The Ethics of Astroturfing

August 25th, 2009 by Kerry

imagesJust read a juicy post by Marketing Pilgrim about Reverb’s self-professed astroturfing artistry. It inspired me to weigh in on the ethics of astroturfing (hint: the previous phrase is an oxymoron). Astroturfing is the practice of creating the appearance of grassroots support for something or someone (hence the reference to fake grass). With social media channels in particular, it is all too easy to plant false reviews, endorsements and the like that are designed to mimic and then foster widespread acceptance and support.

Influencer relations (traditional PR, social media, blogger relations) is all about driving awareness, interest and preference and, yes, fostering widespread support. And unless your business plan calls for you to be in and out of business virtually overnight, you generally want those attributes to last, even build, over the long haul. If for no reason other than that pragmatic aim, it makes sense to skip the mimicking part and tell the truth in your communications. No one likes to be fooled (which is awfully close to being made a fool of); people tend to dislike companies and individuals they feel deceived by.

So even if you are inclined to throw your ethics out the window, listen to your common sense.

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