Social Network Automation and Why You Don’t Want to Be Part of It

Update: this article refers to social network automation tools like OnlyWire, Socializer, SocialPoster, etc. It does not refer to WordPress widgets, “share this” or “digg” buttons that allow the site visitors actually choose what/whether they want to bookmark.

Lonely Bee by Dan Wetzel - Cartoon.In the mad race for traffic and hits, how many online entrepreneurs stop to wonder about quality?

It’s my personal conviction that too many are mesmerized by their high stats displayed by the web analytics software employed for traffic analysis. What most of these webtrepreneurs fail to understand is that numbers are not relevant for the sales power of a site. They are not relevant for popularity either, and they are far from being relevant when it comes to quality.

What Is Social Network Automation?

I too am a user of StumbleUpon, digg, sphin, del.icio.us, mag.nolia, mixx, etc… Sure I am happy to see thousands of page views each day, but at the end of the traffic flood, the ones who actually take the time to read my stories are still my friends, my community – the people who already know me, trust me, respect me. These people are also the ones who stumble or support my entries anyway. Social networking is about sharing knowledge, experience, and fun. What is social networking automation about anyway?

I have only one definition: social network automation is spam.

Social network automation tools submit a link not to one or two social sites, but to twenty, thirty, sometimes more than sixty. Out of these sites not even half are relevant for the topic of the story. The apparent SEO advantage (links) that comes as a result of automation means nothing in the long run. The search engines are smart enough to identify the quality of a link.

Let’s take digg for example: a story with two-three votes will not bring the same SEO value as a story with 100 votes. As a matter of fact it will bring no value unless it gets indexed high in the search engines. But even then the real winner is digg – digg will get more clicks on that page. In the best case you’ll get half of the users who land on that particular digg page actually clicking on your link to read your story. Do I make any sense?

Is Social Network Automation Ethical?

We often question ethics in blogging. How many times do we question ethics in promoting our work?

There is nothing wrong with asking our friends from the social networks to “stumble” or “digg” a story if they like it. What is wrong is to submit these stories to social networks where we are not even active using some tools that were developed especially for this purpose. In theory these tools simplify our work, save time and help generate incoming links and traffic.

But isn’t employing such tools defying all that social networking stands for?

With every use of an automation tool we mock the very ideals that are the basis of social networking. The social networking automation tools simply throw links in front of the users. In many cases these links are not even relevant for the members of the network, and sometimes they are not properly tagged or categorized. This leads to poor user experience within the network and the frustration of the users will eventually lead to negative votes on the story submitted with automation tools. Instead of ripping off the benefits of social media exposure the links thus submitted will be banned from the network or – in the ideal scenario – buried under other entries, more relevant and submitted by dedicated social network users who actively contribute in the community.

Blogging Community.

So my advice is to avoid any social automation tools and to start focusing on quality and building a community instead.

Comments

  1. My blog got stumbled upon for the first time 2 days ago. At first I was shocked when I saw my visitors shoot up to 800 in a day. I had no idea what happened. After checking my Google analytics page I saw the traffic coming from stumble. The good thing is that I had an average visit time of 2:03 and a bounce rate of 34% which meant people who came upon it actually read it. I don’t use stumble but I may join it now.

  2. Stumble is an interesting site. The people there are actually interested in what they stumble, or else they don’t waste their time clicking on irrelevant links. You have all the reasons to thank the person who submitted your site. It means they really liked it. :)

    BTW, I love camo.

  3. The term Social Networking covers a wide area, sites being used for different purposes. I am not sure you can say automation is not desirable in all cases.

    Automation for Digg just makes it simpler for users to do what they always did with Digg – its additional communication features relatively new. SU, with these features built in from the start, encourages more interaction with others. Delicious is a bookmarking site that is good for storing favorites and searching but has limited social interaction features. All my delicious bookmarking is automated – I only visit occasionally for reference purposes.

    For me Digg is an extension of my other more active social networking. I do not use it much but I will help promote good content of contacts who do. I therefore want a quick way of doing it. If quality content is submitted why not use the quickest method of doing so? I think those inclined to spam are unfortunately going to do so by any means available – automated or not.

