seems to be a lot of misconception that social media marketing isn’t ethical.
Almost daily, I come across bloggers who denounce SMM as spam or suggest that
social media marketers are poisoning the community well. In reality, they either
aren’t properly educated or perhaps only see the "bad apples" of social media
It is something that was recently brought to light again with the whole Jason
This whole gaming of digg/Netscape/MySpace is being called SMO–social
media optimization. That’s the worst thing I’ve ever heard of. Anyone who
hires an SMO firm is an idiot. The whole point of social media is TO BE REAL
NOT FAKE!!! Just be yourself and participate… that’s all it takes (and note,
participation is not just putting in your own links, it’s voting/commenting
on/submitting other people’s content too!).
In Danny Sullivan’s
rebuttal to Jason, he touched on the ethics of social media marketing and
why it’s not all bad like everyone seems to think:
DO NOT make the mistake you’ve already made with SEOs and start out wrong
with the social media optimization crowd. That group can help encourage and
support social media search engines in the same way that many SEOs already
serve as an active, engaged, non-gaming support structure for the major search
It seems that some people have blinders on and can’t see past the marketers
who are spamming. They don’t realize that in addition to the spammers, there are
an equal amount of those of us who are working with companies to create and
promote valuable content to the community in an ethical way. We help create
content that provides real worth, whether it’s a funny viral video submitted to
YouTube for entertainment or a good article submitted to Digg.
Those shouting from their soapboxes that it’s just about "being real" and
"creating good content" imply that if you promote content, even in an ethical
way, it’s somehow wrong. But the social media sites themselves encourage people
to submit and promote. Just look at how these links to buttons at
del.icio.us all encourage people
to actively get their content found.
There is nothing wrong with promoting content, so long as you aren’t cheating
the system. Actively promoting content is also important because unlike what
those on soapboxes would have you believe, success doesn’t always just happen.
Creating good content alone is not enough; it would be like throwing a gold
needle in a haystack and telling someone to go find it. There are things you can
and should do to help them find that needle.
It’s just like SEO. If you don’t know how to make your site search engine
friendly, then people might not ever find your valuable content, since it
doesn’t get indexed. Content can also be made social media friendly. This can
give content a chance for success when it may have had no chance at all —
despite perhaps being great material.
SEO doesn’t guarantee top rankings. Similarly, social media optimization or
social media marketing doesn’t guarantee a win. It remains up to the community
to decide what becomes popular. If your content truly does not provide value to
the community, it quickly gets demoted.
Here are a few things that you should NOT do when it comes to social media
- Creating multiple accounts to promote your content
- Joining groups where all the members help promote each other’s content
regardless of quality
- Contacting top members and offering to pay them to promote your content
- Auto refreshing pages to increase view counts
Those are just a few things I would avoid if you’re trying to be an "ethical"
or "white hat" social media marketer. The exact rules do vary from social media
site to social media site, so it is important to become familiar with a
particular site before trying to promote your content. The best way to do is
this is to become an active member.
The proper way to promote your content is to submit your piece and let the
community decide what direction it should go. If your content is good enough, it
will spread and become popular. There are other things you can do such as adding
links within your content to encourage readers to vote. Research the social
media sites you plan on submitting to, that way you can get an understanding of
what kind of content is popular on those sites.
If you are not sure what kind of content to create or how to promote it, then
consider hiring experienced members of these social communities to guide you on
optimizing your content and what the most efficient and ethical ways to promote
them are. Most of the social media marketers that are "white hat" are actually
active members in these communities themselves.
Cameron Olthuis is
director of marketing and design for ACS and
writes regularly on social media issues through the company’s blog,
Pronet Advertising. The
Get Social column appears Tuesdays at
Search Engine Land.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.