Over the last 6 months, I have entrenched myself deep into the aspect of Social Media. If used correctly, this can be one of the most dynamic sources for finding and sharing great content that is spread throughout the Internet. However, just like any other thing that is a good and useful tool, this too can be "gamed" and it currently is.
There are a lot of people that will swear by Digg, Reddit, Twitter, Stumble Upon, Mixx, Blinklist, Mister Wong, Facebook, MySpace, and on and on. The problem with these networks is that you can easily move garbage in and out of the system and get instant traffic. What typically happens in the Social Media network is a user inputs their articles and shares them with their friends. In most cases, the friends take your word for it being quality and then they share it with theirs and so on. Basically, in a sense, this is the same mentality that MLM employs.
In preparing to write this article, I did a little research. My first research led me to an article on Marketing & Strategy Innovation Blog. On this blog there is an article that is entitled Why MLM Will Kill Twitter (Hint: Because They Have a Business Model) that is written by Karl Long. In a nutshell, Karl ran a test on twitter and found this to be true on Twitter. If you have the time, I would definitely take the time to read the article.
The way that I got to this article was through Dan Thornton. Due to having my name, I always get his Google alerts. Dan is the author of TheWayoftheWeb and a social media guru. Dan is a big player in Twitter as well and can be found using the nickname badgergravling. If you want to be following someone that will give you quality information that you can learn from, then I recommend 'friending" him today. I asked Dan to respond to the following quote:
Social Media sites like Stumble Upon, Digg, Reddit, and Twitter have a MLM mentality when it comes to sharing. Instead of people reading the content to verify that the message is true and legit, they simply spam it to the world thinking that their friends will do the same for them. In essence, this is the model of MLMs.
In answering that, this is the response that Dan sent back to me:
I think in broad strokes this is essentially true. People are building up ever increasing networks made up of those they know and trust, so any messages that find their way into the network already have an implicit level of trust put in them.
Add in the fact that the networked world means that most people, particularly those specializing in online marketing and networking are time-starved and dealing with a lot of information coming into them, and it's easy to see why many people will take a message on face value, without identifying whether the source or content is valid.
There's also the desire for many people to be able to spread their own network and influence, and a temptation to believe that simply by repeating whatever is sent their way, their own messages will be instantly broadcast by the same people by return.
My own suspicion is that this will get worse for a while, as any new opportunity for people to be able to spread spam type messages will always be exploited - but that people will slowly adapt to cope with the influx of information in better ways, and to identify what is valid more quickly - for instance, guerrilla marketing on forums has become something which is usually quickly identified on many forums, due to the experience of it happening so often - particularly in video game forums for example.
People in general are also beginning to realize that the size of their network is less important than the influence - for instance, the difference between 20,000 Myspace friends who never communicate and 2000 friends on Twitter constantly conversing - and will therefore start deleting, blocking or ignoring those who bring little value except spamming messages solely about their blog, product or marketing pitch - certainly I'm loathe to add or follow anyone whose links always go to a one page sales pitch for a new marketing technique which guarantees money and success (if that really was the case, these people wouldn't need to be advertising in the first place, and we wouldn't see so many people making marketing mistakes online!).
In both the article and Dan's emailed response, it is evident that people are gaming the system as we speak. I encountered many people that are paid to submit, promote, or distribute content. Call them what you may, but all in all, they are basically paid spammers.
As important as you feel it is to get the message out that you are writing, it is just as important to make sure that the content of what you are writing is valid. The last thing that you want to happen is for an article to go viral in any of these systems that is not credible. The outcome can be damaging to your ego and your Internet integrity.
Last night, my business partner Rich Dansereau wrote the article What Does Your Web Presence Say? and I think that it can go hand in hand with this very article. It would be worth taking the time to read it as well.