The Thin Green Line: What You Need to Know About Astroturf Marketing

astroturf marketing

Creating online buzz about your brand, product or service is often an uphill battle, but with the introduction of social media, forums and blogs it’s become a little easier to get your brand’s name in front of your potential audience. The introduction of these tools, however, has also made it a lot easier to brands to dabble in astroturfing. Simply put, astroturfing is an attempt by a brand to artificially create a grassroots movement or buzz about something. In the case of astroturf marketing, it often involves marketers assuming false or anonymous identities to build product buzz or to attack the competition. Samsung Taiwan exhibited this behavior last year in an attempt to smear competitor HTC via anonymous forum comments, while other big-name brands have been accused of hiring viral marketers and taking advantage of content sharing sites like Reddit.

Although their intentions aren’t always bad (i.e. building their own brand rather than trying to tear down a competitor), the deceptive nature of the tactic can easily rub consumers the wrong way, and even result in backlash or hefty fines from the FTC. So, what can your brand do to steer clear of the world of astroturfing?

Be transparent.

Deception is often the key when it comes to astroturfing, whether it’s using an anonymous profile or going so far as to create a fictional identity. Being transparent about your activity on behalf of your brand will help keep your web presence honest, and will prevent you from being “outed” later on by a frustrated consumer who has an ax to grind.

Be clear about sponsored content.

We know that sponsored content and native advertising is effective, but it can also cause issues. If you go the sponsored content route, make sure that your brand is clear and the sponsored nature of the post is clear. Even if you go the guest post route for a popular content site, make sure that your brand affiliations are clear.

Follow network and forum guidelines.

Depending on the network or community forum, you might encounter membership or promotion rules. If the network prohibits promotions, requires promotions to be designated in a certain way, or has rules about member identification, be sure to follow them. For example, if you’re planning on approaching a Twitter celebrity to push your product, make sure that those tweets are clearly marked as sponsored content.

Do your best to create your own viral content.

Don’t rely on paying “viral marketers” to push or create your content for you. Take the time to brainstorm and create the best content you can. You can’t plan on something going viral, so instead of trying to force it, create great content and then do what you can to share it and spread the word.

Looking for ways to enhance your content marketing naturally? Learn how to incorporate the art of storytelling into your content marketing strategy.