The Social Integrity Of Social Networking Platforms
I don’t know what to make about these Twitter tools that promise to gain you tens of thousands of followers in 30 days. I mean, I get that having a large following on Twitter has its advantages. No doubt, follower count is a certain measure of ones experience in the Twittersphere. But when tools look exactly like the pyramid schemes where you send a single dollar in the mail to five people on a list, adding your name on top, and then wait for the beauty of math to turn around and send you 10,000 dollars within weeks, you gotta start to worry. Is Social Media such the wild wild west that we will soon see people offering to deposit a few millions into my bank account from an African country’s prime minister’s family member if I only Twitter-follow these ten friends? Could the integrity of Twitter’s pure “social” advantage be suffocated right out from under our noses?
What is intriguing here is that there are tools geared at gaming the natural, viral experience of building a Twitter following at all, somewhat like there have always been tools out there promising the top spot on Google in two weeks. Do hackers feel compelled to write code simply because there’s a new game in town? Apparently so. Black hat tactics are running free in the world of Twitter, and right now there seems no sheriff bent on stopping them. Twitter doesn’t appear concerned over users who might produce a three day surge of thousands of followers despite tweeting nearly nothing. Maybe things would be different if Twitter established a clear revenue model for the platform. But even without one, you’d think black hat tactics like this would get you banned from Twitter completely (kind of like being removed from Google’s index), simply because you’re faking the point of the entire system itself. Perhaps it doesn’t matter precisely because there is no established revenue model. And I’m not counting the third party, non-Twitter tactics of trying to get people to click on a link you put in your tweet that gains you some money per click.
I think one of the coolest things about Twitter is that the entire experience is so completely “user generated” that it defies its own marketing advantage. Many twitterers don’t even interface with the twitter.com site itself (I don’t), opting rather to use handy third party apps to better manage, track, search and tweet their thoughts in this space. So, Twitter making money running ads on its own site seems like only a partial win at best. The truly viral nature of Twitter leaves things unclear from a monetization standpoint. Oh, there’s plenty of clear return to be seen for a business leaping in and interacting with consumers on Twitter. But for Twitter itself?
In the world of Internet Marketing you come to look at every website and ask Why? And more to the point – Where do you make your money here? Google? Easy – ad platform. Facebook? Easy – ad platform. Blogs – Easy – ad platform (No, really, even here it’s about eyeballs and driving ad impressions and clicks for most bloggers) LinkedIn? – I see ads there too. But Twitter? What are these guys thinking? In the end that need not even be the point. The platform is a beautiful reflection of how the society of onliners thirsts for the ability to share and receive the commentary of their “twibe.” Twitter is exploding because it fills a hole perfectly. Yes, people are dropping off like flies. But, I’m starting to think there is enough ground swell to keep it alive. Of course, that means absolutely nothing if it doesn’t become a revenue producing engine. It will come, I’m sure. And with that will likely come the effort to preserve the true social integrity of the platform and deflect the scams and black hat schemes. All in good time.
It’s the wild wild west for now – better hop on a horse!