With the large number of brands on social media, getting your target audience to notice you can be challenging, to say the least. Companies are constantly searching for ways to improve their rankings, grow their followings, and get ahead of the competition. Unfortunately, some of them result to using shady tactics, which could easily ruin what they’ve worked hard for. We’re listing down eight black hat techniques that you should stay away from.
Wait, What Does “Black Hat” Even Mean?
Desperate times may call for desperate measures, but you should never consider black hat techniques as your solution.
To those who aren’t familiar with the term, “black hat,” by definition, refers to a person who is acting for morally bad reasons. It’s also a word used to refer to a hacker who gets into computer systems for malicious purposes.
When it comes to social media and digital marketing in general, black hat means using underhanded methods that fall outside the platform’s guidelines to improve one’s social media standing and rankings in search engines.
In short, “black hat” is bad.
Why You Should Avoid Black Hat Techniques?
While they might seem like a reasonable (and effective method) at the start, these techniques will not do your business any good.
It Ruins Your Reputation
It doesn’t matter how hard you try to hide that you’re using these types of strategies to improve your social media standing. People will know, because it’s easy to spot the accounts with genuine content and engagement from those that are using black hat techniques to gain attention.
And even if followers don’t know, the platforms will. More on that in a moment.
The Rewards (If Any) Are Only Temporary
Some people think that using black hat techniques on their social media accounts can help them accomplish their goals. This is a misconception. The rewards, if ever there are any, are only temporary, because sooner or later, the system will realize that there’s something off with how your social media accounts are managed.
And when that happens…
You’ll Get Penalized
Once the platform finds out, you’ll get penalized for it, and that can render all your previous efforts useless. They can suppress your page so that no one can see it, or they can ban you completely.
With that said, here are eight black hat techniques you definitely have to stay away from.
8 Black Hat Techniques to Avoid, Period
1. Buying Followers
Follower count is such a big issue to some people that they would do anything – including spend money – to increase that number.
Although having a high follower count might satisfy one’s vanity, it doesn’t guarantee great results — especially if those followers are bought. Buying followers for social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter might help your profile look good, but trust us, it won’t benefit your business.
It Can Hit Your Engagement Hard
We use social media to connect with our target market. Audience engagement is important. Thus, the goal of majority of your content should be geared toward engaging with your followers.
If you’re buying followers, your engagement will suffer. Why? Because these followers aren’t interested in your brand or your products, so they most likely won’t care about your content.
Pages with a high follower count but not the engagement to match are a huge red flag to the platforms. This is a good way to get their attention — in a bad way — and ask for trouble.
It Will Make You Seem Desperate
People will know if you’ve bought followers. It’s easy! Just compare the follower count with the number of likes, shares, and comments that the account’s content has and you’ll be able to tell if that account has authentic or bought followers.
Plus, when you check out the list of followers, it’s pretty easy to see that they’re bots and fake profiles.
When people know this, let’s be honest: You’ll only look desperate, and this isn’t good for your brand’s reputation.
Instead of buying followers, it’s better to grow them organically. Or, you could always run paid ads (which is completely different from the black hat technique of purchasing followers). It might take time and some effort, but if you’re able to build a community of followers who are actually interested in what you’re offering, your engagement will improve. This can help your business soar.
2. Buying Engagement
Okay, great. So if what matters most is engagement, then you can just go out and buy that instead, right? Wrong!
Just like with buying followers, buying engagement is a big no-no.
People can easily tell which engagement is fake and which is real, so avoid doing this. It will make you look desperate and untrustworthy. Once your followers know about it, you might lose them because of the bad practice. Don’t dig yourself that hole.
Plus, once again, this can land you in hot water with the social media platforms. They don’t take kindly to pages that try to fake their engagement.
Instead of buying engagement, focus on creating good content that people will actually like and respond to. Buying engagement is a waste of time and money, it won’t work, and you shouldn’t be doing it.
3. Posting Fake Positive Reviews About Your Own Product
Many people rely on reviews before they make a purchase. This makes reviews one of the most inexpensive and reliable methods of promotion. However, there are a few brands that take advantage of this by creating fake reviews from fake accounts.