  4. Sue, I am not talking about a “share this” button you put on your site to enable users choose whether to submit. I am not even talking about the digg button. I am talking about software that submits the same entry to 20, 60 social sites at once. And I know you don’t use those!

  5. I do use OnlyWire to submit to my bookmarking sites but this automation tool does not include Digg and SU and other such voting sites.

  6. Well, they are not social networking sites. I noticed that everywhere we two meet (in social networking sites) you are helpful, kind… a real member of the community. :) Personally I have firefox plugins for del.icio.us, google bookmarke and furl are in my toolbar :)

  7. Hi Mig!

    Very timely post. I just heard of onlywire.com and was wondering what it was.

    I think that these shortcuts will not work and probably will not last for that very reason. I understand why people are wanting to take this sort of shortcut, but it defeats the whole purpose of the networking sites.

    (By the way, I’m going to stumble this post – but that’s because I liked it.)

  8. :) Thank you, Laura. I am glad to find that we think alike. OnlyWire is not that bad though – if you don’t select submitting to social networks and you only use it for bookmarking I think it is OK… although personally I prefer saving my bookmarks in my browser.

  9. I’ve been thinking of using OnlyWire for sometime but never find the chunk of time in one sitting to sign up for all the sites on there!

    btw Mig, my live writer broke today :( going back to Quamana!

  10. Damn! I just downloaded that! LMAO. I guess I’ll stick to good old faithful word!

  11. This hits it right on. Though a higher number of hits to the site is great, what I really desire is to have the people who come actually read what I post, and usually even have them respond. Feed back is great! Quality first!

  12. Hi Mig,

    Just a quick thank you for adding my new logo blog to your sidebar! That’s very kind of you, and I hope you enjoy my latest venture.

  13. I have a post Stumbled today with 500 views and 0 comments so there is some merit to your post, and yes I Stumbled it

  14. Great post, Mihaela! I’m adding your link to my page at Peripheral Vision!

  15. Oh, thank you… Making Sales Making Money. (How do you do that, btw?!)

  16. Lynda, you are one of my favorite photographers/artists/ writers and to know that my link is added to your site… well, that’s an honor. Thank you from all my heart!

  17. I have to agree, social networking automation is a blight on society. The only upside is that often the kind of posts that get mass bookmarked are usually such low quality, that they only get 1 or 2 votes.

    So as long as you self impose a quality filter based on some minimum number of votes, you can do a reasonable job of skimming over the spam.

  18. You are right, Andy. The users should understand that social networks were not created for bulk submissions. A site to “store your bookmarks” makes sense – and sharing these bookmarks with “friends” is quite all right too. But exploiting the system for irrelevant traffic is not ethical and it leads nowhere. Traffic is not a sign of quality anyway.

  19. I agree 100% with you. There are some uses where software is beneficial in assisting you in organizing and blasting to make your life easier. Social networking is not one of them. Remember what social networking is if you automate this it will never have the same value

    Megan
    http://www.PassportMentors.com

  20. Mihaela -

    Sorry to visit your blog and disagree with you (which is what rude people always say!) but I think you’ve conflated the tool and the use of the tool.

    A car with a drunk driver behind the wheel at 11pm the same vehicle it was at 8am when it was used to drop the kids off at school. The car is not evil, it’s the person behind the wheel.

    I spent several weeks creating a framework for thinking about the extensive use of a large number of social networks (Drive Through Social Networking).

    I also produced an overview of how automation tools can be categorized – Social Networking Automation Tools Overview which might help frame this discussion a bit.

    We produced reviews of the major players in the automation space here

    Finally, I distilled it all into the wikipedia article you referenced.

    -OT

  21. I get the point you are making and agree. Quality, Trust, Community, Relationships, True Connections.

  22. Hi Oliver,

    You make a good point saying is not the car, but the driver. Unfortunately this particular car doesn’t always come with a user manual. These tools are evil up to the point that they encourage people to stay lazy and forget the whole purpose of the social networking as a whole. Why are these tools there anyway? To submit links. They only have an SEO purpose in the end (don’t get this wrong – I am an SEO advocate)Bulk submissions. Nothing “personalized” there. The human touch is missing. The actual person visiting the site is not there. This is my concern.

