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The Dark Side of Social Media in 2011

Dark Side of Social MediaWith Social Media rising in heaps and bounds, everybody should be excited with all of the changes that are happening, right?  Not entirely so.  Unfortunately, with the increase in popularity and the technology available, there are a lot of tricks being used in social media to dilute the personal experience.

Social Media was designed to provide users with an interactive online experience, allowing friends and family to connect with one another whenever they wish, making the world just that much smaller.  The thing is, that with the popularity of social media comes some negative setbacks that are exploiting the experience, primarily to gain popularity for commercial brands, SEO companies, and internet marketers.  Rather than use social media the way it was originally intended, they ploy these tactics to drive up traffic, increase popularity, and rank better in search engines.

Now you might ask yourself: What is wrong with that?  The answer I would give if consulted on the subject is:  Even though these tactics are effective, they are taking the personal connection out of social media.  Below I’m going to share with you some “dark side” tactics used in building audiences and you can decide for yourself whether you would use these or not.

Automated Software

You cannot fault the software developers for this one.  Many people could not build a following organically, so they demanded a program that could do that for them.  Whether the software being used is Tweet Adder, Social Oomph, or any of those other programs, the result of using them are impersonal.  The software provides a lot of functions, the two largest being the auto tweet (tweet certain tweets on a regular basis) and the auto follow back (automatically following people who followed you first.

Now, you might be reading this, thinking to yourself that this sounds like a great idea, but let me paint a picture for you.

You use the auto tweet function.  The software posts a tweet that one of your followers finds interesting.  Since most people expect to interact with other humans, the user who reads the tweet responds.  And they do not get an answer, even though the tweet was posted 1 minute ago.

You also use the auto follow back function.  Some Nazi discovers and follows your account.  He follows you, and then you follow him back.  He tweets about Hitler and White Supremacy and fills up your timeline with hate tweets.

With the combination of these two functions, you have become a rude Nazi.  It seems ridiculous, but like any other piece of software, there are holes.  This can happen.  The downside to automation is relinquishing control.  If you are not in control, then don’t be surprised if things get out of control.

Team Followback

Currently, this issue is only on Twitter.  Have you seen the people on Twitter who add the #teamfollowback hash tag to their profile, as well as their tweets?  This is a movement on Twitter where people will follow everyone who follows them.  This hash tag let’s others know that they are part of this movement and that if they follow; they will get a follower in return.  Have you checked some of these people out?  Unless you’re looking to follow rappers or teenagers, you may consider not becoming a part of this.  Do you ever wonder how someone who tweets about “being at the mall” can amass 50,000 followers.  Team followback is the answer.

What is scary about this movement is the possibility of transitioning over to other Social Networks like Facebook and Google+.  Will we ever see a “Team Circle Back” or a “Team Subscribe”?

Spammers

Whether you are dealing with blog comments or Facebook/Google+/Twitter streams, there are bound to be spammers that will clog up your timeline.  These accounts are usually created for one purpose, and that purpose is to push a product or service via their website.  For bloggers, this is the company that comments (sometimes through a bot) with a comment that offers no value.  They are just looking for a backlink for SEO purposes.  For the social networkers, the spammers will burden you with tons of “updates” that all miraculously link back to the same website.

The solution to battle these people are to treat them just like you would your spam email.  Just unfollow, unsubscribe, uncircle, or delete the comments from your blog.

Buying Fans/Followers

This tactic is one of the darkest in social media.  A person or a company can purchase a certain number of fans on Facebook, or followers on Twitter.  The funny thing is that these companies would never pay people to come into their store in the physical world, but they will pay for a social media following that may not care at all about their product or service.  This is sad on every level.

If you are reading this and wondering how someone can be an agent for 1,000 people that will do what they say, the process depends on how much it costs.  If the “like seller” or “follower seller” is charging a modest price (eg. $200 for 1,000 followers) then most likely they have invested the time into creating 1,000 accounts.  If you are an active participant in Twitter, it is highly likely that you have come across accounts that have 1,000 plus followers and haven’t tweeted a single thing.  These are usually dummy accounts that are used for this purpose.  If the price is really high, then the only difference is that the 1,000 accounts are real people who may be receiving some compensation.

If you are looking to buy some followers/fans, then the best approach is to hire a Social Media Manager.  This person will help you gain your 1,000 followers/fans, the only difference is that these people will actually be interested in your product or service instead of being “just another number”.

The simplest rule to follow to achieve staying on the light side of social media is to follow your instincts.  Most people can see these tactics coming.  Have you wondered how someone can tweet 24hrs a day?  How a 16 year old you never heard of has 100,000 followers?  That a certain account keeps tweeting /posting the same thing, 50 times a day?  That someone could possibly guarantee 1,000 fans/followers that actually will care about your product or service?  Come on, you know better than that.

About Duncan

Duncan Harmsworth has written 66 post in this blog.

I’m a Web Designer/Social Media Manager/Blog Writer. If it happens on the web, I probably have heard of it.

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