All About Content

Using Social Media to Promote Social Media Promoting Crap About Nothing

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.

Blah Blah Blah

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:

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

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, 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.

Social Media Moebius

The problem, of course, is several fold: People don’t like following a Mƶbius 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.

Comments (32)

Category: Social Media


Comment by Syzlak

Made Tuesday, 8 of July , 2008 at 4:02 pm


Comment by Rebecca Kelley

Made Wednesday, 9 of July , 2008 at 1:27 am

What Syzlak said.

Comment by Pragya Narang

Made Wednesday, 9 of July , 2008 at 3:45 am

RocSearch, the UK-based research & analytics firm has recently released a research study on ā€?Leveraging Social Media for Brandsā€™. The study showcases the social media eco-system, its drivers & imperatives while detailing cases of brand successes and failures attempting to harness the power of this medium. For a complementary copy of the study, visit

Comment by Melanie Phung

Made Wednesday, 9 of July , 2008 at 9:53 am

Comment by Melanie Phung

Made Wednesday, 9 of July , 2008 at 9:54 am

Comment by Melanie Phung

Made Wednesday, 9 of July , 2008 at 9:56 am

Comment by Melanie Phung

Made Wednesday, 9 of July , 2008 at 10:10 am

Thank you Hack, Streko, Syzlak, Anonymous Dead Rapper, One-Pac, thinkingserious, SeoMyVideo, Rebecca Kelley, Status Girl for digging, stumbling, twittering, mixxing or otherwise showing support or adding seriously deep and valuable insights into the conversation.

Comment by streko

Made Wednesday, 9 of July , 2008 at 11:07 am

also don’t forget i submitted the Digg article to Mixx

Comment by ONE-PAC

Made Wednesday, 9 of July , 2008 at 11:41 am

you give good blog.

Comment by Presidents Race: Let Teddy Win!

Made Wednesday, 9 of July , 2008 at 12:09 pm


I have talked to SEOs who Digg every new page just as a shortcut to getting it quickly indexed by Google, but frankly if you have built a good site in the first place you shouldn’t have that need.

No, as you’ve said many times, it’s all about content.

Comment by Alexorella

Made Wednesday, 9 of July , 2008 at 3:36 pm

Great article and hilarious reaction. In a professional industry I love, I’m often frustrated by how much it eats itself.

Comment by Tamar Weinberg

Made Thursday, 10 of July , 2008 at 3:52 pm

haha, that Ankit kid is such an interesting character. But moving along. My thought would be to submit this story to Digg and then have it submitted to Sphinn…

… oh wait. 🙂

Thanks Melanie! You put a smile on my face!

Comment by pageoneresults

Made Monday, 14 of July , 2008 at 5:17 pm

Hey, where’s all the Chiclets at? You’re my heroess!

The 21st Century Guestbook

Comment by Doug Heil

Made Monday, 14 of July , 2008 at 5:43 pm

Hi Melanie, I just discovered your blog when a forum member sent this to me. You will be in my reading now. Nice stuff. You pointed out that some SEO’s use digg, etc only to get pages indexed in Google. I feel this is the exact reason that social sites will stop being useful for SEO types in the very near future…. at least I would hope so.

Comment by g1smd

Made Monday, 14 of July , 2008 at 5:48 pm

*** AnkitRawat blogged about a post on, which is great if he thinks this is of value to his readers. Rather than repeating someone elseā€™s post or talking at length about something to which there isnā€™t much to add, he writes a quick summary. So far, so good, except that he doesnā€™t link to the original. ***

I have had to send a cease and desist to this person for wholesale copying of my content; exact duplication with no attribution or mention of the source. The post was presented as if it were his own work.

Before that happened, I liked reading some of the articles on that blog. However, the content theft, from me, a month or two back, opened my eyes to the fact that everything there is copied or recycled. I’ve not been back since.

I have low regard for the scummier end of everything that claims to be social media.

Comment by Phoenix SEO

Made Monday, 14 of July , 2008 at 6:35 pm

While, I do agree with much of what you say, it is very difficult to discuss SEO or Internet marketing without sounding like everyone else. I work very hard to write about how these thing affect us and our clients. I believe this helps, but in the end it’s the same old same.

Comment by Jane

Made Tuesday, 15 of July , 2008 at 11:25 am

I have to clear one thing up before more people decide that I’m an idiot who doesn’t know anything about social media marketing. I agree that our Web 2.0 Awards didn’t make it on Digg for all the reasons cited here and elsewhere. There is no question about that. I also, however, feel bad that people who supported us have been routinely told off and belittled for the comments they made and the things they submitted to other sites. As misguided as any of those actions were, it isn’t good social media marketing to berate them for it, either.

Comment by Melanie Phung

Made Tuesday, 15 of July , 2008 at 12:55 pm

@Tamar – if I made just one or two people smile, I accomplished what I set out to.

