I’ve never paid for the giveaway item though, just books and software that people have sent. Maybe if I went out and bought something like an iPad 2 to giveaway, I’d see more impressive results?
Miranda’s TakeI think it’s a great way to raise awareness of your site, and it can be loads of fun to do. I have no idea how effective it is in terms of SEO, or in terms of building long-term, consistent traffic, but it is a fun way to get a traffic boost.
Andy’s TakeI’ve run contests in the past and they’ve definitely been good at generating links. Where things get tricky is when you make it a prerequisite for an entrant to link to your website in order to make the draw. This has backfired for others in the past, so I tend to avoid asking / requiring links for entry into the contest or giveaway.
Gerald’s TakeContest? Why would anyone run a contest? "cough cough.. bad ass seo contest"
Tom S.’s TakeI’m not a fan of this type of contest because it doesn’t really get people excited, unless the prize is really wow. If you can make the contest about a specific cause or about a short list of finalists, it might do better.
Emory’s TakeI’ve never done this myself but have participated in some of these. I personally don’t see a whole lot of value in these for the initiator or the participants (unless the prize is a sports car). What is the real value to the blog owner other than introducing the contestants to your blog? What is the contest page going to rank for? Is it going to get traffic from organic search? I’d rather spend the time writing a good content piece to publish and promote.
My TakeIf setup correctly and you offer decent prizes, a contest can provide a quick boost in traffic. However, that traffic can quickly be lost after your contest and may not be worth the investment.
Social Media Trick #3Paying for Tweets
How It WorksYou pay someone with a large Twitter following to send out promotional Tweets about your website.
David’s TakeThe part I don’t like about this is the "about your website" part.  That’s just an ad.  But to tweet about a free tool you are offering or a free ebook or a fascinating blog post, it’s probably an effective form of advertising (assuming you pick the right tweeter in your niche).
Glen’s TakeThis screams sleazy.  Remember, you want to build relationships not try to scam people that you are bigger than you are. Better to network with other people and share content that you love.  This way it comes across as genuine.
Tom D.’s TakeI’ve never done this, and don’t think I would bother. I have a somewhat larger twitter following that’s pretty targeted to my site, and while twitter can bring some nice traffic, the conversion rate probably isn’t high enough to pay for.
Miranda’s TakeI’m a little ambivalent about this one. I’m a big believer in being as transparent as possible, so I would hope that the promotional tweet would be disclosed. But it can probably be a good traffic driver.
Andy’s TakeI don’t really have a problem with promotional tweets. If you’re paying to be tweeted from a popular relevant account, and you’re linking to something that will be of interest to the target group, then you’re adding value.
Gerald’s TakeI see nothing wrong with this but again it depends on factors such as how the tweets are structured. IF they are spammy or salesy then this will likely only piss people off. If the tweets have something of substance and aren’t over promotional then go for it if you don’t have the time to manage your own Twitter.
Tom S.’s TakeThis might work if you know a good bit about the account holder and the tweets aren’t salesy but useful to that twitter audience, otherwise, you could be getting scammed or a total waste.
Emory’s TakeI’ve experimented with this. I got tweeted. Nothing happened. I suppose if you had a super awesome post that you plan to release, it could potentially help it go viral. I’d probably opt for StumbleUpon Paid Discovery instead.
My TakeGigs like this on Fiverr are worthless because most of the sellers have a lot fake accounts as followers so no one will actually read the tweet. However, if you can find someone with a dedicated following you might make an impact. One place to look into buying or selling tweets is Sponsored Tweets, but again, focus on tweeters with quality not quantity of followers.
Social Media Trick #4Paying for Twitter followers
How It WorksYou pay someone to get a large number of Twitter accounts to "follow" you on Twitter.
David’s TakeCrap.  You can’t buy engagement.
Glen’s TakeUseless and potentially damaging.  Why bloat your numbers?  Spend the time reaching people not building up "bot" numbers. And, if it’s found out, you could risk your account.  Not worth it.
Tom D.’s TakeI could see someone wanting to do this as a form of "social proof" and maybe it would give you a head start on a new account, but otherwise, what’s the point? I’d rather have real twitter followers that want to read my tweets. Klout scores take this into account as well now, by calculating "true reach", not simply looking at follower count.
Miranda’s TakeIck. Honestly, I like to think that people are following me because they want to, not because there is money involved.
Andy’s TakeIf those accounts are relevant and will be interested in or benefit from what you’ve got to say, then why not? It’s a different argument from paid links, so let’s not paint it with the same brush.
Gerald’s TakeI’m not against paying for something that gets "quality results" But the big question mark here is what kid of Twitter followers will you be getting? A bunch of spam bots or actual people who want to engage and interact. I would approach something like this with extreme caution.
