Where Do We Draw The Line? A Discussion on the Ethics Of Online Manipulation.

Last week we started a conversation that – judging by the amount of feedback – was long overdue.

I shared with you that at one point I bought some additional views for YouTube videos on top of “real” marketing, and the result was an increase in authentic feedback when the view counts were inflated.

All other tactics including promotion, distribution, etc… were done by ethical means, but when the view count inflated, the organic feedback went up.

I shared with you a common tactic I’ve seen several big blogs use to inflate their social sharing numbers on content that is good ←– This matters —- and asked “if you don’t know, is it a big deal?”

I asked because every day bloggers are asking their readers to trade their social currency for real dollars, on a foundation of social proof that is easily manipulated.

As you could imagine, the response was about as unanimous as a conversation about gun control and women’s rights. While many agreed that “gaming the system” wasn’t right for them, they found it understandable, albeit very frustrating to learn that we play on a “Skewed playing field.”

Below you’ll find the comments that I feel best represent all sides of the argument…

THE FOLLOWING COMMENTS HERE ARE EDITED: PLEASE VIEW THE ORIGINAL COMMENT THREAD HERE. (also, all emphasis is mine)

“…I always believe that as long as you don’t hurt anyone, you can do whatever the heck you want to do. And since setting fake accounts and increasing your share numbers doesn’t hurt anyone, except the person behind if it, ha, I think you have to the right to do it. Whether people like it or not shouldn’t be your problem.”
- Mars Dorian

“When one person games the system to get ahead, it often forces others to engage in the same underhanded behavior ….On that sort of skewed playing field, you’ve invariably got some content creators whose content isn’t worth a damn. But they’ve learned how to cheat the system and thereby waste peoples’ time with their lackluster content. And that makes for a cynical audience — one that may not bother to take the time to engage with good content that was created and marketed ethically.” – Brian Brolin

“Hmm. I’m not sure how I feel about this. Mainly, I feel annoyed, I guess. Stuff like this always bugs me because I feel like I’m trying to fight a bunch of fucking ghosts… I want to believe in the crowdsourced beauty of the internet, where things tend to be real because the presence of so many people makes everyone kind of even out and police themselves.

…I get annoyed at stuff like this because the above optimism means I look naive even when doing my own material. Material, by the way, I WORK MY ASS OFF to create and distribute. So when I hear that anyone can buy views or reload pages and beat me through bullshit, not-real magic, yeah, it pisses me off. And what’s worse, it gets me thinking that maybe I should do some of it too. Partially because it works, but also because the presence of so much smoke and mirrors makes even great content with good marketing hard to stand out without it.”
- Johnny B. Truant

“…The frustrating thing is that some people who do game the system do get ahead. But at least when you don’t game it and rely on your own awesomeness, you can sleep at night ” – Andrea Vahl

“It comes down to how okay are you with using trickery for personal gain? I don’t know. How okay are you with shoplifting? How okay are you with shoplifting if you’re starving? It’s circumstantial ethics…

…Overall, I’d say that we put too much emphasis on social proof to guide our consumption decisions. Why do we give a crap how many times something has been tweeted or viewed?

…The reality is that if you use the “wisdom of crowds” to dictate what you watch, what you read, and what you buy then you are – by definition – a lemming. If everybody had more self-confidence in their own desires and preferences and stopped trying to use (easily gamed) social proof to short-cut the curation process, we’d all be better off.” -Jay Baer

AGAIN, THESE COMMENTS ARE EDITED. I ENCOURAGE YOU TO READ THE ENTIRE DISCUSSION HERE.

There were some very interesting things that happened as the conversation continued.

1.) The Question of “Does it matter if the content is good?” quickly morphed into “It matters when bad content gets gamed and rises to the top.”

2.) Depending on where the question was asked, the answers varied from “YOU gamed the system, you’re evil (This is the first time I’ve ever seen your content, bee tee dubs) to “if a tree falls in the woods” (Reddit)

3.) The entire post was seen as a “How to Manipulate the Internet.” post, and I became criticized for outlining tactics that are frequently used.

