Please, readers – can I have your attention down here! Yes, down here, please.
I originally started this blog with the intent of chronicling my experiences launching a cloud-based startup in the structural engineering domain. Lately I’ve met only half of that promise, producing lots of articles about different facets of structural engineering, but very few in the area of internet startups. (It may be some kind of aversion-bias, based on the fact that the former – structural engineering – is so much easier than successfully pulling off a cloud-based startup.) Therefore I feel that this article, imparting wisdom that I’ve gained in the startup arena, is long overdue.
Social media – yes, we are all familiar with social media as a personal communication tool. But social media is also often the lifeblood of a startup, which is forced to market its products and services to the world under the restriction of a limited budget. I could talk to you about how we at CloudCalc have managed to create a social media marketing program that has delivered an average of 3,000 monthly visitors to our site at almost no cost. (Yes I realize that 3,000 visitors per month is not a huge number for an internet startup, but consider – this is engineering software after all! So actually we are doing very well.) I could pass on tips and pointers — on the most effective platforms that we have found, the best times to post, the geographic areas and demographic groups that we target, etc. But why reproduce that here, there are many books that provide that type of information. (Personally, I started in the world of social media marketing by reading Profitable Social Media Marketing: How to Grow Your Business Using Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn and More by Tim Kitchen.)
But I am here today to tell you about another aspect of social media marketing for internet startups, an aspect that you may not hear about anywhere else. Did you know, that since I have posted my status as founder of CloudCalc, Inc. in my LinkedIn profile and initiated my social media campaign, I have been besieged by models (both “super” and otherwise), beauty queens, and otherwise attractive young ladies on a near weekly basis? (At this point I would like to suggest that my female readers simply reverse the terms man/woman, he/she, etc. in this article from here on.) Yes this is so. I now can count among my vast network of LinkedIn connections (I focus solely on LinkedIn in this article because it has been far more effective than the other social media platforms in both marketing CloudCalc, and hooking up with beauty queens) an array of models from all parts of the earth. Sometimes it gets to the point where I feel like the virtual version of Tom Brady or Justin Verlander, hanging with the A-Listers Gisele and Kate.
How do I get approached? It usually comes in an innocuous form – as an invitation to connect with a woman with some bland name (sounding like it came from a random name generator), in the position of a low- to medium-level manager at a telemarketing company. Oh and did I mention, with a glamour photo that clearly calls out “supermodel”? That’s when I start to think that the bland name and position must be some sort of secret identity. That’s when I often decide to take up the challenge of discovering Ms. Bland’s true alter ego.
One of my earliest requests for LinkedIn friendship, shortly after launching CloudCalc, turned out to be from none other than the beauty queen Miss Romania herself! I had recently learned to use Chrome’s “Search Google for Image” feature and turned up that “Sally Smith”, Team Leader at “Consolidated Sales Outreach” was secretly Ms. Bianca Fanu, Miss World Romania, 2014. (Personally I am surprised that her LinkedIn profile was for a telemarketer, because the intensive research that I did on Ms. Fanu showed that she was actually a medical student.)
I must have held up my end of the LinkedIn friendship with Miss Romania, because as soon as word got around, I also received connection requests from a Ukrainian model, Miss Turkey, and Alexandria Morgan, dubbed by some as “the next Kate Upton”. The strange thing was that, even though these women all came from very different backgrounds, they all were moonlighting (under aliases for some reason) in telemarketing (I thought these women all spent their off-hours “working for World Peace”). The other strange thing is that, according to their LinkedIn profiles, they all inexplicably shared knowledge of Tagalog as a second language!
I would never imply that my life now as a founder of a cloud-based startup is all supermodels and beauty queens. I also receive my share of connection requests from many professional business women, who also happen to be models. How do I know they are “professional” or “business women”? From their LinkedIn endorsements? Of course not, those endorsements are too subjective. I know these women are “professional” and “business women” because that is often the exact title of the photo that I find on some stock photo site after I do my Google image search. Although these women may not be supermodels, they certainly are models — since they did pose for these stock photos. Although maybe not up to the A-List standards of their super-colleagues, they do seem to be usually just as well versed in the Tagalog language.
Running a startup I’ve found that I don’t really have time for all of these online relationships with models (“super” or no) and beauty queens, so lately I’ve begun nipping these connection requests in the bud. If you are also experiencing this problem, here is my advice on how to identify a profile of a supermodel working under an alias:
- Is the position a low- to mid-level manager at a telemarketing organization?
- Use the Google Image Search function to identify other online occurrences of the picture. This will show you who the photo really belongs to…whether celebrity, stock photo, or advertising fill stolen from some web site.
- Check the number of connections on the profile. The profile may show a reasonably long work record (5-7 years or so), but – if you get to the profile quickly after receiving your invite – there may be only 20 connections or so, indicating a very recently created profile.
- Return to the profile an hour later, and if the number of connections has climbed to 500+, it indicates two things: 1) she sent out an awful lot of connection requests at the same time she sent yours (sorry, you are not special), and 2) lots of people (read “guys”) will “friend” a pretty face without doing any due diligence.
- Check out her connections – most likely they will be all men.
- Compare the name (usually some bland Anglo-sounding name) to the educational history (usually some US college) to the work location (usually some US city) to the language skills (Tagalog? Really?).
- Return to the profile an hour later, and often — thank you, LinkedIn — the profile will be deleted as Spam.
For fun, and to test your skill with Google Image Search, I present the photos of a few recent connection requests. See if you can identify their secret identities (answers revealed below)!
(Note all photos courtesy of LinkedIn requests):
A B C
D E F
G H I
A – “Gorgeous Filipina” (on many dating sites)
B – “Business Woman” (Stock photo on dozens of web sites)
C – “Woman’s Work Jacket” (Stock photo on dozens of sites)
D – “Blond Businesswoman” (Stock photo)
E – “Kurdish Girl”
F — “Miss Aviation, Philippines” (Beauty contest)
G – “Miss Turkey, Merve Buyuksarac”
H – “Pretty Finnish Girl” (On lots and lots of sites)
I – “Filipina Beauty Contestant, Maria Theresa Gorgoni”
OK, maybe these profiles are fictitious, and Miss Romania is not really trolling social media sites looking for startup founders. If so, what’s the game?
I’ve read a couple of articles that warn that fictitious profiles are used to steal the contact data of legitimate LinkedIn users in order to contact those users; but to tell the truth, that sounds about as dangerous as “stealing” somebody’s business card in order to call them!
My theory? Marketing! Isn’t the 5th “P” of marketing “Packaging”? Research probably shows that there are plenty of men who are happy to give business to an attractive young woman (as, I am sure there are women happy to give business to attractive young men). It is not until after the contract is signed that the businessman discovers that his account will not be managed by the supermodel who contacted him, but rather by some homely guy with a bad personality.
So what’s the ultimate purpose of my writing this article? OK, so maybe I was fooled when I thought I had been friended by a string of supermodels. But all of this was not for naught, since it did teach me something useful:
- Men clicked on these invites to fictitious LinkedIn profiles to the tune of 100s per hour, because…
- Social media content headlined by a picture of an attractive woman attracts a lot of clicks…
- Hey! Why don’t I try something like that? It’s called marketing!
So let’s see how many clicks this article gets!
Doing some social media marketing? Don’t forget to add a picture of a supermodel. Designing a structure? Don’t forget to use CloudCalc, the scalable, collaborative, cloud-based structural engineering software. www.cloudcalc.com – Structural Analysis in the Cloud.
By Tom Van Laan
Copyright © CloudCalc, Inc. 2016