  23. Yes Nick, this is what I was talking about: true connections.

    Scenario: let’s say that you choose to use one of the network automation tools – do you visit the sites you submitted to after to see how the community reacts, to vote for other people and so on? You do? Then why use such a tool in the first place? You don’t? Then QED.

  24. This is an AWESOME post about something that has been pissing me off for some time: There can be a lack of ethics in social media – also, people sometimes think that because they are getting lots of hits from Digg, that their site is more valuable – until you tell them to check how long those readers are actually staying and see that its just for 30 seconds.

    Check out NewsTrust.Net – you might like it because people who participate in that network actually read the content.

    Anyways. I’ll see you at the socialnewscentral Ning site.

  25. Thank you for the tip, Dave. I will check our that network. I also joined the Social News Central today. Let’s see how things work. :)

  26. I can happily say I am involved in social networking and do not use automated tools. I think people that use such auto-submission tools are after one thing and that’s traffic.

    I like to see what’s going out in the rest of the world, find news things and share some here and there.

    Nice article! Keep it up!

  27. Thank you Allen. Personally I don’t think that desiring traffic is bad, but what is the purpose of traffic when the visitor doesn’t spend more than 1 second on a site? We all want traffic, but above all, I think we should reach for readers, community members and real value. Numbers are not relevant in terms of quality.

  28. Hey Mig,

    Great post, however I have to disagree and agree with Oliver above. It all comes down to the user and what they were taught. It’s not the tool that is the downfall in all this, it’s the user using the tool. I believe these tools were not created to be used as spamming social networks, but to make life a bit easier for those who are part of quite a few social networks and bookmarking sites.

    Though I do agree with your point above, that if you are not a member of the site and you don’t visit it directly at least once a week (if not more), then you are spamming – plain and simple.

    However…. it still comes down to the education the person using the tool in the first place.

    There will always be people that think they’re better than the system and push the envelope, that we can’t get away from. However, we can at least all work together to make sure that there is information out there to educate user on the proper usage of social networking and bookmarking, along with using automation to make life a little simpler for them.

  29. Great post. this is the type of thing I get asked about a lot. I am going to add this post to my next top 50 social media links on my site.

  30. Hi Tina, I agree with you to an extent. I mean, instant coffee is not evil, yet the taste of a sand Turkish coffee is much better. A McDonalds hamburger is not necessarily bad, but nothing tastes better than the hamburger you make alone, in the garden, on your own grill, while partying with friends. Social networking is about that hamburger and not about going to McDonalds and facing a seller with a fake smile for a quick meal!

  31. Thank you very much, Koka. You have a very good list there already.

  32. It is a sickening reality that the use of automation is being taken to the extreme. What is it really that has not be automated as yet. If there is any, very soon there will be some kind of automation for it.

  33. Well said. Automation may seem like the easier route, but it will not pay off in the long run. It takes hard work to be a success at this.

  34. Social networking automation is one of the worst things that could be done because it completely destroys the experience of something that was intended to be used in a good way.

    When we join social networking sites, we do it to connect with our friends and to make new friends as well. But this whole automation thing is taking it too far!

    Not only ia automation destroying this social networking communities, but just like Jason just stated, it will eventually get you no where.

  35. Thank you for taking the time to comment, Imwoyo. I suppose you already understood why I had to edit your signature link. I normally label as spam signatures like yours, but after checking out the content of your squidoo lens I decided that it could be as valuable for my readers as your comment, so I kept your comment with your name.

  36. What Jason and Imwoyo said is quite true. However, being new to this type of networking I can tell you that sites like Social Marker can be very useful. That is if you want to get noticed on the first pages of search engines. The key to all this hard work is to have fun with it.

  37. I use tools such as hello.txt or ping.fm very sparingly for this very reason.

  38. I think social networking tools have been misused to quite an extent just to gain links from SEO point which had done lotta harm and taken away lot of genuine readers. What I can say at the end of the day is that you can fight spam but cannot end it!!!

  39. spamming wont take you far off, though it gives short term results but in long term you will fail with it as you might end up getting banned from these social communities forever. Rather than opting for any software its better to go forward and build a community using fair methods.

  40. Spot on! Traffic is wonderful, but hits are not the same as interested people in your ‘warm’ online community reading your content….

  41. I agree completely, non-targeted traffic does just about…NOTHING. Social network automaton is just that: SPAM.

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