The increasing interest of the search engine marketing community in social media has resulted in more and more discussion about how to get in on the "traffic goldrush". As an SEO, I appreciate the enthusiasm in exploring new methods for maximizing exposure for a client's site, but as a social media user I am finding myself becoming increasingly annoyed with the number of people that are set on finding ways to game the system.
The Social Media Backlash
My focus for the purposes of this post will be StumbleUpon, which is my favourite social media community by far. That said, most of what I say will applicable to just about any social media community, so don't stop reading just because you're not a stumbler. Within the StumbleUpon community there has been a surprisingly strong, and negative, reaction to those who write articles/blog posts that explore methods for leveraging StumbleUpon to drive the fabled "server crashing" levels of traffic, or dissect the inner-workings of the stumbling algorithm in order to figure out how to get that traffic with the least amount of effort and contribution necessary.
"What Did I Do?"
When one of these people would end up on the receiving end of the StumbleUpon's community's ire they would be surprised. Instinctively, with perfectly crafted link-bait in hand, they would chronicle how they fell victim to hordes of angry stumblers, and express their disappointment while condemning the community for being so harsh. Then, with anticipation of the inevitable rush of traffic their tale would attract to their site, they would hit the "post" button and quickly submit their post to their preferred social media channels. What they didn't realize was that they were proving the reason for the community's backlash the instant they pressed "post".
Please Don't Urinate In The Pool
To explain that reason, we need to look at the reason people actually use StumbleUpon. The biggest reason is the uncanny ability that it has for providing its users with a virtually endless supply of content that is almost perfectly targeted to them. When this supply gets tainted, the user experience is worsened, and the better that the untainted experience is, the less tolerant the users will be of any tainting.
To illustrate, allow me to capitalize on the admittedly crude analogy found in the heading of this section. Let's think of the StumbleUpon community as a group of friends at a pool party. They are having a lot of fun, enjoying eachother's company, when they discover someone has been urinating in the pool. The cleaner the water was before, the more everyone is going to notice the unwelcome "addition" to the water. When they find out who urinated in the pool, they are going to be expectedly angry with them. To stretch this analogy a little further, you can be damned sure that they wouldn't be happy when they found out that someone was telling everyone methods for strategically urinating in certain areas of the pool in order to maximize the number of people who would be exposed to the urine.
For anyone who was in the group of friends, and actually used and enjoyed the pool, the idea of urinating in it wouldn't even be an option. Or, in the case of StumbleUpon, someone who actually participated in the community and enjoyed the service, wouldn't want to pollute it.