Tom S.’s TakeThis is almost never a good idea.
Emory’s TakeI tried this once via a Fiverr gig and got tons of fake accounts to follow another account. It looked kind of embarrassing to see all of those obvious fake accounts under followers. They have zero value. I wish I’d bought a venti latte instead.
My TakeTwitter followers should be built up slowly over time based on relationships. Follow people you like, write good content and your list will grow. There’s no SEO value to extra followers and a bunch of bogus accounts will not be clicking on your tweets.
Social Media Trick #5Paying for votes on social media sites
How It WorksYou pay someone to get a large number of votes for your website or blog post on sites like Stumble Upon, Reddit, or Digg. More often than not, votes originate from fake accounts.
David’s TakeThis is an awesome way to get your website banned.  And at just $5, what a bargain!
Glen’s TakeThis isn’t worth doing.  Why spend your time trying to cheat these systems in a way that can get you banned from them?  Put you money and time to better use to improve your site and content.
Tom D.’s TakeIf paying can get you to the front page of Digg or Reddit, then it’s probably worthwhile. But I would be concerned about the algorithms and moderation on these sites that look for anyone gaming the system. While front page traffic can be huge on these sites, I wouldn’t want to have my domain banned and never be able to get a natural front page again!
Miranda’s TakeI don’t know. I’m ambivalent about this. I know people do this, and it works, but I’m not a big fan. I’ve been offered money to submit to some social media, but turned it down. I think votes from fake accounts are a little shadier, though, than just paying a power user to submit. 
Andy’s TakeIt’s really tempting to do this, but if you get it wrong you can quickly end up with your account and / or website banned. That would constitute nothing more than an epic fail!
Gerald’s TakeI’m not against this but as in my previous answers you would need to hire someone that has enough knowledge about these platforms to ensure they aren’t going to make you look spammy or get your site banned etc. 
Tom S.’s TakeThis isn’t a good idea because most social media sites will smell it and shut down the voting account.
Emory’s TakeOf course, this violates the Digg TOS, not sure about the others. I’d probably rather pay StumbleUpon for the traffic rather than a bunch of bots. I think Reddit offers similar paid advertising too.
My TakeThere’s a chance this might work once, but it’s not worth the risk. More than likely your post will be deleted or your account deactivated. Some savvy social media sites won’t even tell you your account is deactivated. They’ll just turn you into a zombie and let you waste your time trying to submit while they sit back and laugh.
Social Media Trick #6Encouraging friends to vote on social media sites
How It WorksLike a politician, you hustle to promote yourself and encourage social votes from your friends and peers. This is often done by sending out emails, Tweets, or Shares soliciting votes on specific social media sites.
David’s TakeAbsolutely.  First, sometimes your peers actually like what they see and add real comments and refer real friends and suggest partnership ideas.  Second, the more your peers talk about you, the more referral traffic they will send your way.  Third, if your content seems to have a lot of activity, that will draw others.  Just like at a trade show, nobody approaches the empty booth, people look for a crowd.
Glen’s TakeThis is a great way to promote.  If your friends and peers like your stuff then they should have no problem voting you up.  This is more of an organic approach.  It could be spammy if you hit up your friends for every article of yours, but if you are promoting your best stuff it’s effective.
Tom D.’s TakeThis can work well on smaller sites like Tip’d and Fwisp. These sites allow more self promotion than the big sites do, so you can submit your own posts and then hustle for votes on Twitter. You don’t want to over do it though, these sites still want a fair playing level for all users. Sometimes just getting out there and voting for others will get you noticed and those people will be more likely to return the favor.
Miranda’s TakeI do this regularly. I ask for help voting for my stuff, and vote for others’ submissions as well. I have no idea how well it works in terms of SEO, but it can help raise visibility, I think, if your friends can help you to a front page.
Andy’s TakeThat’s the nature of being sociable, is it not?
Gerald’s TakeEvery successful social media marketer does this.
Tom S.’s TakeYep, a great way to get legitimate votes and social media was designed for this.
Emory’s TakeThis is what building social capital is all about, right? If you have something good, share it. If you have something so-so, don’t bug your friends. Only encourage friends to vote for extraordinary content.
My TakeAs long as you do this in moderation and share content your friends will actually appreciate, this is a great way to rise in social media. In fact, developing relationships and sharing with those people is the foundation of social media sites, so nothing sneaky about it!
Social Media Trick #7Paying for Google +1’s or FB Likes
How It WorksYou pay someone to get Gmail or Facebook users to click the "Google +1" or "FB Like" button on your website or blog post. Again, more often than not, clicks originate from fake accounts.
