Social Media Free For All Pages

It is fun to watch Tamar Weinberg and John Andrews write about social media. Largely because they are both firm in their beliefs, and they believe polar opposites. Tamar's piece covering the definition of social media marketers is uplifting and paints social media as friendships to be won rather than games to be played and people to be fooled. But bots and ad networks are amoral, and they control the production of much of the free content.

John's view of social media is a bit more cynical - highlighting quotes like this one:

In an age when most major media outlets are providing outrage-of-the-hour content, one should not be surprised that the community built around that is also comprised of illogical, emotionally charged drivel flavored with a smattering of generally useless regurgitated trivia posing as genuine information.

Digg is full of fake profiles, and so is MySpace. Early promoters of social media ask if it is becoming a vast wasteland. But at the core the questions nobody is asking are

Some animals are smart, but assuming a user is real why would they spend hours a day on a general purpose social media site unless they were getting something out of it? Entertainment has value, but trading votes gets old on day #2 (at the latest)! How low must a person value their time (or how poor must their self image and identity be) for them to spend so much time on sites painted by a collage of spam? If they are poor they are probably easy to buy off, so social media is just another way to buy exposure.

The news companies are fighting back against the free content by turning newspapers into something Jerry Springer would write, with a few advertorials sprinkled in to help offset lower ad revenues. A recent survey revealed "Nearly one in five (19 percent) of senior marketers admit their organizations bought ads on a news site in exchange for a news story."

It is hard to create a destination, become an icon, or build a brand if you are stuck on a large anonymous network. And spending too much time on such a network can warp your perception of reality by showing you the nasty side of anonymity. Add in a bit of desperate attention whoring coupled with endless reams of free recycled content and you have the perfect storm for creating The Tragedy of the Commons.

At best most large social media sites are an Amway-like pyramid scheme. Sure you can count uniques, but what's the point? Social media sites are a transitory vehicle used by newbies hoping to gain status and recognition, while professionals use them for marketing and link generation. Those who realize the game rarely waste time on social media sites beyond satisfying the criteria needed to manipulate them to achieve their goals.

The only difference between most social media sites and a traditional free for all page is votes. As social network spamming programs get cheaper and bots get smarter look for that difference to narrow.

Published: August 9, 2008 by Aaron Wall in marketing


August 9, 2008 - 7:44pm

Can't agree more. Sometimes I think these social media sites (especially Digg) don't have real users at all - it's all webmasters who pitch each other hoping to get some links, traffic and SE love.

August 10, 2008 - 7:27am

Totally agree with you about owning your own content. How can anyone spend hours daily filling up the databases at Facebook, Digg, etc... or Yahoo! Answers for that matter? Great plumbing there though. As a domainer, I'd like to use that plumbing under my own names, giving marketers and bloggers the option to publish on more relevant and attractive domains...

Wordpress MU is great, I've already started getting friends together under that instead of just opting for a Facebook group... much more personal and rewarding.

August 11, 2008 - 2:56pm

Although the profit minded will use Digg, Facebook, Stumbleupon and sites like that as stepping stones to something else, the vast majority of internet users are not profit minded.

Sigmund Freud discovered that the people of his time were hung up about sexual needs that they couldn't articulate. Heinz Kohut discovered in the 1970's that postmodern people are haunted by narcissistic needs that they're unable to turn into real accomplishments.

I know many members of Generation X who've failed to get traction in their careers who spend all of their time and energy on virual worlds. For instance, I have a friend who dropped out of school, failed on a number of major commitments, ended up owing everybody a lot of money, and then ended up being homeless. At this point she quit answering her phone. One day another friend of mine was wastoiding at the computer at our house, and I tell him, "You don't want to end up like L." and we realize that "L" can be found on Youtube, where she engages in endless arguments with fundamentalist Christians and fundamentalist Athiests. "L" wound up homeless for a while: her Youtube channel was good viewing then, because there was some real-life drama involved. Once "L" found a stable situation, I found that her rambling 10-minute videos were unwatchable: I couldn't stand to watch more than the first 20 seconds.

And that's just one case. I know a failed businessman who runs a large and successful mining corporation in an imginary galaxy far, far away -- and many others.

Social media, MMORPG's and similar services attract a population of losers: people who can't make it in real life, so they move into another reality. Facebook, Digg and similar sites have trouble getting ad revenue, because most losers don't have a lot of money. There's certainly a population of PPC artists who are taking advantage of cheap clicks to push dating, scam and spam sites to social media users, but that's not a situation that's going to last forever.

yet another ben
August 12, 2008 - 9:40am

I was just about to post a comment, but after reading CureDream's post, can't really add anything at all.

Great comment CureDream.

August 11, 2008 - 3:46pm

You know some times I think I am pretty pessimistic CureDream, but your comment just cheered me up by making me feel a bit more normal about how I perceive some of the things in and around the Internet marketing marketplace.

August 12, 2008 - 3:39am

I wonder that myself. With all those automated bots that create 100's of profiles a minute.

I wonder how many real & active profiles myspace really has after you crawl thru all the spam.

August 12, 2008 - 5:05pm

I'm not sure if I should cry or laugh after reading this post. We do appear to be looking up in the air at all the shiny coins waiting for what will drop first. If content is king, then we trust in the targeted audience to determine what will rise to the top. Our focus should be on developing unique content with better publishing tools, be it for personal or business gain. The posers will drop out and the social tools that provide something of value to our daily lives (convenience, disseminating & aggregating trust worthy information,) will remain.

August 12, 2008 - 6:31pm

"Those who realize the game rarely waste time on social media sites beyond satisfying the criteria needed to manipulate them to achieve their goals."

Ah, I'm seeing the exact opposite in some instances. Those who know the game are spending quite a bit of time manipulating their networks. So much so, that they've developed custom applications or use one of the many third party apps that are available. These are the Professionals. They have fine tuned their interaction with Social Media to the point where they are investing "some time" in the process.

There are many ways to skin a cat as they say. Social Media is the melting pot of it all. I've been doing some testing and research in this area recently and find Social Media to be an added benefit if used prudently and professionally.

I really don't care what you had for dinner or that you are Tweeting from the toilet. How about a link to your latest post or something else that you've read of interest? That's what I want to see.

Voting? < RIP please! That whole model is flawed and gamed to the nth degree. I hope one day the model dies its deserved death.

August 12, 2008 - 11:46pm

Funny that this discussion should come up. I just left a heated debate between Brent Csutoras and Eric Ward on the same subject.

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