Don’t Pee in the Pool. Responsible Social Media Marketing

marty-weintraub-3.jpgNever underestimate the screaming-obsessive lowdown fanaticism of a committed social site user who’s really pissed off. From Digg’s famed Bury Brigade to the vulgar rhetoric of the StumbleTroll Wars, marauding packs of member-vigilantes gang up to violently flame those they consider trespassers.

The engaged are extremely invested in their community, to the point that participation is woven into the very fabric of day to day lives. Regardless of the specific site or community model, one nuclear complaint seems to piss off invested participants the most: bad content.

My observation is that e-vigilantes are actually trying to vanquish content they feel threatens community character. Remember, these users helped build the place and totally LOVE how things work as they are. The conflict arises as the network’s population gets larger and more buzz pockets of diversity sprout. Then the marketers move in for the kill. There’s fresh meat on the beach. The natives push back.

It’s Messy to Eat Where You Crap
In StumbleUpon there happens to be a vital pocket of search and social marketers, many of whom grace the Sphinn and SearchEngineLand community. The irony is that while we truly enjoy networking in SU, we also sometimes market our clients. Some social media marketers cross the line.

Ours is (for the most part) an authentic community which uses SU to connect with SEM peers, find great content, and meet interesting folks all over the world. Still we all know there’s a darker automated side to SMO. Plenty of technical and social gaming goes on.

“If these guys [StumbleTrolls] have a problem with Marty, then they’re going to HATE all 200 of me.”

Shout all you want about PM (Personal Message) abuses- nearly every SMO professional, at one time or another somehow leverages personal relationships to get things hot for clients. The method may be by asking for Stumbles for your husband’s site at a conference, twittering pals, sending a personal email, cranking up the ol’ IM factory, or otherwise pinging a few influential friends. Business gets done for clients, usually in a restrained and tasteful manner.

However, some SMOs push things too far. Because a handful of aggressive search marketers dilute the content stream, some active and well regarded non-SEM Stumblers literally hate search marketers. They make a good point. Whilst search marketers harvest golden nuggets from focused and fertile demographics, to an extent, overzealous SMOs drive the audience away and ruin it for all of us. If they build it, someone will game it.

The Tao of Social Media Marketing
Thus the spate of posts from luminary social media authors about “knowing the community” and playing by the manual is not just the SMO bloggers’ high horse. Being responsible when marketing to an audiences we keep as friends, is about respecting and preserving the flow and Zen of each community.

No Good Deed Remains Unpunished
Ironically, no matter how a given user might love and whole heartedly participate in Digg or truly love StumbleUpon, there will always be those who hate Internet marketers, sometimes with cause. We tell our clients to “give a tremendous amount before attempting to take anything.”

Sure, I use StumbleUpon to traffic clients’ content, but nearly always in the light of connecting Stumblers with sincerely beneficial content. I already KNOW they will enjoy it because I’ve done my homework and researched their profile. It’s a kind of a “good SEO witch/bad SEO witch” sort of scenario. Only manipulate to “serve.”

Perfection is Next to Impossible
The complicated Tao of social search marketers, who network among themselves in communities they also market to , is like peeing in the swimming pool. Then SMOs make handy targets for pissed off natives who flame bad marketing, which they perceive our community serves up as standard fare. ” Chicken/egg/egg/chicken…THEN they think we marketers all suck.

Anyone who has ever been screamed at for submitting content the sweaty masses deems as “bad” knows the pain of being jumped by the mob. With the blogosphere’s “what have you done for me lately” attitude, there’s little margin of error.

It’s hard to know what” best-practice” means for the duality of holistic social participation marketing in sites like StumbleUpon. There’s sure no one-size-fits all. Still there are standard practices that can’t lose.

Keep participation/marketing ratio natural and unselfish.

Bookmark dozens of others’ posts (or more) for every one of your clients’.

Learn what matters to the community.

Give, give, and give some more before even thinking about trying to take.

Only recommend content that you believe will enthrall to users you know will like it.

It’s OK to give content a little “help from your friends” to get things started.

Manipulate to serve the community to mutual benefit.

Maintain an honest and non-sales pitch laden profile

Obviously consider whether it’s prudent to maintain a personal SEM profile anywhere they hate search marketers. Doing so is just asking for trouble. Keep in mind that sometimes the restless natives have valid concerns. They just don’t want crap content in their neighborhood.

Never underestimate the fanatical devotion of a faithful social site member who’s really mad. Remember participation is woven into the very fabric of some folks’ day to day existence and, in order to preserve the distribution channel, marketers should tread lightly and be sensitive.

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