Here’s something for the crowd that loves the idea of social media for marketing to consider. In a recent development, a blogger at Alternet has revealed something I have long understood. Social media sites are gamed, with users cheating and banding together to artificially promote or bury certain material based on their own particular agendas. Harnessing the popularity of user generated reviews and standings, content is promoted through processes like “digging” and “like”. However, users can easily utilize multiple accounts and form groups dedicated to issuing directives to promote content that otherwise would not gain popularity or prominence on its own.
In an even more distasteful twist, these users and groups can also use negative feedback and ratings to bury material, effectively destroying its chances to gain prominence on its own merits. While I have never been a big fan of sites like Digg or Stumbleupon and am often critical of the quality of traffic they produce, these antics reveal just how truly flawed and unrealistic the social media medium really is regardless of any opinions. Considering the amount of traffic to be gained if a submittal makes it to the front page of a site like Digg, it’s almost inevitable that there will be abuses. This latest revelation although touching on a politically motivated effort to control and censor politically charged material on Digg, raises the specter of fraud for the whole of the medium.
Are we to assume that this is isolated to this one particular group? Wouldn’t it be even more likely for spammers and black hats to have already been using just such practices? After all, the concept and execution is so simple that no special knowledge is required. If you can sign up for a site membership, you can game the system.
Digg is currently going through a re-launch phase where they will be updating algorithms and removing the bury feature altogether from the site. While this may help to alleviate the problem of cheating by burying good content somewhat, it’s unsure if it will end the practice of artificially manipulating the upwards performance of submitted content. Something to consider next time you’re wondering how in the heck a piece of drivel has ended up with 5,000 users promoting it.
Below is the original piece on this story at Alternet.