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Sock puppet marketing is the practice of using a manufactured or false identity to create a buzz or to otherwise promote a company or its products and services. This kind of practice might relate to the use of Web domains and websites, social media platforms, or other venues for online communication.
In its most basic sense, sock puppet marketing involves communications that are not clear and transparent. A company may create a so-called artificial mouthpiece or spokesperson for its products and services. In social media, sock puppet marketing may involve trying to create the illusion that individual Web users are making their own positive reviews of products or services when, in fact, it is people who work for the company.
While sock puppet marketing can be extremely effective, experts point out that many kinds of sock puppet marketing are unethical, and could even lead to legal liability. Consumer advocates and others promote transparency in advertising, and straightforward presentation of a company and its products and services. Many associate the term sock puppet marketing with deceptive media campaigns or projects.
Sock puppet marketing could look like the following scenario:
Suppose that a company wants to get a message out to a target audience. The company creates a blog, making it look as if it was created by a single user. A name is made up for that user, who is characterized as a regular consumer with no special links to the company. The company then uses this blog to promote products and services. This is associated with the idea of using an "Internet shill" or an individual user who disguises their affiliation with a company or a product line.
These and other types of advertising are often looked at critically by groups and agencies with an interest in promoting fair marketing practices.