In recent times the word “Astroturfing” has taken on a new meaning. No longer does the word invoke images of playing fields – now “Astroturfing” refers to something rather sinister.
Astroturfing refers to a type of advocacy that supports corporate or political agenda and is structured to make it look like a grassroots movement. The motivation for this is to make political or commercial ventures seem like they have popular backing and manipulate public opinion in their favour.
So who uses these tactics? Experienced Public Relations companies are one answer, and they have become so experienced in this area that, in effect, it has become a kind of brainwashing. Greenpeace can attest to this. They investigated lobby groups that had been set up to negate global warming claims and found that these groups were, in fact, set up by the fossil fuel industry.
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Is anyone “Astroturfing” your brand and your reputation, and how do they do that?
If your brand has a presence on the internet, then you need to be on the lookout for “Astroturfing” If your business is using Blogs, Social Media and Websites, then you really need to monitor them:
Signs of Astroturfing
- Fake Opinions – Especially on blogs, your brands may be attacked by a kind of spam that is adverse opinions made about your brand, product or reputation. These people who do this are called corporate trolls. You can no longer rely on passive moderation on your blogs – you must actively monitor content.
- Moderate Voice – Even more subtle than online complaints and comments, some corporate trolls are using a more moderate approach and latching onto others opinions and trying to sound like a moderator – a toned down complaint but still reinforcing the negative comment about the brand.
- Strange names or profiles – Astroturfers or corporate trolls may have manufactured names and profiles that they have created to make comments or access your social media sites. They have a temporary feel to their blogs or Facebook pages and seem to just pop up and then disappear.
So what can you do to protect your brand from this subtle type of spam?
The starting point is by being aware of its existence and putting in place checks to prevent it. For example, in your blogs, you need to moderate comments and not allow content to be posted by anyone. Be sure to publish the content on your sites or use known service providers that adhere to your strict code of conduct and niches.