This was not the point of the article at all, and if after you read it you thought,  “you know, I’m going to use these methods to sell my low quality stuff” – please die in a fire.

Here was the actual point of the article…

Lisa Hanson of Mompreneurmogul.com shared an article from Inc.com titled Real Estate Entrepreneur Barbara Corcoran: “Perception Creates Reality”

The article talks about how Barbara Corcoran’s “the broker of the stars” real estate agency was struggling until she placed a small ad in New York Magazine. The ad was an image of her brokers and their families with the word “Power Brokers.” across the top.

“Were we power brokers? No, of course not. We were at the bottom of the heap,”

“What was important was the brand on top of it. ‘The Power Brokers – The Corcoran Group’ ‘The Power Brokers – The Corcoran Group’ Did you know it was a year and a half after I finished  running that campaign, knowing we were not power brokers, New York Magazine did a cover story and called it “Power Brokers”? They profiled 5 brokers and chose 3 of my people.”  - Inc.com

She sold the Corcoran Group for $66 Million in 2001

Do I agree with it?

Ethically No. But would that stop me from buying real estate from her company if I ever reached celebrity status?

Probably not. It doesn’t change the fact that ultimately her firm attracted celebrity clients, and those clients were satisfied to give referrals and keep the title of “broker of the stars”

It doesn’t change the fact that our brains are hardwired to believe “bigger is better.” Or most of us are early majority waiting for “innovators” and “early adopters” to test the waters and let us know everything is ok.

It doesn’t change the fact that when you add a bunch of people on Twitter, many will add you back, giving you permission to Direct Message them.

It doesn’t change the fact that out of the 34 different people who commented, 27 of them were people I messaged directly on Twitter.

What scares me is even though I sent 1oo DMs by hand, the entire process could be automated and scaled faster and wider. We’re not talking about “buying” followers here people, we’re talking about real people following you simply because you followed them.

So by that logic, you could follow 100,000 people, unfollow the 60,000 who don’t follow you back, post links to great content and “join the conversation” repeat… in 3 days you’re elite, now all you have to do is look the part – according to the Corcoran theory.

For the record, most of the people I sent Dms to started following me on the merit of my work alone. Sending DMs en masse has always been outside of my comfort zone. Though it’s made me uncomfortable in the past, these results have me questioning what I’ve considered crossing the line.

If you look at the sheer amount of thought leaders who commented, it’s difficult to argue what I’ve considered “grey” tactics work only on “sheeple”

The truth is, we’re still human. Most of us want friends and will be impressed with big numbers. We have to look at train-wreck, and grasp at anything that floats when we’re drowning. It’s in our nature.

So, I’m at a bit of a loss. I want to believe that doing everything the slow hard way will yield the highest reward, I really do. But when the data supports pushing just a little beyond what I perceived as comfortable, it makes me wonder; Where do we draw the line?

When I asked Linkedin, Brendan Regan gave the most realistic and honest answer I think anyone could really give (again, this is edited, please view the discussion by clicking on the link)

Brendan ReganIf I don’t know I’m being manipulated (i.e. being exposed to content that was brought to my attention by gray or black tactics), and the content is good, then it’s “no harm no foul.” If I get exposed to an awesome new artist, or hilarious meme earlier, than that’s a positive.

HOWEVER, if I become aware that I’ve been manipulated, my anger towards you the marketer will be disproportionate. Meaning, I’ll totally forget the benefit I got from the content, because you’ll have made me feel like a sucker.

I don’t know, maybe I’m asking the same questions again, but I felt it was important that I clarify on a few points.

I don’t want to beat a dead horse, and perhaps it’s a fruitless effort to try and determine some sort of ethical code for the online marketing space, but I think it’s something we should try and figure out as a community, otherwise, the whole system might implode.

