On Friday morning, I submitted Chris Brogan’s, “Marketing Is NOT Social Media – Social Media Is NOT Marketing” post to my normal round of social news sites. Digg, StumbleUpon, Reddit, Mixx and Sphinn are my normal stops as I try to contribute content of value to those communities. Occasionally, I’ll add del.icio.us to the list if it’s an article I may want to go find easily for reference.

Mmmmm … gravyWhile I didn’t consider Chris’s analysis of social media as a marketing tool a particularly controversial subject, the article produced a passionate response from one of my new friends on Mixx, Jay Fowler.

The entire Mixx discussion is here. I’ll encapsulate, but feel free to check out (and participate) in the conversation here.

His initial response indicated Chris’s reference to social media as a marketing tool struck a nerve. I responded that he might be viewing Chris’s post too narrowly, that marketing is behind a good portion of the submissions on social news sites, that the community must still support those submissions for them to work and that the only marketers who are successful there are those who play by the rules. Jay responded that the top submitters on Digg or Mixx are not marketers, new users wouldn’t stay long if that’s what they saw but estimated that Mixx is about 60 percent “marketing and SEO junk” and 40 percent entertainment or news media.

Jay ended his list of the problems with social media as marketing by saying he is tired of the spam and massive self-submissions and that he respects my opinion but doesn’t share it. I’m assuming he believes my opinion to be parsed from the point he had such contention with in Chris’s original post, that social media is a marketing tool. He may not, however, recognize that while Chris and I believe it to be a marketing tool, neither of us think it is ONLY a marketing tool.

There are three types of users in social news communities. Jay is the first kind, The Genuine User. Genuine Users enjoy browsing content supplied by the community, voting for that they feel compelled to and submitting meaningful content to the community for consideration. These are the users the site founders, particularly Mixx founder Chris McGill, who Jay purports to know and even speaks for in his responses.

The second type of user is the one Jay alludes to, The Greedy User, are the SEO/SEM types who enter with a bottom-line objective, spam the community (though most cleverly so we don’t see it as spam) to drive traffic to their content. Consider these to be the email spammers or telemarketers of the social news community.

The third type is one Jay doesn’t recognize, though I hope this to be just an oversight since I consider myself to be of this set. The third type of user is what I call The Gravy User. We are Genuine Users who are conversation and engagement generators for our organizations or clients. We understand the community, the rules and respect them. We don’t spam, but hope to aide our organizations or clients participate meaningfully with the community by providing appropriate content or resources. Any residual benefit to our organizations or clients, be it commercial sales, larger market share or favorable sentiment? It’s just gravy.

Certainly, I can anticipate the claims this third type of user is no different that The Greedy User. But there are always varying degrees of intent, opinion and mindset. I believe Gravy Users to have an appropriate mix of marketing and genuine intent in being meaningful participants in the community. We walk a fine line of what is appropriate and what is not, but in the end, the community will keep those of us interested in being so, to be honest and honorable.

So, what do you think? Are there more than two types of users as Jay asserts? Are Gravy Users the same as Greedy Users? Are there more types of users neither of us are recognizing? I’ve invited Jay to come and participate. I, and I’m sure he, would love to hear your thoughts.

Other Posts You’ll Find Interesting:

  1. Setting The Record Straight: Mixx? Digg? Reddit? (from Jay Fowler’s blog)
  2. Full-Length Mixx Review
  3. 12 Reasons To Join Mixx And Abandon Digg
  4. Advanced Social News Gaming: An Interview With Fantomaster
  5. How Digg Works As A Community

IMAGE:biscuit with gravy” from berbercarpet on Flickr.

[tags]social news sites, marketing, community, social news, Mixx, Digg, Reddit, StumbleUpon[/tags]

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About Jason Falls

Jason Falls

Jason Falls is a leading thinker, speaker and strategist in the world of digital marketing and is co-author of two books, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide To Social Media Marketing and The Rebel's Guide To Email Marketing. By day, he leads digital strategy for Elasticity, one of the world's most innovative digital marketing and public relations firms. Follow him on Twitter (@JasonFalls).

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Comments & Reactions

Comments Policy

Comments on Social Media Explorer are open to anyone. However, I will remove any comment that is disrespectful and not in the spirit of intelligent discourse. You are welcome to leave links to content relevant to the conversation, but I reserve the right to remove it if I don't see the relevancy. Be nice, have fun. Fair?