@pageoneresults – Chiclets? I don’t need no stinkin’ chiclets! haha. Most of my stuff isn’t appropriate for the likes of Digg and such, and up until very recently this site was banned from Sphinn, so there wasn’t really any point to encouraging people to submit to those sites. If there’s a way to activate those buttons only on posts I thought had a shot at being popular, I might do that, but I hate seeing them on every post, even the throw-away ones.

@Doug – Hi, thanks for stopping by. Not sure I agree, but it’s probably a longer discussion than I want to go into during the comments.

@g1smd – I felt bad for pretty much calling this user out and implying he was a tool, but based on what you’re saying it sounds like it goes way beyond that. Sorry to hear that.

@Phoenix SEO – wow, I really disagree with your assertion. If you honestly think it’s not possible to write stuff that doesn’t sound just like everyone else’s, you ought not be publishing. IMHO.

@Jane – I don’t think anyone has ever implied (here at least) that you’re an idiot. I respect the work SEOMoz does — heck, I even tried to hire you guys once, but you didn’t want my tens of thousands of dollars 🙂 And, to be blunt, as much as the Moz fanboys sometimes irritate me, I’m not belittling them either. There’s only one character in the above saga whom I go so far as to criticize — and I did feel kind of bad about that. He, however, isn’t really “supporting” you as much as he’s shamelessly promoting himself… with content stolen from other people, apparently, if folks like g1smd are to be believed.

Comment by DazzlinDonna

Made Tuesday, 15 of July , 2008 at 2:59 pm

Loved this article. I had a hunch you were a good egg, and now I know my hunch was right. 😀 Good one.

Comment by streko

Made Tuesday, 15 of July , 2008 at 3:03 pm

what’s an “seomoz” ?

Comment by Garrett Pierson

Made Tuesday, 15 of July , 2008 at 3:40 pm

Great post and totally agree there there is a lot of Blah, BLah, Blah out there can’t say that it was never my crap but I try to give great content!!!

Comment by Jane

Made Tuesday, 15 of July , 2008 at 4:00 pm

@Melanie I’m referring to the perception that I disagreed with the statement that poor social media etiquette helped the story’s burial on Digg. The issue began elsewhere and I’d never addressed my opinion on the matter, which apparently fueled this assumption. I wasn’t going to address it at all, but since it was linked to here today, I decided to add my thoughts. I’ve added them on SEOmoz as well, citing that I commented here first 🙂

Comment by Jaan Kanellis

Made Tuesday, 15 of July , 2008 at 7:26 pm

rah, rah, rah. This is just as bad as finding search results within Google results.

Comment by Melanie Phung

Made Tuesday, 15 of July , 2008 at 9:19 pm

You know, depending on the site, I don’t always find indexed site search results within the Google index to be that annoying; sometimes they provide what I’m looking for. Social media submissions of other social media submissions = always annoying.

Comment by streko

Made Tuesday, 15 of July , 2008 at 9:32 pm

once again, wtf is a SEOMoz?

Comment by Matt Davies

Made Wednesday, 16 of July , 2008 at 10:39 am

Awesome article. Stumbled and Tumbled. It’s SO true how back-slapping the peeps in this industry are – I sometimes wonder how some of them find time to get work done, they’re so busy re-writing each other’s stuff and then congratulating themselves for it.

Comment by g1smd

Made Wednesday, 16 of July , 2008 at 3:14 pm

*** whatā€™s an ā€?SEOmozā€¯ ? ***

Ever tried typing that word into Google?

Thought not. 🙂

Comment by Elizabeth Able

Made Thursday, 17 of July , 2008 at 9:39 pm

A friend of a tweet who plurks said I should read this post, and I was busy, and then a friend, and another friend of a friend who sphinns asked the same thing. Then, a minute ago someone shot me a message saying: have you read Melanie’s post yet? After a moment, during which I was fed a direct link, I landed on your blog and started to read one post, and then another, and now you’ve been stumbled.

Ya got the goods, and social media plus a few well socialized individuals got me here. See? We’re not all convoluted flufftarts. 😉

Thanks for the post. I shall return and read more. You rock.

Comment by streko

Made Friday, 18 of July , 2008 at 12:29 pm

wtf is a “g1smd”?


Comment by llcobb

Made Friday, 18 of July , 2008 at 10:01 pm

This was a great post Melanie. Thanks for taking the time to write it.

Comment by Melanie Phung

Made Monday, 21 of July , 2008 at 1:07 pm

LOL @ “flufftarts” – When I first read that comment, I thought you wrote “flufftards” which would have been awesome, but tarts is good too. Makes me want to change the headline to include it.

Thanks for the comments everyone, and for the support against the SU troll.

Comment by otimizaēćo de sites

Made Monday, 30 of March , 2009 at 5:18 pm

It´s funny when people consider themselves social media marketer just because they use that kind of media. But only fews get results, like buzz, in social media.

Great article!

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