Comments

  1. says

    Hi Tommy,
    Thanks for the direct message.
    I really struggle with the very real issue of online manipulation. Everyone has different definitions of what manipulation is and what is/isn’t ok. Personally, I haven’t bought likes/followers but when fellow bloggers do and suddenly get improved results I can understand the temptation.
    I look forward to further discussion.
    Cheers, Caylie

    • Tommy says

      It’s very frustrating to see when things work, then know that you have to do what is right anyways :-)

  2. says

    Great debate and love the comments (and yes, you DM’d me as well – but then we also know each other in a facebook group so I was very happy to check out the post and to comment if it felt appropriate – which it does :))

    This is such a tough one because we are manipulated EVERYWHERE. From the junk food advertising that uses our children to pester parents to the online world where more social proof = more perceived value – and where that social proof can indeed be bought as well as gained.

    The reality is that we DO judge by what others say / think – and the more followers, or facebook fans, or YT views, or blog comments, then the more credibility we will assign – consciously or not.

    And we do this even when we know we are being used. I see those hypey email headlines and I STILL open them!

    But then again I also give in to the heart-melting hug from my youngest boy even when I know I am only getting it so he can have another half hour of TV.

    Yes this stuff works. Yes we would love it only to be used by those people we judge as “good”. But freedom of speech is what it is. All we can hope for is exposure of the tactics and enough awareness amongst consumers to be able to make an informed judgement…

    Cathy

  3. says

    If we don’t have integrity, we have nothing. Something as simple as calling yourself a “Power Broker” is acceptable. It’s first person. It’s me saying “I” and you can take my word, or not, as you choose. I consider myself a “power consultant” and it has nothing to do with the size of my firm, more the size of my brain and heart.

    Buying Twitter followers, people to comment on your blog, or Facebook fans, is another thing. You are implying that others find value in you, not that you find value in you. You set your impersonal impersonator to sent me an email to ask me to participate. Even though I fully understand “you” are nowhere in the equation except, perhaps, to check your stats, I am complying because of the value you added by posing this topic. I am participating willingly. There still are a lot of people who haven’t yet come to understand the reality of the social media world – mainly that it really isn’t very social at all – and they may be duped by big numbers. Are we allowed to take advantage of the ignorance of others. Personally, I don’t. Integrity really is doing what’s right even when nobody is there to see or know the difference.

  4. Andrew Mueller says

    Fascinating conversation Tommy.

    We are constantly being subjected to attempts at manipulation. For instance, in nearly every TV ad. Advertisers know that “technical events”, fast cuts, beer pouring upside down, talking animals, things that are not possible in the natural world, transfix our attention and allow marketing messages to sink more deeply into our subconscious. Is this manipulation? Probably. Is this unethical? That is really hard to say.

    How about political campaigns. Each candidate wants to convince voters to side with them and not their opponent. Words are chosen very carefully and messages painfully crafted to get votes. Focus groups are conducted to determine which messages and words would have the greatest effect on their target audiences. These messages are used even if they knowingly may distort reality. Is this manipulation? Is it ethical? Is it widespread in our society?

    So I ask, is any of this much different than buying YouTube views to attract commenters? Honestly, I am not sure.

    • Tommy says

      Your comment reminds me of the Morgan Spurlock’s “The Greatest Movie Ever Sold.” where he explores the product placement in film and television.

      As someone who does a lot of fast editing for my show “Inside The Mind” I don’t really believe that in itself could be considered unethical as that is just a visual language we’ve become accustomed to seeing with our motion image consumption.

      In “TGMES” however, Spurlock visits a facility that tests out new commercials on people in an MRI machine. They’re using visual stimulation techniques and watching to see just how brightly the pleasure and desire centers of the brain light up. If there isn’t a decent average of neurostimulation, it’s back to the drawing board. The brand they examine is Coca-cola, and the spots they show get run on television. This, to me crosses the line (yet whenever I want a soda, I want coke.)