  • http://www.socialmediamom.com Kristen

    Interesting post. I, myself, probably fall into the category of the gravy user. I do try to provide the community with appropriate content and resources. Unfortunately, I get excited and probably get perceived as a spammer if I share my content too often. I can see why this would be confused as greedy instead of gravy.
    It takes time to create virtual trust and I would imagine this is where Jay’s issues with the Gravy user come in.

  • SilentJay74

    Hey Guys, it’s Jay. Here is the issue. Submit more content other than marketing. If you participate and share more news stories or other media, other than marketing the entire time, then you are submitting quality content. While you may feel your marketing content is quality, a majority of the users don’t feel this way. Submit news stories, good videos, and then every once in a while submit a marketing or self submission and that would be ok. But please don’t be a “Greedy” user. That is where you would lose respect of power users. Granted I was heated during the discussion but that stems back to an earlier incident. Someone “A SUPER GREEDY USER” submitted their entire online catalog and had high-jacked the popular tags section with spam. I was pretty ticked that a new site that I am heavily involved with was taken advantage of.
    So if you are a marketer, submit stuff the rest of the users will appreciate and it’s ok if you have been a genuine submitter to slip your own stuff in every once in a while. As long as your submissions don’t repeat the same URL over and over.
    Thanks!
    Jay

  • http://www.socialmediaexplorer.com Jason Falls

    Kristen — Thanks for stopping by and participating. You’re right that earning that trust does take time. It’s kind of like proving you’re blog is worth noting … providing consistant content over time earns you the respect of the community.

    Jay — Thanks for coming and clarifying. Your voice is the voice of the genuine user and we, as marketers, must take heed of your advice to be successful in accomplishing what we may want to accomplish for us or our clients. Please know that many of us want to participate meaningfully and provide appropriate content, be it client related or not. Please also know that any public forum will always be taken advantage of by the greedy users if a marketing advantage can be had there.

    On behalf of all of us gravy users, thanks for understanding there are varying degrees of marketing participation and that we’re not all bad. And I, for one, promise to take your advice and contribute much more to the community than I expect in return.

    Thanks again for the conversation!

  • http://MoneyPowerWisdom.com/ Dr.Mani

    “But there are always varying degrees of intent…”

    I’d say this is a can of worms, Jason. (for the record, I too see myself as a ‘Gravy user’)

    When you make INTENT the driver, then the ‘Genuine User’ (why does that term leave the sub-liminal connotation that the other 2 categories are ‘fakes’?!) has the intent of benefiting/developing the network/service. The ‘Greedy User’ hast he intent of benefiting self (or his/her business/company).

    The ‘Gravy User’ has the intent of benefiting… what? Both? If so, which takes precedence? If there’s a conflict between doing what’s right for the service VERSUS what’s best for self, what would the ‘Gravy User’ pick?

    That’s too individual, if-fy to stand as a defining or guiding description.

    Yes, marketers do use social media. Their intent is to benefit self. The only distinction between those using it ethically versus those spamming the services is in the respect for the rules, spirit and ethos of the social media service being so used (exploited?).

    If a purist is offended by marketers invading that space, I can understand how they feel. And why. Seen it happen in an extreme way on Squidoo.

    But there always will be marketing mileage claimed from such services when they become popular. That’s a given. The key is in growing a community that will not abuse such potential to the detriment of the service – and put in place safeguards to prevent unethical forces taking advantage of the community.

    That much has remained constant since the days of BBS services and extended into forums, blogs and now other social media like Mixx, Digg, Facebook, Squidoo and more.

    Just my opinion :)

    All success
    Dr.Mani

  • http://www.moxie-drive.com/blog/ Social Media Maniac

    It’s like this. I submitted an article by Tamar to Digg today and got 77 Diggs so far. Rather proud of myself and my group of friends since I am less than a month into using Digg earnestly.

    If Tamar were my client, I would still be in the gravvy catagory because her content is always great and everyone likes to submit her stuff to my knowledge. As my client, I would be obliged under contract to submit her stuff when it was published.

    Now, if Tamar were my client and I tried to submit something of hers to the social sites daily, I would be borderline spamming if I submitted nothing but Tamars material. But I don’t and submit from 60 other quality blogs.

    I would be borderline spamming also if I was Tamar submitting my own stuff on say a bi-weekly basis, a definite spammer if I submitted my own stuff daily without submitting other’s material. This is the selfish act of spamming, not sharing the other great finds that the internet has to offer.

    Don’t be so selfish and help each other out, then everyone can stop complaining about spamming.

    Man, I am hungry for a spam sandwich now.