David’s TakeRemember that the one thing computers do better than humans is to analyze huge amounts of data and recognize patterns.  Hands up everybody who thinks the "someone" you pay has a "like" algorithm to outsmart Google.
Glen’s TakeWhenever you are paying for votes from mostly fake accounts you are risking your account.  Not worth it.  When people vote, they have a tendency to see who else voted.  They will see the bloated votes and you will lose a real follower.
Tom D.’s TakeI could see doing this to claim a Facebook page, since you need 25 likes before you can set the url. But you could probably harass a few friends and family to pull that off. Google +1’s are a different story. I’m hearing that they might help the SERP results in Google, but Google is pretty smart about finding unnatural activity and dropping sites in the results. For that reason, I’m not going to poke the bear!
Miranda’s TakeAgain, I have a hard time with votes from fake accounts. Although I understand that having more likes and +1s can help your traffic, etc. 
Andy’s TakeThis is something that is inevitable, especially as Google comes to rely more heavily on social signals. Just as they did with PR, Google, whether it is their intention or not, will commoditize votes.
Gerald’s TakeSimilar to my other answers. If you have someone that is competent and they aren’t gong to make you look spammy. i.e. amassing a list of hundred of gmail users and mass emailing them requests for votes. This is spam and if your name or site is attached to something like this it can obviously cause damage to your brand.
Tom S.’s TakeNot a good idea. Any time you try to game the system, the system figures it out and accounts for bad behavior.
Emory’s TakeWith Google? Playing with fire. I don’t know about Facebook.  Purpose in your mind to publish only awesome content, promote it through your regular channels and don’t get banned for doing this stuff. It’s not worth it. Think long term.
My TakeFrom a direct traffic and SEO perspective Google +1’s will have no impact since most of the accounts are likely bogus. If you pay for +1’s you are playing with fire and run a significant risk of Google penalizing you. I’d avoid this at all cost as there’s no reason to taunt the cow when trying to get milk.

As for FB Likes, expect traffic and SEO results to be non-existent as well. However, if you have a new website, there’s an argument to be made for having that initial bump of a few hundred FB Like’s as social proof. People are likely to shy away from a site with only 2 or 3 FB Likes. There’s also less risk of being penalized by search engines, although that could change any day as Google constantly updates algorithms and may eventually pay attention to the quality of Facebook accounts that "like" websites.
Social Media Trick #8Create a ranking system
How It WorksYou create a ranking system for websites in your niche and ask participating blogs to display a badge that links to your site.
David’s TakeThis rarely works.  You have to already be the recognized authority in the niche before they will post a badge.  However, a blog post that lists the top 10 or top 50 blogs or services or whatever is a great resource for your readers and usually will result in some links back (This will vary by niche).
Glen’s TakeThis can go both ways.  If you are an authority in your niche and you do this as a way to say "hey, these guys are great at what they do" and you make a badge optional, then this could be awesome.  But if you are starting out and you are only looking for backlinks, the other sites will know and pretty much ignore you.  I hate the whole "I added you to a list so you should display my badge" scheme.  Better to write an article and link to me in an organic way.  Stop by and leave a comment.  Then I just might return the favor.
Tom D.’s TakeThere’s been a bit of this going on in the personal finance niche lately. They all calculate your rank differently and I believe most just suggest that they would like you to include the badge. I like being on these lists, it’s a handy way to see where your blog sites compared to others. There might be a bit of an SEO benefit from the link, and being near the top of the list can bring some ad requests your way. So as long as you’re not forced to display a badge, get listed!
Miranda’s TakeIt’s probably a great way to encourage linkbacks, and to raise awareness of your site. It can be a lot of work to create a ranking like that, and it’s a cool idea.
Andy’s TakeThis technique has been around for a while and is getting more popular in competitive niches. If you do it correctly, it can get you links you’d only dream of. My issue with them is that you’ve basically just created a complex reciprocal links page, after all, you link to the publisher first, and your aim is to get a link back from them.
Gerald’s TakeI’m not familiar with the concept of a "ranking system".
Tom S.’s Take I like it.
Emory’s TakeI still see sites doing this and I see companies falling for this trick. Yeah, it will get you some links if you do it in a classy way. I’m the sort who would rather have a link from a blog post on another site, but still, I have to admire people who do this well like Lee Odden of (Big List).
My TakeUnless the ranking system is part of a cohesive network built on community, this is a pretty spammy tactic when used by itself.

Social Media Trick #9 You ask a panel of bloggers to answer questions on your website :).  Just kidding, thanks for taking the time to share your insights guys!

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