As social media becomes a mainstay in American culture, many companies are beginning to view their aggregation of Facebook “likes,” Twitter “retweets” and YouTube hits as a necessity. This has caused many businesses to begin purchasing artificial forms of engagement, something that may seem positive at first but ultimately has adverse effects, according to a study by Gartner, an analytical company.

“With over half of the internet’s population on social networks, organizations are scrambling for new ways to build bigger follower bases, generate more hits on videos, garner more positive reviews than their competitors and solicit ‘likes’ on their Facebook pages,” said Jenny Sussin, senior research analyst at Gartner. “Many marketers have turned to paying for positive reviews with cash, coupons and promotions including additional hits on YouTube videos in order to pique site visitors’ interests in the hope of increasing sales, customer loyalty and customer advocacy through social media ‘word of mouth’ campaigns.”

Gartner goes on to explain that many negative consequences often come from purchasing social media engagement. In fact, in 2009, the Federal Trade Commission decided that for a company to pay for positive reviews and not disclose that it does so counts as “deceptive advertising” and businesses are subject to the same ramifications.

Gartner says the best way for small businesses to fold social media into their internet marketing campaigns is by using it as a method to engage customers and reveal the person behind the brand.

By responding to negative reviews, posting questions on Facebook or Twitter and showing general interest in what a company’s customer’s have to say or feel, businesses will be most effective on these new platforms.

Companies that may be unsure on whether or how to use social media in their targeted internet marketing campaigns should partner with experienced digital advertising agencies that can help them implement these new strategies.