      If a beverage company is using this in their ad campaigns, you can bet politicians are too. Not to sound like a conspiracy theorist, but this sort of neuromarketing eliminates the need for focus groups, because everyone in the room is going to think the same thing. (even if they really believe in the other guy)

  5. says

    I could address everyone’s comment individually, get into a real deep discussion and clarify it for them — it’s what I’m good at, but it’s neither the time nor the place.

    I’ll say this:

    7 billion people on the planet.
    They can all succeed in different ways.

    For everyone you meet who say “gaming the system is part of life and it’s how I succeeded! (Corcoran)” you can meet another who says “I never compromised, never cheated, full integrity and LOOK, my audience loves me, I’m SUCCESSFUL.”

    Human beings are individual, and “right” and “wrong” are to me, silly things to debate.

    Not only are people individual, but their views on topics as hot-headed teens, are different from their views in middle age, are different from their views on as elders.

    Mars, Johnny, Andrea, Brian, you, me, etc. – might actually flip our position as time goes on and “experience” works its magic. In fact, the chances are high. (depending on our age/experience level.)

    Human beings are individual *AND* their views morph and evolve often.

    Personally, the greatest benefit I find from all this ‘buzz’, is it gets people thinking about their own position, and what’s right for them… at least for now :D

    • says

      Hey Tommy, it definitely has split folks into an opinion, and it’s easy to go the pompous root and shout folks down for doing underhanded techniques, but it’s also easy to go the “I agree with you,” and not kick up too much of a fuss.

      So I read Ryze’s comment, and he made a very good point. Every body is accountable for their own actions. If folks want to use faux techniques, that’s on their head.

      Honour, truth, fairness, justice. These are all things people would class as good things and it would be amazing if it permeated through everything we do, but we’re like, “but he’s doing that, and she’s getting away with this”, so our values seem to diminish like Brian Boylin says, “it often forces others to engage in the same underhanded behavior.” Doing things with honour and openness is nearly always harder. It nearly always takes longer.

      In some ways, it reminds me of how much respect I grew for the unfortunate Japanese folks after that huge tsunami not too long ago. I had so much respect for them as a nation, but I saw something that I’ve never seen on such a huge scale, a national scale. I watched how they queued up in the streets, one giant, long, organised queue so that they could get some food from the superstore. The horrible part was that the food ran out. They could have started fighting with those walking out the store and ripping their supplies away from them. How many times have we seen scenes of people scrambling to get supplies. But here was a nation who rigorously practice dignity and order. Their history is steeped in loyalty, duty and respect. Those Japanese folks who missed out on food at the store, simply turned around, and went else where, with order, dignity and respect.

      Then on the other hand, last year, a riot broke out in a small section of London, then spread like wild-fire across the UK. People justified their actions, saying the government aren’t helping them, that life is unfair, that justice is wrong here. They were blaming everybody for their plight, and it’s easy to get like that. I saw my town turn almost into burnt rubble over night. But imagine, the strangest part was that folks who never had a history of criminality got involved. The weirdest part was that, they said, “they never knew what came over them.” They were good citizens.

      It’s true, they never did anything that warranted suspicion before hand, but these same folks never thought about what they would do in such a situation, not even I thought about it. But when it did happen, the first thing I thought was, it would be too easy to get caught up in the madness, so I stayed away. When ever trouble breaks out on a street, I divert. Always have done so, and it means I haven’t been caught up, and never been grouped with folks by association for being there.

      If folks think it’s okay to do something underhanded, that’s seems like the beginning of a long path. It’s not even the idea that a couple of thousand fake shares were added to an account. It’s the fact that this could be the beginning of a relax of other underhanded, more serious, more detrimental practices. And then someone has to start thinking about where the line is drawn, where it starts to blur rather than thinking, I’d rather be totally open-handed, or totally underhanded.

      Again, you’ve made me think of my stance. Your post has a deeper meaning than view figures. It’s on the level of philosophy.

