Beware the Phantom Social Media Agency

We’re going to tell you a little story, but if you follow @johnsonave or @kadydane on Twitter, you might already know how this ends. There is a moral to this story, and it is NOT dragging this company through the mud. Read through until the end and you’ll understand why this is such a big deal to digital and social media marketers in Edmonton.

While working on an Instagram campaign for a client the other night, Kady came across another Edmonton-based social media agency. For the purpose of this story and in a feeble attempt to be gracious, we debated for a millisecond about keeping this agency’s identity private, but you’ll see that the devil on our shoulder beat out the always-losing angel, and we’re going to include screenshots that include their name. They have since shut down their site and removed their social media accounts, but the internet never forgets.

Intrigued, as Kady usually is (she has a degree in criminology, after all), she clicked on their Instagram profile. Despite having only three Instagram posts, one post was an infographic that boasted 105 total clients. Wow - 105!?

Kady had that familiar twinge of jealousy in her gut, accompanied by the panic she feels when she perceives that we’re falling behind the competition, not doing enough, not growing quickly enough, you know. All of us in the biz have had that feeling. Instead of letting it eat her up inside as she sometimes does, she decided to click through to their website, where she found some troubling stuff.

It appeared that the “clients” listed on their site are nothing more than plug-and-play design template logos from an application like Canva or PicMonkey.

They purported to provide Search Engine Optimization services, but a quick Google search for their company name turned up nothing on page 1, 2, or 3. Instead, you’ll see the names of some familiar, legitimate agencies doing great work in this city. Furthermore, their page titles were a mess, which is usually a dead giveaway that the company knows nothing about SEO.

Their social media accounts contained only three graphic images, and their followers were mostly bots. Not very impressive for a company that claims to be specialists in social media.

And the worst part, “Ashley Chong”, an apparent employee of this company, is a stock photo model on titled “Asian young business woman”. Wonderful.

Kady informed Avery about this company because something seemed fishy, and Avery immediately took it to Twitter:

The company in question came back with this:

The conversation would have stopped here if they hadn’t tweeted out that graphic claiming to have 105 clients and 98 site launches (with only 4 employees, to boot), but no evidence as to who those clients might be. Maybe they were actually working on their website, but why tweet/Instagram out a graphic that claims to include “Fun Facts” that are designed to make your company look successful?

So, the conversation continues:

Side note: This company shamed Avery for her foul mouth immediately following this tweet, and Avery profusely apologizes for being real af. #sorrynotsorry

Ok, so why do we care so much about calling out companies like this on social media, and why did the Edmonton social media community (our competitors) rally behind us? Are we just big meanies, or does this have a greater purpose?

The reason we care so much is because there are too many people out there that think that they can call themselves social media experts and just “do” social media marketing for businesses. And it is VERY easy for people to lie about previous successes to make their business look more legitimate than it actually is (apparently).

In reality, social media marketing is a very real niche of marketing that requires a TON of hard work and expertise in order to be successful. And companies that pop up purporting to be something they are not just contribute to making REAL marketers look less credible. And the worst part? When these sham companies aren’t able to provide tangible return on their investment, their clients will often claim that social media just doesn’t work and they will give up on it altogether. That sucks for everyone.

We’re hoping this comes across less as sour grapes and more as a warning to businesses searching for social media expertise. If a company doesn’t boast about the real people behind their brand, how to find those people on social media, and how great they are with specific, verifiable examples, that’s strike one. If you can’t find any of their clients listed on their site with a quick Google search, that’s strike two. If they’re making up employees with stereotypical stock photos to ensure racial diversity for their fake agency, know where we’re going with this.

So in short, when looking for an agency, do your homework. Have a preliminary in person meeting, or by video call. Research the people behind the agency. Have they proven themselves in this industry before deciding on a whim to start up a business? Ask who specifically will be managing your account. Read your contract thoroughly. If you get a weird feeling about an agency or a sales pitch, your gut is probably right.

At Kaden Ave Communications, we’re up front about who we are, we love to sit down with you over coffee, and we only want to work with clients if both we and the client feel it’s a perfect fit. No high-pressure pitches, no sketchy client lists, no resume padding, and certainly, no fake stock photo employees.

Real photo, fake brows. Also, note the cell phone and wine glass one-handed balancing act, the true mark of a real social media marketer.

If you want to know more about who we really are, check out our About Us page. If you want to see samples of our work, follow us on Instagram or view our Client Portfolio.

And if you don’t like us in particular and don’t want to work with us, there are tons of REALLY talented digital marketers in Edmonton that we would be more than happy to refer you to. In fact, here’s a Twitter thread that lists a large number of them.

Thanks for reading, and for joining in on the conversation!

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