Social media is a pretty basic process. Up until now I thought I had it all figured out – people submit content to their favourite community (such as Digg, Sphinn or StumbleUpon), other people read it and then vote for the stories they like. The articles that generate the most votes get the greatest exposure. Simple huh…? Sure… except it seems we’ve been taking one thing for granted… the fact that people actually read the stories…
The Case Study
A recent post of mine was submitted to Mixx by Kristen Munse (thanks Kristen!). Kristen publishes the Social Media Mom blog, which covers social media news and issues. It’s a great blog for those of you who haven’t read Kristen’s work. Kristen is a popular member of a number of social media communities including Sphinn, Mixx & StumbleUpon. As a result of her participation, she has built up a sizable network of friends, followers and colleagues. Naturally, these friends help to support any submissions she makes.
The article Kristen submitted managed to accrue a few votes without setting the world on fire. At the moment it’s accumulated 19 votes:
It seems obvious that with 19 votes for the article, at least 19 Mixx members must have visited my site (if not more). However, this was not the case. In fact, when checking my analytics for the week I found that just 8 visitors had come from Mixx… which means that over 50% of the people who voted on the article did not come to my site to read it… So my question is – if they didn’t read the article, what exactly have the other 9 people voted for…?
Is blind support acceptable social media behaviour?
Jeff Quipp wrote a great article this week about the importance of forming friendship groups within social media circles. He stressed the importance of developing acquaintances with fellow members in order to garner votes, build visibility and develop authority within the chosen community. All good advice. But… does that extend to blind support…?
I doubt it. And I doubt that Jeff would advocate it. Indeed, I think we have an ethical dilemma if we think it is acceptable for people to vote on articles they haven’t read. Aren’t we supposed to be voting for the content itself? Voting an article up based on the submitter as opposed to the content goes against the very purpose of social media (uncovering and supporting great content). If we advocate blind support, are we not simply turning social media into a high profile popularity contest…?
SEO standards have been the hot topic of the week, but perhaps we should also be considering social media standards:
- When is it appropriate and ethical to vote for an article?
- Should voting buttons be inactive before a user has clicked on a link to the relevant article?
- Should some form of ratio be visible that identifies the percentage of activity that is restricted to a user’s friendship circle?
- Should we consider removing the submitter completely so that the content remains the primary focus?
At this point I should point out that blind social media support is not a behaviour that is unique to Mixx. I have seen similar trends occur with articles submitted to Sphinn. And I expect in both cases that users would construct a similar defense – that they voted based on the reputation and authority of the submitter. The question is – are we prepared to accept this? Is this an abuse of the ideals of social media? I’d be interested to hear others’ opinions.
Speak now… or forever hold your peace…