      We all have to make that choice like Ryze nicely summed up. But there’s a saying, what you do in what’s least, you will do in what’s great.

  6. says

    This is such a controversial topic it’s really hard to pick sides, lol.

    Fact is, pretty much everything in our world is based on manipulation.
    A woman putting on makeup is manipulation – she makes herself look way more attractive than she (visually) is. Putting fancy clothes on is manipulation – you make yourself look way more impressive than you really are.

    It’s obvious that companies do it as well – I think it’s just the way we’re wired. Like Seth Godin says – we want to get lied to, as long as the lie is authentic.

    That’s why I still believe that as long as you don’t do stuff at the expense of others, you’re good to go.
    If you present yourself in a better light and no one suffers from it, why not ?

  7. says

    Tommy, this is a great thread. Here’s the truth and fact and we have all be aware of it.

    We are manipulated daily to do things. Politics, social media, mainstream media, advertising, online marketing; the list goes on and on.

    That leads me to say that as a savvy content/social media/online marketer, if we can learn a strategy that is proven to create desired results and we use it to push out great, value driven information that actually supports people reaching their goals, why not do it?

    This is business in the world today. Technology gives us a number of advantages. Why not use them, in my opinion.

    My .02 cents are now in.

  8. says

    This is a terrific conversation you’ve started (and continued), Tommy.

    I’m not sure that as a community we can ever come to any real consensus on the issue and where exactly to draw the line. As others have pointed out, there are just too many shades of gray. Everyone is going to draw their own line a little differently based on their personal values and prior experiences.

    • Tommy says

      which is truly a shame…

      At least with something like medicine we can agree on a certain ethical code :-/

  9. Georgene says

    In my world, social things like number of likes, tweets, views, etc exist as just another “scent” signal. Whether I pay attention to that scent is wholly dependent upon how relevant those things are to the content I’m viewing. If it’s a post about how to get more Facebook fans and I see the author only has about 100 total for their entire site/project, I would be likely to think twice about the veracity of the author’s claims. However, if I came across a post about email marketing and saw the website only had about 100 likes for their Facebook page, it may not even matter.

    People may be inclined to game these things but with a little bit of experience on the part of the readers/viewers/visitors it becomes very easy to see through artifice. Especially on Twitter, where a quick review of someone’s following/follower ratio and a quick peek at their content and followers can unmask robopromo behavior. The dreaded AutoDM is a HUGE signal of mistrust and automation. AutoDMs may be standard in some circles but nothing makes me regret a follow harder or faster than a “thanks for following, buy my stuff, read my thing, promote meeeee” DM. HATE. HISSSSSS.

    With a little effort I could probably outline similar thought processes for decoding the balance of content and stats for other platforms, but more often that not I ignore the stat-based signals of any platform/site that I’m not intimately familiar with. Makes me wonder how many other people ignore these kinds of stats because they don’t have the context to make them worthwhile? I mean, you could show me a baseball players numbers for a season and I’d still ask you: “Yeah but can you show me that he’s good at baseball?” Because those stats would be meaningless to me!

    It’s still relatively early in the lifecycle of social as a marketing element and most people’s bullshit detector isn’t yet tuned for social signals when it comes to deciding how valuable or important the associated content is. Since they’re social signals are shifting and being added to, that makes it trickier for people to develop reliable patterns for actually using these signals at all. For contrast: take something that’s been around for a while like reviews, and I think you’d find most people have their rules for determining which to trust and which look like the product maker got a dozen of their friends to talk them up. e.g. A book with 10 incredibly glowing five star reviews isn’t as compelling to (I hope) most people than a book with 500 reviews that average out to just shy of 4 stars. The people who loved the book look more credible when you can stack their opinion next to the people who hated it and contrast the view points. (As an aside, the latter tactic of getting your friends to talk you up in reviews is why I absolutely hate LinkedIn, because I defy you to point to me someone – that isn’t famous & therefore has a goodly stack of haters – with a truly honest spread of recommendations/testimonials.)

