Colin Cochrane

Colin Cochrane is a Software Developer based in Victoria, BC specializing in C#, PowerShell, Web Development and DevOps.

Please Don't Urinate In The Pool: The Social Media Backlash

pool-party 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.

Comments (11) -

  • Don

    1/11/2008 2:24:54 PM | Reply

    So true.  I've been getting pretty pissed off at those idiots trying to exploit stumbleupon too.

  • AngryStumbler

    1/11/2008 2:30:11 PM | Reply

    Thank you for this.  The more people that recognize this the better.

  • Erica DeWolf

    1/11/2008 4:13:57 PM | Reply

    I agree that there are too many people, and too many articles on "gaming the system," of social networks, as you say. However, I must admit that I do submit my own posts to Digg, Sphinn, and StumbleUpon. In my opinion, If the content isn't good, then the post will not end up being found as often, the pool hasn't been "urinated in," so to speak, and I'm the one that learns I simply have to create better content.

    What are your thoughts on digging or stumbling your own content?

    Also, what do you think of sites such as Subvert and Profit, which pay individuals to digg and stumble articles or sites?

  • Peter Daams

    1/11/2008 7:56:21 PM | Reply

    In my experience, SU is pretty good at minimising the junk you get served up. I don't actually think there is anything wrong with submitting content from your own site (who else will?).

    If it works (I mean REALLY works), then clearly the SU community enjoyed the content and voted accordingly. No harm done - both the stumblers and website owner are happy.

    If it doesn't work, then only a limited number of people will have seen it and not much damage is done.

    That said, I also take pride in the content I submit. I ensure that the content submitted from my own sites are good quality. And I do my best to discover other content from the nooks and crannies of the internet that I think stumblers will like. Karma.

    Of course, some people will find ways to just generate masses of traffic that are almost all there under false pretenses. Is that really traffic worth having though??

  • Rich

    1/12/2008 12:02:15 AM | Reply

    Absolutely freaking fantastic article and analogy.
    See Social Link Spam and Cigarette Butts from 2006
    www.google.com/search

  • Colin Cochrane

    1/12/2008 1:43:14 AM | Reply

    This bears repeating:

    -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    "In my experience, SU is pretty good at minimising the junk you get served up. I don't actually think there is anything wrong with submitting content from your own site (who else will?).

    If it works (I mean REALLY works), then clearly the SU community enjoyed the content and voted accordingly. No harm done - both the stumblers and website owner are happy.

    If it doesn't work, then only a limited number of people will have seen it and not much damage is done."
    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Peter hit the nail right on the head here, because garbage doesn't get "free" traffic. Any new stumble is going to get screened by a few people, and if the response is poor, then so will be the exposure of that particular stumble.

  • Lora

    1/12/2008 8:46:09 AM | Reply

    I was looking at the reviews you were getting on stumbleupon for this and it was pretty funny seeing those couple of people getting all worked up about how this post was spammy and worthless.  Especially considering how many positive reviews it got in comparison.

  • annex10

    1/19/2008 5:45:30 PM | Reply

    The problem with spam is in submitting material for personal gain, whether it be profit, renown, or other psychological need, done so with disregard to the benefit of the whole.

    If something is submitted with profit motivation, include in the tag marketing, if it is submitted with the intention of driving traffic, tag it according to those who would benefit from seeing it.  Tagging and submitting things to benefit yourself is grounds for irate dismissal from the general SU population.  In the words of Megellen,  "Do you use this section to mention how mentally ill you are? Don't bother - we can already tell."

    Regarding the blow-up with aimclear and Uncertain, it is clear to me that aimclear is an unstable person who is using this situation to draw attention to himself.  However, it is a good tool to demarcate the line between legitimate debate and histrionics aimed clearly at personal gain.

  • eStore Creator

    12/11/2015 4:47:17 PM | Reply

    Spot on with this write-up, I truly think this website needs much more consideration. I’ll probably be again to read much more, thanks for that info.

  • COMINT

    12/29/2015 2:57:59 AM | Reply

    An impressive share, I just given this onto a colleague who was doing a little analysis on this. And he in fact bought me breakfast because I found it for him.. smile. So let me reword that: Thnx for the treat! But yeah Thnkx for spending the time to discuss this, I feel strongly about it and love reading more on this topic. If possible, as you become expertise, would you mind updating your blog with more details? It is highly helpful for me. Big thumb up for this blog post!

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