Social media has matured, with consumers adopting social media in droves, making it a big business. Forrester reports that marketers will spend close to $3 billion this year on social media marketing, and with that kind of money comes a great deal of immediate corporate expectations. Authentically create fans? To hell with that, we want lots of "fans" and want them now. Who cares if they actually are fans (the kind that do not need to be bracketed within quotation marks)? In the war for fans, authenticity was the first casualty, and the weapons deployed were sweepstakes, giveaways, contests and social game freebies. Einstein Bagels gave every new Facebook fan a free bagel, and it garnered a 7,000% increase in Facebook fans in just three days; perhaps a few of these folks were already fans--in the true sense of the word--but the vast majority had no affinity for the brand and were simply bought with a $1.10 bagel. Gerber deployed a baby photo contest in which those who wanted to vote for a friend's or relative's baby were required to become fans of the brand, regardless of whether they ever purchased a product from or had any relationship with Gerber. And Farmers Insurance gave away a freebie to Farmville players and set "the Guinness World Record for most 'likes' in a 24-hour period." (Does anyone else feel a bit queasy realizing there is a Guinness World Record for collecting "fans" that have absolutely no relationship with the brand? I wonder if Bernie Madoff gets his name included in the Guinness book for tricking the largest number of people with a Ponzi scheme.) Weren't Facebook "fans" supposed to be authentic fans? According to the social media gurus, people who fanned a brand would be signalling their authentic affinity for it, and this genuine expression of brand love would ripple through trusted relationships in social networks, multiplying awareness and purchase intent from one consumer to the next to the next. This is not what happened for most brands, because most brands did not start with the most important thing: Fans with authentic affinity. Get the full story at Social Media Today