I got a chance a few weeks ago to speak with some very smart college students who are planning to go into public relations, and who asked me to come by and speak to them about social media.
I asked a few people how their initial work experience (mostly internships) had gone, and got some ghastly replies. One student told me a horrific tale of her internship at a NYC interactive advertising agency.
Her job was to log in to various social networking sites under one of five or six different aliases and get in “conversations” with other interns that ultimately led to the “decision” that one of the two people ought to definitely check out a site, product or service which happened to coincide with the agency’s client. This was “social media marketing” in their book.
This disgusts me. It is everything that is wrong with marketing today. The good news is that one can always hope that the social network or blog owner is smart enough to see the URLs and call them out for astroturfing, but that doesn’t happen often enough.
I didn’t call out the intern’s name, nor the company she worked at, for a number of reasons, but I’m very interested in hearing other horror stories, and would love for a few companies to be put to shame for these and similar practices on this blog. So share your astroturfing horror stories folks!