Integrity Marketing – Using Alternate Identities

  • Sumo

Mask of FlameOne controversial feature of the internet is that it makes anonymity very easy. You can create many alternate identities and slip from one to another with ease.

Like everything, this has a good side and a dark side.

Alternate Identities in the Real World

Secret identities are nothing new. Writers (pseudonyms), movie stars and musicians (stage names) and superheroes (alter egos) have used alternate identities for centuries. So have spies and con artists. They can be used to protect the innocent, provide privacy or hide evil intent.

Pseudonyms, stage names, etc. are alternate identities that are designed to protect the privacy of an author or present a more marketable brand. I’ve written several stories for children and I hope to have them published under a pseudonym to make them more fun and entertaining.

Online Identities

And there is a place in Internet Marketing for alternate identities as well.

There are many marketers who use pseudonyms to set up niche web sites so that their competition doesn’t know and to make it easier to flip the site if they so choose. It is also used if you want to create a different brand in one niche.

I’ve read work by a lady freelancer who uses a male pseudonym to overcome gender bias for her business (a real life Remington Steele for those of you old enough to remember that show) — it was amazing how much better her business did when clients thought she was a man.

The important thing is that the identity is not intended to defraud anyone (although the female/male thing is close to the line). They are merely used to protect identity and/or for branding purposes.

The Dark Side of Alternate Identities

But the dark side of alternate identities lurks everywhere.

The obvious problem is the con artists who create an identity, run a campaign, pocket as much cash as they can and bail. Then they create a new identity and start again. They sell crappy products, ignore refund and support requests and sometimes don’t even deliver the product.

But there is a more subtle use that many marketers fall prey to — multiple Facebook/Twitter/Email/{insert your favourite here} accounts. It seems innocent enough, but the intent is to defraud and I think that you need to think twice about doing something like this.

Don’t get me wrong — I have several Twitter and email accounts. This is allowed and I’m not using them to defraud. What I’m talking about is setting up multiple accounts and false identities for driving traffic by creating false social proof.

The way it works is this (I’ll use Facebook as an example).

  1. Create 10 gmail accounts.
  2. Create a Facebook account for each one.
  3. Have them “friend” 5,000 people (the maximum allowed on Facebook).
  4. Have them Like and promote your fan page(s).

I’ve seen several How To Rock Facebook type reports recommend a variation on this technique. One actually suggested setting up accounts for your relatives who aren’t interested in Facebook for this!

The problem here is that you are using the alternate identities (false email accounts as well) in a dishonest way. You’re pretending to be someone who hasn’t got a commercial interest in the fan page. That is a lie. It is dishonest. The reports even go so far as to misrepresent yourself when trying to make friends.

The same technique is used in many social media sites, including bookmarking sites like StumbleUpon and Digg. I have read reports recommending that you set up 30 or more accounts and use varying subsets to bookmark and vote on your blog posts or whatever.

The intent is to create a false social proof. I imagine that there are those who post multiple comments on their own blogs or have several accounts in forums for the same purpose.

The problem is that this is creating a falsehood — intentionally. Not something that a practitioner of Integrity Marketing wants to do.

What About You?

Do you use alternate identities in your marketing? Do you use them honestly, or you ever been tempted to use these techniques? The problem is that they work until you get caught.

Please share your experiences in the comments. I’d love to hear what you’re going through.

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