Fake reviews can cause you to lose business. Since people want genuine reviews from real people, once they’ve found out that you’ve made fake reviews in order to look good (and they will almost certainly find out about it), your reputation will go down the drain and the trust you’ve built can deteriorate.
Instead of creating fake reviews, do your best to improve your product or service and encourage your actual customers to post a real review. Post on your social media asking them to leave you a review. Send an email blast out to your list telling them how they can do it. There are plenty of genuine ways to get reviews, and you absolutely should. Just be honest with how you go about it.
4. Posting Fake Negative Reviews About Other Brands’ Product
You’re better than this.
Not only is this a really awful thing to do, but you can get in major trouble for it. Trolling your competitors’ pages and posting dishonest reviews just to hurt them is a very unethical method of trying to gain attention. If you’re caught, which can easily happen, this will be bad for your brand.
Instead of wasting time trying to pull your competitors down, find ways to push your brand up. Use your social media accounts to showcase your brand’s personality, achievements, and the benefits you offer to your customers.
And while we’re on the subject…
5. Trying to Sabotage Other Pages in Any Shady Way
It’s unfortunate, but there are tons of black hat techniques that brands still rely on daily. Some of them are geared toward attacking competitors in an unethical manner.
Fake reviews aside, some people try to pull their competition down through dirty means. These include creating fake accounts under their competitors’ names and causing trouble, as well as creating fake user accounts to spread fake news or false links.
6. Posting Misleading Links
Misleading links direct the user to a website or page that’s different from what they believe they’re clicking on. Not only can this be incredibly annoying to your followers and cause them to lose trust in you, but it can also get you reported for spam. When this happens, your page can be suppressed, suspended, or banned completely.
Again, don’t waste your time using these kinds of black hat techniques to boost your website (or social media) rankings. It’s counterproductive.
7. Hashtag Spamming
Here’s another practice that could hurt your business. Hashtag spamming is a lot like keyword spamming. It’s when you add in a bunch of unrelated hashtags just so that your content will show up whenever someone searches for those tags.
This doesn’t work, it’s shady, and the platforms — especially Instagram, where it’s most common — will punish you for it.
Even if you stuff in a bunch of hashtags on your post to make it more searchable, the person who makes the search using the hashtag you used still won’t check out your content if he or she feels that it isn’t what they’re looking for. Or, if they click it, they won’t stay on it long enough and immediately go back to the search results because they want something different. It’ll only annoy the audience.
Instagram gave us hashtags to help us grow. Don’t abuse them.
Instead of stuffing your post with various hashtags, try to create relevant and informative content that your audience will find useful and genuinely want to engage with. Yes, you can and should still use hashtags, but do so strategically. Use ones that are relevant to that post and to your own brand.
While we’re on the topic of hashtags, aside from avoiding cramming in as many as possible, stay away from ones like #Like4Like and #Follow4Follow. First, it looks spammy and unattractive. Second, it doesn’t work. Again, if these hashtags bring you any new likes or follows, they’re most likely not from your target audience. It’s purely for vanity. And as you know by now, simply looking good on social media isn’t going to get the job done.
Social media is about forming real, organic relationships.
Clickbait is a post or piece of content that offers a huge promise using a sensationalist headline, purely to misrepresent the content and mislead the user, in order to get them to click.
Whenever you see headlines or social media posts that say things like “You’re not going to believe this” or “This is the craziest thing you’re ever going to see,” and then the actual content completely disappoints, that’s clickbait. Even if does get people to click, once they see what the content really looks like, all they’re going to do is leave a nasty comment. This happens every single day on social media, especially Facebook.
Again, this can get you in trouble with the platform. (Are you noticing a pattern here?)
Yes, you can write click-worthy headlines and descriptions without making it clickbait. There’s a fine line.
Black hat techniques don’t work! Instead of wasting time and money implementing them, it’s better to use your resources to make your brand shine with valid methods. Be sincere in your promotions and do your best to improve your content. If you do your part, your target audience will notice you and the various social media platforms will reward you.
Which one of these black hat techniques do you see the most often on social media? Let us know in the comments section below.