A fat-load of Facebook likes? A twillion new Twitter followers? All yours in just a couple of hours.

For a small sum.

Last night’s Channel 4 Dispatches – ‘Celebs, Brands and Fake Fans’ – exposed the tricks used by marketing bods who pay ‘click farms’ to manipulate social media stats. And the celebs who receive free goodies and then tweet their undying ‘love’ for them.

That companies pay for their products to appear to be the next must-have item is not new. Advertisers and marketers have been doing it for ever. Brands have been slapped on to celebs for decades and publicists have worked hard to make sure their stars shine in all the right places.

All social networking sites are doing is catching up with the rest of the media. Or is it?

The tricky thing about social media is, it’s hard to control. Which is also what’s so great about it. When it’s used well, it gives people a voice (and thereby a power and influence) they wouldn’t otherwise have. This is amazing when the voice is given to those who genuinely deserve it. But not when all the power is with clammy marketing men.

Social media should be – you guessed it – social. Sociable. It should be for and about society and the people in it.

Real people. Trust. Authenticity.