Are Marketers Welcome On Social News Sites?

by Jason Falls |

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]


About the Author

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).