Trolls and bots are part of all discussions about digital communication. Now we must add new players in the social media map: the PODs
In the Social Media Day held in Montevideo, Uruguay, Leticia Piriz, director of CVR Buzz Marketing and one of the panelists of the event, drew attention to a growing phenomenon that worries those engaged in digital marketing and brand management: false influencers. According to Piriz, hundreds of people in the world cheat brands through dishonest practices such as buying followers, likes, reproductions of videos, comments, and reactions.
Leer en español: ¡Indignante! Así se posicionan los falsos influencers
The purpose of this is to generate the illusion of being influencers in networks and obtain advertising contracts. He also mentioned the well-known bots and trolls we have known for several years, as well as a new form of deception that could be a mixture of both: the PODs.
What are PODs and how do they work?
The PODs are generated after the changes made by Instagram in its algorithm, where it went from displaying the published content in chronological order, as it did from its creation to organizing its Timeline based on the popularity of the publications. Thus, Instagram PODs are groups of 15 to 40 people who join by chat, it can be the internal messaging of the application or Messenger, to share their own publications among them and exchange likes, comments, and reproductions.
How are they different from trolls? In that, these PODs are mutual support groups and have the sole objective of consolidating influencers. How are they different from bots? In that, they are human beings. Each POD has a person who administers it and its own rules. Sometimes the rules are strict about the type of interaction and even the hours when they should be done.
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In several PODs, members are asked to activate the social network notifications of each participant of the group to like or comment as soon as they upload material. This is because the first minutes of the publication tell the algorithm of the social network if a content is popular and will show it in the highest positions in the feeds of its followers.
With these strategies, which Piriz pointed out as "dishonest practices to self-position", together with the purchase of followers and interactions that can be done on the web, hundreds of people have become false influencers: These users who pretend to have a broad community with which they interact sharing their opinions, thoughts, ideas or reflections, and about those who have the power to influence purchasing decisions, for example.
How do they affect digital marketing?
The social network in which dishonest practices such as PODs are most used is Instagram, and to a lesser extent Twitter and Facebook. However, according to Piriz, they also exist in other social networks that are perceived as serious or formal, such as Linkedin. Here, some users buy employees and even references, inflating their profiles and cheating their future employers.
In the case of the false influencers that use the PODs, several brands have fallen into the trap of hiring them and have become, in addition to a loss of money for the brands, a risk to their reputation.
Can they affect the public debate on social networks?
There are unknown results of any research on the use of PODs to affect or manipulate debates in social networks on political issues or issues of interest to citizens. First, because the niche of the PODs is in the Instagram social network; second, because similar mechanisms are already generated more spontaneously between acquaintances through direct messages on Twitter or WhatsApp groups. Generally, these have no commercial purposes but political influence.
However, questions are raised about the use of groups of people dedicated to increasing the impact of the publications of certain characters or their movements in order to generate a perception of majorities in agreement, position messages, create trends and affect public debate in social networks.
Invitation: not to use them, to detect them and report them
At the end of her presentation, the director of CVR Buzz Marketing invited brands and users to be more perceptive with these practices, to use analytics from social networks to detect false influencers and avoid falling into their game. She also advised not to automate the process of selecting people to influence marketing and maintained that trust and honesty are the keys to work in this type of Marketing. "We are all clients and we are all influencers," she concluded.
LatinAmerican Post | Luisa Fernanda Báez
Translated from: '¡Indignante! Así se posicionan los falsos influencers '