    It’s extremely safe to say I am firmly in the mindset that quality matters infinitely more than quantity ever will. From a reader’s stand point, some of my favorite people and sites aren’t really terrible “big” or popular but it doesn’t matter one whit to me as long as I can trust they know what they’re talking about. Quality comes from studious labor, and good social support of that comes with actual personal efforts. I reward that labor and effort socially (and monetarily), and fervently avoid throwing my lot in with decidedly antisocial, low effort, attention grubbing antics. I like to think many other people behave in much the same way even if they haven’t bothered to think about the hows or whys.

    From a creator’s standpoint, I’d rather have 1000 die-hard fans than a million people who are over-enthusiastic about hitting a button anyway. I’ll happily spend the extra time and effort to interact and connect with and provide quality content/experience for those thousand than rig up Rube Goldberg machines to trick people into thinking I’m cool enough to look at anyway. Folks may be unscrupulously inflating numbers to get more eyeballs, but they’re only in it to get those people there long enough to get the ad impressions anyway. Be mad at them for being scummy, sure, but be glad that you care more about having an active audience than a well-viewed billboard.

    Oh, and one more thing: never hesitate to point out bullshit when you see it. It’s our duty as Nerds Who Care About This Crap To Already Know Better to educate people on when jerks are trying to pull one over on them.

    • Tommy says

      There are so many things I love about this comment I can’t even begin to express, but I’ll try.

      And we’ll Tarantino this and work backwards just so we can get through all the awesome here.

      [Scene 1] IT IS OUR DUTY AS NERDS WHO KNOW BETTER to point this crap out! We can’t just ignore it and hope it goes away! It’s kind of like when your parents got viruses by clicking on weird forwards back in the day, we all had to tell them “DON’T DO THAT” and eventually, the virus in the form of attachment thing stopped working. Same rule applies to those who know how system gaming works, it’s our duty to spread the word, hence… this post.

      [Scene 2] Those 1000 diehard fans are hard to get, but if you’re always cultivating your following, they’re absolutely incredible. I don’t have a huge community by any means, but many of the people who have stuck around have been around for a long time, and they’re great!

      [Scene 3] I’m going to have to argue that quality and quantity both matter. If you have a prolific amount of high quality stuff that’s awesome, and that’s where the manipulation and fabrication of numbers come in. We’re not talking about manipulation tactics being used on low quality stuff, we’re talking about it being used on high quality stuff to improve the validity of it.

      Someone in one of the other threads that was started on this mentioned a story of how their hotel would have their employees park out front if there weren’t many people booked in the rooms. That way weary travelers would think the place was legit and stop there instead at the competition. That analogy is perfect for what I’m talking about with these manipulation tactics

      [Scene 4] A smart manipulator knows that a bunch of 5 star reviews look disproportionate, so instead they will use various profiles to leaved nuanced reviews so even the “smart” people’s bullshit detector goes off. This is like how many music companies have their own call centers to request a certain song when it gets released so it’ll make the top 10. Technically, they’re still playing by the request line rules, but in my mind, that’s still gaming the system.

      All in all though, it is a big Rube Goldberg machine, that ultimately many solo creators don’t have the resources to create themselves, which is why this conversation has been brought up in the first place. The only way to dismantle the machine is to understand how it works, and ultimately not support it.

      Thank you so much for your feedback here Gii, I very much appreciate it!

  10. says

    I ultimately think it comes down to desperation. With the Internet being as saturated as it is, many people are realizing that there chances of connecting with someone are decreasing at a faster rate than they ever expected. So, what do we do when we’re in a bind? We try to figure out the best way possible to climb to the top. It wasn’t by accident that the phrase, “the squeaky wheel gets the grease” became a commonly thrown out idea when it comes to putting yourself in the best opportunity to succeed.

