I recently learned (to my dismay) about data farming services specifically designed to ease the time requirements and creative burden of “posting” to Facebook for business page owners. Really? Engaging with like-minded business people and interested potential customers personally is so full-on taxing that one needs a fake robo-poster to do it for them? Seriously?
Imagine showing up to a monthly breakfast meeting of your local business network and placing a blow-up doll in your seat …then leaving! Do you think your fellow network members aren’t going to notice that it isn’t really you? That dead-panned, plastic smile says it all.
A Bit of History (and why I warn against content produced by data-farms)
Over the past six years, a large amount of the content I’ve produced for the web and print has been for law clients, specifically, personal injury, workers’ compensation, class action, and the painful realities of nursing home abuse and neglect.
As a writer and content manager for the web, I’m always amazed by the number of law firm websites that are managed by large, legal directory-oriented, development and hosting services that stack all their clients sites with the same scrolling tickers and sidebars featuring headlines (and links) from across the nation, typically obtained from the AP (Associated Press) wire; headlines collected by data farmers and re-posted again and again, of legal cases having little to do with the actual cases handled by their clients firms.
But hey, it’s new daily or weekly content for the search engines to rank, right? Who cares if its sterile or meaningless to a prospective client searching for a good fit …an attorney who will “get them” and provide solid representation?
Such national stories, in and of themselves, typically have little, if any, relevance to a firm’s local community or case experience, or a potential client’s needs. And, I would argue further, offer nothing to prospective clients in the way of insight about the firm itself, or produces an emotional buy-in …something that says, “Yes, this is the firm I want to represent me!” Authenticity and a sense of the firm’s personality and integrity (via real and locally relevant stories) was something I insisted my clients strive for.
(Google) Justice Arrives!
In my mind, data farmed content is a lazy, non-personal, generic form of content creation, and worse, says, “We don’t care enough about you to generate meaningful, relevant content that you might connect with.”
So you can imagine my delight when this past February, Google came to the same conclusion and decided to downgrade the ranking of websites that relied on content supplied by data farming services. Instead, they now give higher ranking to those websites that speak in a more authentic, unique and personal tone and offer content relevant to local searches. Sadly, a great many law firms still haven’t gotten the “Memo”.
Data Farming and Facebook
Nothing runs more counter intuitive to Facebook (and the art of networking) than a business page owner using a data-farmed posting service to engage their community.
Imagine showing up to a breakfast meeting of your local business network and placing a blow-up doll in your seat …then leaving! Do you think your fellow network members aren’t going to notice that it isn’t really not you? That dead-panned, plastic smile says it all.
Here’s how it works:
A paying page owner simply checks all the areas of interest that they wish to have included in their auto-posts, and just like that, the programs searches for content found elsewhere throughout the internet and posts it to your page! How cool is that? Auto-pilot engagement!
When I think about it, there are several businesses that I’ve “Liked” recently who post daily, if not multiple times a day, articles written by another. That’s it. Nothing in the way of personal comments or shared “How To” tips. Now I’m wondering if their posts are actually “farmed” given that I have nothing else to go on.
Don’t get me wrong. I love it when folks in my community pass along great articles that they feel are informative or help in our collective efforts in some way. But when that’s ALL they post — acting like a news feed within my news feed – its hard to get a sense of who they are, really.
A word of warning: data farming your posts may save you time and energy, but the egg on your face will remain for a very long time when your “community” members realize that they have been played. If bringing your authentic self (personally, or via another who understands your business and community) is too much to ask, you should reconsider the whole networking platform altogether.
Whether for business or fun, Facebook is a social environment where “sharing” is meant to be authentic and in real time; in-the-moment engagement where real relationships are formed through mutual interests, helpful information and a sense of “connecting”.
For those new to the platform, it can represent a time warp that sucks you in for hours while you learn the ropes and expand your network of like-minded community. Learning what kind of information to share (business news, articles, video, contests, etc) and which topics and/or questions will drive the conversations further can only be accomplished by jumping in and “doing” …engaging with helpful, whimsical or thought-provoking ideas; sharing.
Experts I Trust Agree
William DeRosa, co-founder of Talking Finger (a social media consulting firm of experts who help businesses expand and manage their presence on Facebook, Twitter, Yelp and other social networks) agrees.
“The idea of social media,” says DeRosa, “is that you post things from a personal perspective and engage. Doing this with auto posts defeats the purposes of building relationships. We can tell immediately what pages use these auto programs because they “sound” automated.”
As for the common complaint regarding the time needed to pro-actively engage others on the platform, DeRosa adds, “No time? Well, shift your marketing focus. Instead of that e-newsletter going out every 4 weeks, expand it to 6 weeks. Cold calling? Drop it. People don’t do that anymore and it doesn’t work in today’s marketplace. Or, hire an agency to do this work for you. Good ones (like Girl on Point and Talking Finger) will work with you to plan a three-month strategy and help create content for you. They will map out what to say and do it with human emotion and interaction. This “no time” excuse will hurt you as competitors grab market share by building true relationships while you find time to market on increasingly antiquated platforms.”
Think about it this way: The drive-through or a frozen dinner popped into the microwave may be quick and effortless, but you’ll be sacraficing the nutritional benefits of quality food that actually nourishes your body and health.
The same is true when feeding your Facebook wall with less appetizing information generated by an automated, data-posting service.
Instead of growing your community (and business), your reputation may suffer a bout of post-poisoning. Beware! Once your Facebook fans learn of your sincere lack of regard for engaging them personally, they’ll likely drop you and may even damage your reputation further with a few disparaging posts to Twitter …that other social networking site you’re probably not spending much time on either!
If you need help, there’s plenty of sources out there that care about your success and can help you get up to speed — and stay there with less time and effort.
Visit us on Facebook — where the posts and personalities are real — and “Like” our page!
Need some additional “Do-It-Yourself” guidance to get you started on the right track? Pick up a copy of Amy Porterfield’s new book, Facebook Marketing All-In-One for Dummies!