Last month, Vice magazine’s Oobah Butler reached the number 1 spot on Trip Advisor in London for a restaurant that didn’t even exist, through the use of some black hat social media techniques. Many people called his social experiment ‘far from ethical’, but it also proved how easily media can be morphed to influence our decisions.

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What is black-hat social media practice?

You may be familiar with the phrase ‘black hat SEO which ‘refers to techniques and tactics that increase search engine rankings in ways that fall outside of the search engines’ guidelines or terms of service’ and (as defined by Koozai) manipulate your standing either within search engine result pages or to your audience (to give the impression you are more popular or authoritative than you really are).’ 

Black hat social media is the same practice. Although these methods seem initially appealing as they are quick and easy to implement, they will cost your business time, effort and money when the platform you are using discovers that you are using bad practices to achieve your goals, which is pretty much inevitable.

Some examples of black hat social media could be:

  • Purchasing fake ‘Likes’ or YouTube subscribers from click farms – you can read more about click farms here.
  • Creating fake social media accounts and using these to engage with your business page.
  • Writing fake bad reviews on your competitors pages – these is particularly topical given the recent Vice article and video written and shot by Oobah Butler – Oobah reached number 1 in London on trip adviser with a fictitious restaurant that he garnered attention for by using several black hat social media techniques, including writing fake positive reviews for his restaurant – watch the documentary HERE.
  • Using a program to unfollow and follow and unfollow new accounts.

White hat practices: why they should prevail

So, we’ve established how not to do things, but what are the best practices when it comes to generating engagement and a following for social media channels? This is a realm where there is no quick-fix and that will always be in constant flux, which is what makes things frustrating for businesses who are managing their own online marketing. Just as it takes time to cultivate a good rapport with a friend, it takes time to develop the same rapport with the search engine and social media platforms and search engine spiders are becoming so increasingly sophisticated that short-term cheat black hat tactics will not go unnoticed. Patience, honesty and a regimental approach is rewarded when it comes to SEO in general and indeed where social media practices are concerned.

  • Produce honest content.
  • Make the content human-friendly (don’t overstuff with keywords in a bid to take a shortcut to ranking highly).
  • Play the long game – be patient.

What can we learn from black hat SEO techniques? The moral of the story is basically, there is no fast way to pleasing Google, it’s a slow and steady wins the race game and those who wish to learn the hard way will inevitably have to start from scratch eventually and embrace white-hate practices.


If you are looking to create a social media campaign to promote your business for long-term success, please do contact us today.