I’ve had the opportunity in recent weeks to attend two Ottawa gatherings on blogging.
One was based on the Mom and Pop Blogging phenomenon. The other was a more general one, WordCamp Ottawa, organized around WordPress, the behemoth which provides the host services and blogging software used by many, including this site. The organizers of both events, volunteers all, are well-intentioned, energetic and enthusiastic – my comments are not directed at them.
My perhaps wide-eyed hope was that these events would improve the intellectual resources and Internet tools to, as they say, enhance the blogging experience – you know, write meaningful insightful commentary, reach out to interested audiences, and so on.
Colour me Naive.
No, the principal focus in these two events, at least that I detected, was how to market better – “better” meaning how to impose endless advertising on an exponentially-increasing population of unsuspecting Internet innocents.
In sum, the key take-aways I left with:
- inflate the evident status of your site (website, social media page, etc) by buying hits, Likes, Followers, etc, from a host of on-line services
- garner a collection of admiring and positive reviews for your product by buying them from even more on-line services
- generate lengthy email address lists of potential targets using bots and other software tools
- target all these addresses mercilessly
Some of the things I learned before I left each event early in dismay if not disgust:
The prestige of a company, initiative, or website is generally measured by the number of Likes (Facebook), Followers (Twitter), Views (YouTube) or other Internet social media popularity metrics.
Google, WordPress itself, and other Internet god-like beings judge these metrics and raise the subsequent visibility of a given site closer to the top of search results.
So how does one reach such levels of recognition?
One might think this might be achieved by actually having something worthwhile to say or sell which is respected, sought after, and admired by readers or customers. Sure, that’s one way, if you’re as naive as I was before being educated at blogging symposiums.
No, all one has to do is simply to buy Facebook Likes, Twitter Followers and the equivalent for other social media.
Do a search on “Buying Facebook Likes” and you’ll be astounded – or again, maybe that’s just me.
One can buy thousands of Likes and Followers for a few cents each, and within days you too can have over 10,000 Followers or more than 10,000 Likes!
And as one of the early speakers at the WordCamp noted, it’s a lot cheaper to buy Likes from countries like Afghanistan or Iraq, which aren’t as valuable as ones from North America or Europe, but Hey, they push up your Likes total and that’s got to be good, right?
Mind you, as this speaker also mentioned, there are limits that must be respected, yes sir. For example, Twitter will allow sites to generate only 1000 Followers a day – Google Forbid! So one has to take endless time to generate 10,000 Followers to reach that particular state of Internet Nirvana.
Some of the sites selling these dubious services do so without pretence – they state clearly they are selling fake Internet IDs – IDs that they create internally in their domain by the thousands, with no actual real persons behind them. Others are more brazen, touting their products as Real! People! – sure, and I have some waterfront property in Florida for sale.
So if through this dubious ploy everyone can inflate their site reputation metrics, where is the bar now set – how do Google and other Internet analytics systems that ultimately lead to Search Engine placement achieve a rational result? Well, frankly, Google only knows.
But wait, there’s more!
Back to same symposium speaker: one can use a piece of Bot software to trawl through the IDs of anyone foolish enough to visit one’s sites to harvest email addresses, adding to them to those voluntarily putting their addresses into a contact form, and dumping them all into a list that said site owner can convert to a new ever-growing mailing list, all waiting to be inundated with product ads.
And to make this list-generating process more bearable, one can use software that will automate the mouse-clicking – no need to waste precious milliseconds and risk carpal tunnel syndrome adding addresses individually to the list.
But it’s okay – this is not spam, nossiree, not at all. We were assured this were proper Internet research techniques and the subsequent deluge of promotional material is not spam. And of course recipients can just unsubscribe, can’t they – of course they can, heh heh heh.
And in a slightly different approach, need some good reviews to bolster your product’s reputation and price? – no problem. Search: “Buy Reviews” and stand back in awe.
A few come-on bullets from one of these sites:
“- Get Paid Blogging on your favorite subject.
– The best way to monetize your blog is to write honest reviews about other websites.
– You get paid per post. The more you post the more money you make.”
You get the idea – for a fee bloggers will write glowing commentary on any given product that can be posted on the product’s website and cited as Good Reviews. I’m not sure what this says about the bloggers who so easily sell their opinions, but it certainly says a lot about the loose ethics surrounding the concept.
And all those “Work at home, make thousands of $” come-ons? – yup, in many cases those are the zombie-like mouse-clickers that metrics-sellers and review-generators are selling to inflate sites’ metrics.
I’m not quite sure what is more disappointing about all this – the brazen presentation of these questionable techniques and the self-justifying/rationalizing thought processes behind them, or the seeming general acceptance of them by an audience taking notes furiously.
So here we are.
A number of baldly offensive marketing ploys at play, provided with a very loose plausible defence argument.
Sites boasting huge numbers of admirers who behind the facade are either non-existent or generated using obscure domain IDs.
Questionable reviews of products on sites which seek ultimately to promote their own products, or their approval of a suite of products, i.e. for parents, pet-lovers, etc. Cause to rethink those Amazon.ca reviews?
Endless generated and self-replicating email lists which, one has to presume, have become a marketable commodity in themselves.
In general, a brazen marketing framework which insults us all and will fill our email inboxes with endless spam for months if not years to come.
One hopes that the Googles, Twitters and Facebooks might be a bit concerned about this, but then perhaps the same mercenary marketing approaches are far too embedded.
So the next time a Generation-whatever condescendingly counsels us Boomers about the errors of our ways and the superficial society we have bequeathed to them, just tell them “Love to chat, mate, but have to get busy and buy myself another few thousand Likes and Followers – Qumran domains are looking pretty good just now.”
Speaking of which, you’ll have to excuse me, I have to get busy and boost my Likes and Followers.
Let’s see, how about some from Carpathia and Patusan – should be able to get those for a few cents each.