    The comments you just to incorporate in this post certainly share both sides of the story, but when people are down, they’re going to do what it takes to get back up. While I don’t agree with doing things the unethical way, I can’t say I’m surprised that it goes on. DM’ing people on Twitter can seem like a spammy tactic because that’s what the majority have come to associate Twitter with, in terms of a DM. Although, if you know the person and have engaged with them before, I believe you’re helping each other out. That’s not a problem and I don’t think we see enough of that on the Internet today. If more people truly tried to help one another I think that would cut down on the unethical marketing tactics.

  11. says

    It’s fuzzy, for sure. I think that the line is somewhere around the place where it becomes flagrantly false. Following people and having them follow you back doesn’t seem remotely sketchy to me, and I don’t even have an issue with using Tweetadder on a legit account because that’s all it does. I also don’t have a problem with people calling themselves something “in advance.” I’d say “power brokers” is okay because it’s aspirational and qualitative, same as saying you’re a coach before you’ve coached your first client. What would be wrong would be “over $1M sold” or “I’ve coached 50 people” when that’s not at all true. But it’s a fine line.

    Buying views smells like bullshit to me, though. You aren’t emailing people, describing the video, and suggesting they check it out. You’re exchanging money for misleading data.

    I guess stuff that’s so misleading it’s like social fraud is like obscenity. I can’t describe it, but I know it when I see it.

    • Tommy says

      I think that’s an important distinction to make, and with the buying views, it did feel fraudulent ESPECIALLY after it was taken too far. What made it fraudulent was that I was emailing people, and they were responding based on the misleading data, and ultimately I decided I didn’t want to *trick* people into commenting.

      In reality, I never monetized those views and there was only money put in with no return, but the thing that scares the shit out of me is how tactics like this can lead people all the way down the funnel to spend money on something created by someone who is just “projecting”

      Imagine, people using these tactics to sell a $27 ebook or a $50 course? How many people do you think are really going to ask for their money back?

  12. says

    This is a really interesting conversation. We’re taught, “fake it ’till you make it!” but doing so has always felt slimy to me. I’m much more comfortable saying, “I’m small potatoes, but I have big ideas, and I think you’ll like them” rather than calling myself a rock star ninja guru expert.

    I don’t know if there’s an answer or solution, but I do know that I’m completely uncomfortable with the amount of manipulation that goes on online in the IM field. Having a strategy doesn’t bother me, but gaming the system through falsification, unfair advantages, and other shady tactics makes me upset. And sadly, I do think that some thought leaders and influencers in the world of social media are stepping over the line into dark territory.

    I suppose the only thing we can do, and that I’ve resolved to do personally, is to stop supporting people who I believe are using shady methods to get ahead. There are certain big-name sites I don’t read, share, etc. – even if they have good content most of the time – because I don’t want to support their activities in any way. Unfortunately, there’s a LOT of peer pressure online. People are afraid to speak up when they don’t like something someone is doing because every else is raving about how awesome someone is.

    • Tommy says

      That’s a big part of why I’m bringing this conversation up Allison, is because I’m tired of big name sites that use manipulation tactics to become big names.

      When word is accepted without criticism, and when criticism is treated with hostility, you no longer have a democracy you have a dictatorship.

      Thank you for doing your part to not support people who you find suspect!

  13. says

    I think it’s funny I’m one you sent a DM too :) So apparently here I am.

    Barbara had to deliver. She couldn’t say she could sell real estate if she didn’t know how. But I think many times we limit ourselves thinking we are not able and all the while we are more then able. The entire marketing world is built on fabrication. If you eat Carl’s JR will you look like that hot chick in the commercial? Pretty sure not.

    I could go on for days but the reality is everyone is being “had” daily. They probably don’t realize it but it’s just what is happening in advertising. We obviously strive to help people. We ‘re not out to deceive anyone. Barbar realized if they think you’re big then big clients will come. No one wants to do business with the social media strategist who has 200 followers. That is a no brainer.

    Interesting post no doubt.