  • http://www.socialmediaexplorer.com Jason Falls

    Dr. Mani,

    Well said. Just to clarify my version of the gravy user … we feel the community rules, norms and expectations are not to be compromised just to hock product. While I know if a client said to me, “go put my content on Digg, Mixx, etc.” I would beholden to them, I would work with them on the front end to ensure the content was something those communities would be interested in.

    That rule certainly won’t apply for all gravy users all of the time, but I think we hold the community standards to be of utmost importance since damaging our standing there ruins any future success we might have with our client’s content.

    Great response and points all around worthy of a kudo or three!

  • http://www.thebigfish.co.za Jansie Blom

    Good post. your own site submissions can be mix(x)ed with other site submissions.

  • http://www.socialmediaexplorer.com Jason Falls

    Hey Jansie. Thanks for visiting. Your point is mine as well. I think Jay just wants to make sure what we share of our own is meaningful to the group as well. But you’re right … other site submissions are important to establish that credibility.

    Thanks again for chiming in.

  • http://chrisbrogan.com Chris Brogan…

    Just one clarification: I don’t believe that social media are a set or MARKETING tools. I think they’re tools. They can be used for tons of things. Look at my Small Boxes. There’s no marketing there. Well, I guess you could say that I promote some of these bands that I find on the Podsafe Music Network, but only insofar as I give them the required attribution.

    But noooooo, I don’t think social media is something for the marketing toolbox ONLY.

    I think social media is a great set of relationship building tools. : )

  • KatFrench

    I’m in essentially the same boat as Jason. First of all, I work for an interactive agency. It’s critical to my career that I stay plugged in to the zeitgeist that exists in social media, both in a general way (tracking microtrends, for example) and also to be aware of what issues and conversations have potential impact for clients. And as a dyed-in-the-wool web geek, I naturally get personal value from participation in social media sites as well.

    I would argue, even the Genuine Users are not so much “Genuine” as “Personal”–their use of social media sites is exclusively for personal value, rather than professional value. The Gravy Users (of which I’d consider myself one) get both personal and professional value from the site.

    On Mixx in particular, I contribute content that I think the other users will enjoy. Of course, that’s also sometimes going to include my own or a client’s content. It would seem counterintuitive to omit only content where I had a professional connection.

  • http://www.socialmediaexplorer.com Jason Falls

    Chris — Thanks for stopping by and clarifying.

    Kat — Thank you for chiming in as well. I like the rephrasing of “personal” but it ruins my whole 3Gs thing (heh). And we’re in synch on the personal benefit while achieving it professionally for clients as well. Can’t wait to have lunch. I promise I’ll be on time this time!

  • SilentJay74

    Jason,
    I am glad you started this discussion, I believe it had to be done. So now everyone can see where each other is coming from. Thanks again.
    Jay

  • http://occamsrazr.com Ike

    I loved “Firefly”. One of the best shows on television, ever.

    Adam Baldwin’s character, amoral muscle for hire Jayne Cobb, was part of a well-developed and deep ensemble. Joss Whedon asked him how he played Jayne.

    “Jayne thinks he is the real hero of the show. Everyone cases themselves as the hero.”

    It might not be an original concept, but it is brilliant, and it applies.

    “Everyone is a Genuine User.” In their own mind and experience, they are there to give as much as they get. Few will ever cop to gaming the system. But the real measure of the Greedy-Gravy-Genuine continuum is external. And it’s measurable.

    If one sits on Greedy for too long, they get ejected from the community. At the very least, their opportunities for transactions (or conversations) of value are diminished.

    As agents for a particular organization, the best you can do is find the Gravy train. Be accepted for what you are, and participate *more* than enough to deflect questions about your motive for being there. Ideally, if something is going wrong with your reputation, you want members of the community to say “Hey, let’s ask Jason about this.”

    http://occamsrazr.com/2007/07/23/pr-and-the-gray-zone/

    We want to get into the Gray Zone, but the Authenticinazis will eject us out of hand. Best to get third-party endorsements from the community in the Cyan Zone.

  • http://www.socialmediaexplorer.com Jason Falls

    Jay — You are welcome and thank you for sparking the whole thing. It’s a valuable discussion that should be revisited often to ensure we are following the rules and not bastardizing the community unfairly.

    And Ike, as he is apt to do, always elevates the conversation. Click through and read his gray zone post. It all makes a lot of sense in conjunction with this discussion.

    hi — Grant sitting on my lap wanted to type. That’s from him.

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