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David Smith takes issue with a dodgy Twitter campaign that attempted to make his toy news site, Toy Talk, tweet about the slightly unrelated world of insurance services.

It’s a jungle out there

The internet is an incredible tool for business and the time is long past when you could ignore the benefits of having your own website, whether to sell your products directly to the public or just to raise awareness of them.

Social media has brought new ways to promote your business, but there are potential pitfalls.

An ill-judged tweet can cause real damage, while it’s very easy to fall foul of Google’s rules if you try to boost your site’s search rankings.

Pay an SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) specialist to boost your site in the listings and you can really get into trouble – Google doesn’t like paid-for links and hates keyword stuffing.

Stray too far from Google’s guidelines into the territory of ‘black hat SEO’, and you risk getting removed from the search results, effectively a death sentence for a website.

This makes it vitally important to be careful with your company’s hard-won online reputation, and while Twitter may seem like a more lawless place with no Google to patrol it, you still have your reputation to uphold.

This makes it all the more disturbing to be contacted by a major company like John Lewis to help promote insurance services.

John Lewis Insurance, it appears, has been running a ‘Your Toy Story’ campaign, which focuses on classic toys like the teddy bear and the Rubik’s Cube.

What this has to do with insurance is unclear (I’m being polite – it has nothing to do with insurance), but an SEO account executive working with John Lewis recently asked me to put an article on the Rubik’s Cube on
ToyTalk and then tweet about it (as well as posting to Facebook), making sure to “retweet John Lewis Insurance a couple of times during the course of the campaign”.

I declined the generous offer of £100 for this. Why would a toy news website want to tweet about insurance services, and what would it say about ToyTalk?

Our followers might have thought I’d sold out (believe me, it would take more than £100 for me to sell out – at least twice as much, in fact) and a little bit of ToyTalk’s reputation would have been chipped away.

The online world can be a bit of a jungle, and it’s all too easy to take a wrong path and find yourself lost in the murky depths.

I wouldn’t have expected John Lewis to be beckoning me down one of those wrong paths.

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