Have you heard of black hat SEO (unscrupulous search engine optimization), which will supposedly help get your website to the top of Google? While getting your website to the top of Google can be enticing, in the long run black hat tactics can get your website banned entirely from Google. In other words, this is not a practice you should employ. Unfortunately, there are now also black hat marketing vendors for Facebook Business Pages.

This week I witnessed a Facebook Business Page fan count grow by over 1,500+ likes in less than a few hours. How can that be? Must be some rock star dental or medical practice right? Not. Rather, this practice was taken. Perhaps a firm promised this practice that it could have hundreds, if not thousands of Facebook fans in no time. No talking to patients, no email campaigns, no worries, just add water and poof, you’ve got thousands of fans. Okay, you really don’t even need to add water, I just put that in to add some humor to what I think is a sad situation.

Why do business owners think they need to have hundreds or thousands of fans to be relevant? The truth is that a few dozen real fans will far outvalue a zillion fake fans. One of the main reasons to have a Facebook community is to share the authentic human side of your practice—and to grow relationships and trust. Most importantly your Page should allow potential new patients to learn about you through genuine interaction with other real people.

Consider this: A potential new patient is deciding between you and another practice. In reviewing each of your Facebook Pages, which do you think will make the best impression—testimonials and comments from real local people or those from people with obviously fake accounts based in far away locations? Fake likes, fake endorsements and fake accounts can damage your online reputation and repel potential new patients. I suspect these practices will also send flags to Facebook, which could put your account at risk of closure. Why risk this happening? Is it ego or ignorance that motivates people to employ black hat strategies? I don’t know.

The key thing to understand is, if you have to buy likes, your practices’ Facebook reputation is built upon a pathetic house of cards. On the other hand, grow your community with integrity, through honest word of mouth and ethical tactics, and you will find your Facebook Page to represent the high standards your practice likely already embraces.

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