If you deal in online marketing or the media in general, then you'll probably be familiar with The Trump Network, owned by business icon (and face of the US 'Apprentice' show) Donald Trump.
The Trump Network is currently making a foray into affiliate marketing, pop along to the campaign's homepage and you'll see a short video from Mr.Trump, explaining how his affiliate program can benefit anyone financially, up to and including multi-millionaires like himself.
The network itself wasn't what initially caught my eye however. Instead, what piqued my curiosity was the way in which the network is being promoted across the Twittersphere.
While there's no reason to assume that Trump or his company are directly behind it, the Trump Network does have a number of seemingly automated feeds out there promoting the business, a practice which indicates a fundamental misunderstanding of the medium.
Bear with me for a moment and I’ll explain.
Recently here at Econsultancy, team tech has been hard at work making some modifications to the blog.
If you glance over at the right hand corner of this post, you'll see a small button displaying how many retweets a particular post has. Down in the bottom right hand corner, there's also an innovative and much-copied earlier feature: A list of current Twitter buzz, with attendant gravatars of our helpful retweeters -hello!
Being a dedicated researcher/quite shallow, I like to see who's read my posts here and follow people I think I can learn from, so last night I sat down and felt a the warm glow of ego as I saw a recent post had gained some significant buzz.
I was doubly pleased of course when I realised I had a number of unusually attractive Twitter fans. I had no idea that cheerleaders had such an interest in my social media activity.
A quick check through the retweet list revealed tweeters such as @K8ykatie333, the attractive and popular @SweetiestStacy, and, my personal favourite, @SackSammie, who seems to divide her time between cheering on the NFL, modeling bikinis and of course, promoting various social media sites and blogs (and one in particular).
As any decent marketer knows, it's important to optimise your Twitter bio with a link to your home page. These are nofollow links incidentally, so they'll only provide traffic rather than any SEO benefit, but handy for anyone wanting to know more about you all the same.
In Stacy, Sammy and Katie's case this link all leads to the same place: The Trump Network homepage.
As I’ve said, these could be actual people with a genuine interest in the Trump Network (or the business itself has some fantastically good-looking staff), but the ultimate effect is that it comes across as spam.
While setting up multiple or automated streams to promote your content is hardly a crime (We auto tweet new blog posts ourselves), it’s important that any business clearly brands these and doesn’t attempt to ‘fake it’.
Setting up multiple streams under the guise of various 'babes' with links back to a site shows a misunderstanding of the golden rules of Twitter and social media in general: Transparency and trust.
What should concern The Trump Network is the perceived affect of these accounts. It certainly appears that all these accounts have been set up by the same person. If they have, then they show a real lack of respect for the Twitter audience, and surely can’t be seen by the network to be providing any of the genuine, long-term value that marks out real success on Twitter.
The Twitter community has no problem with advertising or linking, in fact it thrives on it, but frankly if Donald Trump wants’ to retweet my stuff, then I'd rather he did it as Donald Trump.
The Trump Network has years of multichannel cross-media experience, along with the funding to hire social marketing experts and Trump's personal account certainly shows an advanced understanding of Twitter, so the network should see this as an actively damaging presence which undermines their company message.
Businesses on Twitter should be there to engage personally with their customers and build a one-to-one relationship with them. Not to build a one-to-one relationship between a fake glamour model and a bunch of rather foolhardy newbies.
If the Trump Network’s affiliate program is actually as beneficial as claimed then more power to them, but if either the business or one of its affiliates is engaged in spamming an audience explicitly and implicitly built on personal trust, then I’d be extremely disinclined to work with them, and I suspect that’s a feeling that would extend to other marketers and potential clients as well.
While a business can’t be held responsible for the conduct of their followers, it certainly highlights the need to consistently monitor your Twitter buzz and check up on anyone linking to your site.
The larger your brand, the more important this becomes, and if you do find a site spreading spam on your behalf, then it’s important to locate those spammers and engage with them to get them ‘on message’.
Social media messages can’t be controlled, but they can be regulated with friendly advice and some basic training and best practice guidelines. As your social media presence grows, make sure you carefully monitor any and all engagement that could impact your image and put processes in place to help you manage it, otherwise you could end up with many potential customers turning away, however attractive your staff are.