From Wikipedia: “Astroturfing denotes political, advertising, or public relations campaigns that are formally planned by an organization, but are disguised as spontaneous, popular “grassroots” behavior. The term refers to AstroTurf, a brand of synthetic carpeting designed to look like natural grass.”. On the web, Astroturfing has become a very important part of marketing strategies and damage control for many businesses. You see it more and more on forums, YouTube, Twitter, FaceBook and any other popular social marketing web sites.
Take for example the popular travel web site TripAdvisor which has thousands of hotel profiles and allows for user generated reviews. A bad review can instantly result in a decline in reservations and are very hard if not impossible to have removed. When the hotels post their own good reviews, this is AstroTurfing at its best (or worst). Although ultra-positive reviews are easily spotted.
On similar note, I also see many organizations hiring Interns to work promoting organizations through social media. Although this is a great idea, I have also seen what happens to these initiatives once the Intern leaves the organization. Stale web-content can be worse then no content at all, so keep sustainability in mind when starting your social media campaigns.
Bottom-line, AstroTurfing can be extremely beneficial and relatively inexpensive when done right – that means not arousing suspicion and ensuring your intentions are kept secret. I often recommend to my clients to post links in forums and replies to blogs to generate links back to their web sites. But the posts cannot seem fake or planted or they will be removed quickly and time wasted. Please visit www.tbayit.com for more information on marketing and promoting your web site online 🙂