Lee Odden

Spamming Social Media

The buzz amongst online marketers and bloggers about marketing with social media has generated a lot of interesting discussion. One of the memes I’ve been noticing is the issue of spamming social media. A particular aspect brought to my attention recently is the idea that by making it easier for users to bookmark or “vote” for content on social news and bookmarking services, perhaps by using our social bookmarks link tool, that it’s an invitation to spam.

There’s a difference between ease of submission and getting to the first page of a social news or bookmarking site, where the most benefit is. The communities of those social media sites provide a self policing effect against most types of SM spam. I agree, that making submissions easier may attract abuse, but it will be noise hanging at the bottom.

Any experienced search or social media marketer knows there are ways to initially “boost” articles on social media sites, but that can only go so far. In most cases, the articles hit the “popular” list (del.icio.us) or first page (Digg) based on merit, not manipulation. ie, it’s pretty tough to “fake” the number of votes required to get that kind of placement. And even if they are faked, there is the self policing editorial process of the community and algorithmic detection of “group voting”.

Example: A friend of mine let me know he posted to Digg a blog post I wrote recently, “Blogger Relations 101“. I took the initiative to then use the form Digg provides on it’s site to invite about 10 people to look at the article summary at Digg. Some of them voted, some of them did not. Within 3 hours the post hit the Digg front page after getting more than 150 votes. The post also hit the del.icio.us popular page with ZERO effort from me. Within 5-6 hours there were over 2500 new unique visitors to my blog all because of one blog post. New traffic continues to roll in. This article would not have gathered attention if it did not have merit.

Another angle on the use of social bookmarks is in the context of the social media press release format. However, social news and bookmark communities (at least now) are not prone to voting for press releases. They vote for articles in mainstream media, blog posts, web 2.0 applications or videos for the most part. This may change, especially as the new media press release format improves and gets used more often.

Anyone concerned about spamming social media should consider that social online communities have built in social and technical self policing mechanisms that are continually evolving. That doesn’t mean the system can’t be gamed, but it’s not exactly the wild west either. The success of social media is directly tied to the quality of content and user experience. Spamming social media directly contradicts that and users are quick to point it out and “bury” or “kill” efforts to do so.

In a way, it’s like spamming thought aggressive search engine optimization or press release spam. Results are short lived, if at all, risky and more often than not, not worth the trouble. Great optimized content is what drives long term value and results anyway. I think the same goes for social media, press releases or any other kind of content. What do you think?

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Lee Odden About Lee Odden

@LeeOdden is the CEO of TopRank Marketing and editor of Online Marketing Blog. Cited for his expertise by The Economist, Forbes and the Wall Street Journal, he’s the author of the book Optimize and presents internationally on integrated content, search, social media and influencer marketing. When not at conferences, consulting, or working with his talented team, he’s likely on a beach somewhere doing absolutely nothing.