Posted by Melanie Phung on Tuesday, July 8, 2008 at 1:39 pm
You don’t see me posting about “how to do social media” a lot because I think it’s one of those things that gets talked about to death by so-called social media marketers who seem to think their job is to win a popularity contest on the likes of Digg, Twitter, Sphinn, etc, as if that were the ends instead of the means. Anyone with profiles on these sites seems to think that having managed to drum up a few votes about some article somewhere somehow qualifies them to be a social media marketer, despite often having absolutely no idea what the “marketing” piece of the puzzle entails. As long as you can blah blah blah about using top 10 lists to get popular on Digg (usually just copying someone else’s blah blah blah), you’re somehow an expert.
One of the worst trends I’m seeing in social media is using social media sites to blatantly promote stuff on other social media site (which is usually promoting something else). Here’s a great example: http://sphinn.com/story/53302
What’s going on here: Sphinn is a social media site devoted to online marketing stories – it votes up stories that are particularly interesting or educational on topics in that niche. Sphinn user BrentCsutoras submitted a page from Digg. Digg is a social media site where users vote on interesting stories on all manner of topics (with a lot of focus on odd humor, technology, politics — and it is known for being very unfriendly to SEOs). The page that was submitted on Digg (to the Travel section??) points to a Sphinn submission from user AnkitRawat – with this description: “Yes this is true .. Mozzers got there Webs2.0 page back into Google index !! Congratulations rand for this achievement.” This page (the one submitted to Digg) is a page on Sphinn, which happens to be a submission of a page on AnkitRawat’s own blog, which is a 3-sentence summary of a comment on an article on SEOmoz.org.
Brent was pointing on the Digg page as an example of what not to do, so let’s cut that part of the equation out and dissect the rest:
AnkitRawat blogged about a post on SEOmoz.org, which is great if he thinks this is of value to his readers. Rather than repeating someone else’s post or talking at length about something to which there isn’t much to add, he writes a quick summary. So far, so good, except that he doesn’t link to the original.
Rather than simply going to Sphinn, seeing that the SEOmoz article was already submitted and voting for it and leaving it at that, the user then submits his own 3-sentence summary of the primary source to Sphinn. Not only do most social communities not like submissions of derivative work, showing a preference for the original source, but they really don’t like it if the derivative work doesn’t have any meat to it whatsoever.
Understandably, that Sphinn submission only got a few votes. Rather than take that as a sign that the community just isn’t that interested in the story, the author/submitter then goes to Digg to submit, not his original article, but the page showing his submission on Sphinn. Presumably the goal of submitting to Digg was not to drive up views on his own blog but to increase the vote count on the Sphinn community.
The problem, of course, is several fold: People don’t like following a MĆ¶bius strip of links into a dizzying vortex of self-referential self-promotion, so it’s simply understood that you don’t submit links of social media submissions to other social media sites. Two, Digg users aren’t interested in the topic of whether some page they didn’t care about in the first place had its PageRank dropped and reinstated. Three, Digg users really don’t like SEOs, so any post that simply congratulates SEOs on managing to salvaging their Google PageRank is not just going to be of interest to no one, it’s probably also going to piss those users off.
So what did submitting a Sphinn submission of a 3-sentence summary of an update to someone else’s blog post to Digg actually accomplish (except maybe give more ammo to Digg users who already think SEOs are scummy spammers)?
Here’s what’s even crazier about that little story (and dare I use the word “ironic”) – if you take a look at the original article, it’s indirectly about the Web 2.0 awards, which were already the topic of a big “moral of the story” discussion regarding how Digg doesn’t like self-congratulatory SEOs, prompted by the failure of the Web 2.0 awards to make it big on Digg (the latter link is worth a read for actual technical SEO info).
A few of the lessons I enumerated about that story, lessons that apparently bear reposting, included these:
- Know your audience, what they like or dislike
- News Flash: most regular social media consumers don’t like SEOs
- Don’t go all “I’m part of the cool kids club and know the inside jokes”. It doesn’t make you look cool to strangers, it’s actually a big turn-off.
- Practice what you preach – if you’re a social media professional who advises clients on how to engage with communities, be respectful in your non-client interactions with those communities as well
So what are the lessons that can be applied outside of the Sphinn community to the broader world of wanna-be social media practitioners?
- Know your audience, what they like or dislike
- People don’t like blatant marketing or self-promotion
- Pulling the “I’m part of the cool kids club” routine doesn’t make you look cool to outsiders. Worse, if you’re not actually part of the cool kids club, the real members of the cool kids clique make fun of you too.
- Know when to back off – you can only promote yourself (or promotions of promotions of yourself) so much. If no one bites, leave it alone.
- Only submit actual stories to social media sites; don’t submit submissions of stories on other sites
In that same comment, I also pointed out:
There’s a tendency to operate in an echo chamber where everyone pats everyone else on the back for being part of the club. On the one hand, it’s great because it’s overall a very friendly and welcoming group. But it also has a tendency to be a little too self congratulatory. Every once in a while we need a wake up call that reminds us that SEO/sphinn/etc isn’t the “real world.
Certainly, this issue isn’t limited to the online marketing community; it happens in a lot of micro-communities. People forget that the just because their group cares passionately about something (even if it’s that they care about each other), the rest of the world doesn’t, nor should it have to. The greater irony is not only that we as marketers should know better, but also that we’re the first to point this out to our clients.
The reason it bothers me when this echo chamber pervades in my little world is that we spend so much time talking about marketing, and marketing marketing, and striving to dominate social media, that there’s no longer any there there.
Instead of trying to become great marketers, so many marketers fall all over themselves to become “A-list bloggers” – as if that were an end in and of itself.
Or as Gaping Void doodles so succinctly:
What happened to the products and services? What happened to substance? What happened to results and ROI? There are a lot of people for whom the whole concept of marketing on the Web isn’t actually proven yet — so let’s prove that we add value and that we’re not really just goofing off on the Web all day.
I, for one, welcome the day this unfortunate trend reverses and we get back to doing our jobs — in most cases that does not involve marketing social media platforms to other online marketers, or poking at our navels.
Category: Social Media
Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.