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5+ Black Hat Social Media Techniques Your Brand Shouldn’t Use

Engaging in black hat on social media means you’re trying to make your accounts look better than they really are. Find out why this is bad for your brand.

Todd Clarke November 26, 2018
Image via Greta Pichetti under CC0

What is “black hat”?

A villain. Or, an underhanded trick or technique that breaks a set of rules.

If you’re engaging in black hat on social media, that means you’re trying to make your accounts look better than they really are. This could include…

  • Buying fake subscribers, likes, or comments
  • Sharing malicious links
  • Creating dummy accounts to increase followers and engagement
  • Using programs to automatically follow new accounts

Tisk, tisk, tisk. How shady.

And, not a good business idea either.

Why black hat is bad

It’s lazy. It does more harm than good. And…

It can ruin your reputation

People engage with you on social media, based on truth. If they find out you’re trying to dupe them, kiss your reputation and followers goodbye.

There’s no real gains, anyway

Your fake followers won’t stay around very long. They aren’t even real people, interested in your products or services.

Forget about trying to impress with inflated audience numbers that don’t deliver real value.

Trade that black hat in for a white one. Be the do-gooder.

Still not convinced?

Some specifics…

5 black hat tactics to avoid on social media

1. Buying followers

What is it?

Just like it sounds, buying followers for your Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or other social media platforms. Versus growing and grooming them, naturally, over time.

Why avoid it?

  • Low engagement. When buying fans or followers, you’re getting anything but people truly interested or willing to engage with you. You’re just buying the numbers.
  • Your reputation will suffer. Everyone has a different view of morality. Except when it comes to buying followers. People will see this as some low business-self-esteem way to look more popular. Especially when they see a load of new followers in just a few days.
  • People will find out. It’s rather easy to find the names of people being followed by fake accounts. Even easier with the Fake Followers Check tool. So there’s not many places to hide when buying followers. You’ll get discovered—for the wrong reasons.

Instead…

  • Measure engagement, not follower count. Better to have low quantity followers, and high quality interactions than the other way around.
  • Build a community of people who are interested in your product or service. Be patient. It’ll pay off, not harm you, in the long run.
  • Find relevant people to follow, ones more likely to follow you back, by…
  • Providing value to your fans. Straight up. No sneaky tricks.

2. Posting the exact same content across networks

What is it?

  • Sharing the same exact messages, or “cross posting,” across Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and the others is tempting. It keeps all your accounts active, saves time, and it’s easy.
  • Why avoid it?
  • Cross-posting is like putting text through Google Translate. You run the risk of getting weird results that look careless and unintentional.
  • Caption length, image formatting, and vocabulary differ by platform. You could end up inviting your followers to retweet you on Facebook, or Pin your post on Instagram. Oh boy.

Instead…

  • Make your content sound fluent in the language of each platform. So you’ll you have real conversations with your followers.

3. Automation

What is it?

Using bots to win followers, derive backlinks, gain ‘likes’, and generate comments.

Why avoid it?

  • You’ll attract more followers. Then, they’ll see how unauthentic you and your brand are. Making them un-followers.
  • You’ll get more ‘likes’. Which will turn into ‘hates’ when users see your ways and means. And they will.

Instead…

  • There’s no real tradeoff for engaging with real people, real-time, with real thoughts. Really.

4. Spamming social networks

What is it?

Posting unrelated, extraneous, and otherwise irrelevant links on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or wherever. Sure, go postal on social, but be real and do with intent.

Why avoid it?

  • People detest spam, they’ll despise you, too.
  • Your brand will be worn down versus being built up.

Instead…

  • Post responsibly
  • Be real
  • Be nice
  • Be engaging
  • Be personal
  • Do all it yourself, not with a bot

5. Sharing shady pages or content that employ any of the following tricks…

5.1 Stuffing keywords

What is it?

A shady technique to manipulate a site’s search ranking. By adding keywords and phrases galore to your web pages, even ones irrelevant to content on the website. Such as…

  • Listing cities and states a webpage is trying to rank for.
  • Repeating, senselessly, the same words or phrases over and over, out of context on your web pages.

Why avoid it?

  • Users will see through it, get irritated, and leave your pages.
  • They’ll think/know you suck.
  • Same with Google and other search engines, you can’t fool them.
  • Your ranking will drop, not rise. Count on it.

Instead…

  • Create useful, info-rich web content that reads and flows naturally.
  • Apply keywords within that flow.
  • Avoid overuse and repetition of keywords (consider the long tail keywords approach).
  • Same for a page’s metadata.

5.2 Hidden text

What is it?

Any text search engines can view, but readers can’t. Web site administrators use hidden extra and irrelevant keywords to boost page rankings. Want to mess with search engine guidelines? Here’s how…

  • Set a font size to zero
  • Make text the same color as the background
  • Same for links
  • Tweak CSS to make text appear off screen

Are you doing these? Don’t.

Why avoid it?

  • Because search engines might ban you, and will penalize your site rankings. What you thought was cute, sneaky, and useful… is just plain silly, useless, and harmful to your business.
  • And if you share these pages on social and get caught, you’ll get called out.

Instead…

  • Create better content
  • Focus on usability
  • Include viable backlinks to more useful content

5.3 Buying or exchanging links

What is it?

Buying links or exchanging links with other sites. The more links back to your pages, the more relevant you are, right? True that… as long as they’re related to the content on your site. Otherwise, you’ll look foolish and silly once more.

Why avoid it?

  • Users will hate your web guts when clicking links sending them to WTF-land
  • Search engines will hate you even more. Then, ding your search ranking

Instead…

  • Specify quality links, strictly related to your content
  • Check out the page before linking to it
  • Increase link goodness by linking only to respected authorities
  • Link only to pages that will be there for the long-term

Solid links increases your chances to form a friendship, partnership, or further mentions. None of that will happen when choosing and using links unwisely.

5.4 Cloaking

What is it?

It’s a website returning altered pages to search engines crawling your site. Meaning, a human would see different content and information than what search engines would see. Websites cloak content to improve search engine ranking.

Why avoid it?

  • Search engines will deliver content unrelated to queries
  • Google and the others will figure it out. They always do
  • Your site will be banned from search engine listings

Instead…

  • Create content only for humans, not search engines
  • Don’t be tempted by “we can’t compete without it”. It’s just not true.
  • If you cloak, you’ll croak. The search engines will see to it.

5.5 Article spinning

What is it?

A technique for creating the illusion of fresh content. A software program ingests a single article, munches on it, then pukes out a few different articles. Yuk, huh? New articles appear on your site, with new words, phrases, and terms—fooling search engines.

And it might get passed some search engines. But humans will know…

Why avoid it?

  • The new articles are hard to read
  • They often appear as gobbledygook
  • Readers tilt their heads and say “what the…”
  • Could be a form of plagiarizing, right?
  • Yet again, your brand suffers

Instead…

  • Share fresh, real, useful, original content on social

5.6 Using Doorway pages

What is it?

Doorway pages (also known as Gateway pages) are keyword-rich, content-poor pages designed to trick search engines. They contain loads of keywords, but no real information. They focus on calls-to-action and links that send the users through to a landing page.

Why avoid it?

  • Doorway pages provide no real value to readers
  • They frustrate readers
  • They’re optimized for search engine bots, not humans
  • They mislead users to enter a site
  • Many search results direct users to an intermediate page, versus the true destination

Instead…

  • Just. Don’t. Use. Them. It violates the be-real-be-honest-be-kind model.

See the Black Hat pattern?

Break the rules, pay the dues. People, social networks, and search engines will know if you’re breaking the rules. Your reputation and rankings will take a hit. Affecting your site and social accounts for days, weeks—maybe forever. People will stop following you. Your brand will sour.

What are you going to tell your boss then?

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By Todd Clarke

Todd writes long-form copy people read and scroll -versus- stop and leave. Track him down at toddsgotapen.com. He likes that.

Read more by Todd Clarke

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