Spamming Forums is Not a Strategy

My friend Lee LeFever linked to a guest post at TechCrunch by someone named Dan Ackerman Greenberg of The Comotion Group, a “video viral marketing company”. (I realize I’m providing them with links and maybe that was one of the points of his post, but it doesn’t really matter). The post is titled “The Secret Strategies Behind Many “Viral” Videos”. Basically, he’s talking about how you can get people to your video. The problem is when you get into stuff like this:

Forums: We start new threads and embed our videos. Sometimes, this means kickstarting the conversations by setting up multiple accounts on each forum and posting back and forth between a few different users. Yes, it’s tedious and time-consuming, but if we get enough people working on it, it can have a tremendous effect.

Commenting: Having a conversation with yourself

Every power user on YouTube has a number of different accounts. So do we. A great way to maximize the number of people who watch our videos is to create some sort of controversy in the comments section below the video. We get a few people in our office to log in throughout the day and post heated comments back and forth (you can definitely have a lot of fun with this). Everyone loves a good, heated discussion in the comments section – especially if the comments are related to a brand/startup.

(“Every power user on YouTube has a number of different accounts”? I wonder how the Angry Video Game Nerd, Ask A Ninja, Barats and Bereta, Blame Society Productions, Brandon Hardesty and Derrick Comedy feel about that?)

Basically, what you have here is a group of individuals who aim to create what I try to prevent on my communities. We get this sort of stuff with frequency (not necessarily with videos, but with links, etc.) and it’s always shut down right away. If someone joins and their first post (or one of their first posts) contains a suspicious link that they may be affiliated with, the post is removed and they are contacted, making them aware of our user guidelines. If they start off with more than one post that does this, they’re posts are removed and they are probably banned. New users are not given the benefit of the doubt on these matters. Once someone is established in our community, they will be given more leeway, however it is not appropriate to create threads or posts to bring attention to something that you are affiliated with.

Spamming is not a strategy that respectable individuals employ. If you want to post your website on a community, you check their guidelines. If you are unsure, even in the slightest, you ask a staff member and then proceed as they outline – and only as they outline. If a particular website is a persistent offender on my network, they might find their link banned from the network as a whole. That is, their link is not allowed to be posted on any of my communities in any instance.

Regardless of what the guidelines say (unless they specifically permit it, which is… suffice to say, highly unlikely), covertly creating multiple accounts to boost up your discussion or talk amongst yourself is universally looked at as uncool. Really, it’s embarrassing behavior that no respectable organization will want to be associated with because if it should come to light, they’ll be roasted and you should never do anything that you will be ashamed of should it come to light.

I certainly disagree with the notion that can’t be successful if you promote your videos in an ethical fashion, as the article states that the days of natural hits like Ask A Ninja, etc. are over. If you create something engaging and you work at it, you can be a success – just as much as if you manufacturer that success in an artificial fashion. Quality stuff, funny stuff (to someone, not necessarily you or me), gets passed on. If no one likes it, it doesn’t, no matter how much you push it.

The article has some good points, I’m sure, but how can you be left with anything but a dirty feeling after having read it? I mean, yeah, some people won’t feel that way, but those aren’t people I really want to associate myself with. There is always a group of people who don’t care how they get something, they just want it. And there can be serious consequences for that. It’s good for us to know that people like this exist so that we can know what we’re up against and also so that we can know what we don’t want to be.

For me, it’s about creating something of quality and doing it the right way, through hard work and dedication and through respecting others’ space – in other words, having a semblance of ethical values to adhere to. If you think “this is business” and there are no ethics, that’s just not true and, to me, that’s a terrible way to think. You always have a choice. You don’t have to be slimy.

Just a random question you have to ask yourself if you are a client of a company with this philosophy – if they are not above manufacturing interest in your video, why would they be above manufacturing views, favorites and whatever else in order to meet their quotas to fulfill their contracts and make you feel like you’ve really gotten your money’s worth? Be careful who you get in bed with.

Patrick O'Keefe

Managing online communities since 2000, I publish a collective of websites known as the iFroggy Network. I wrote the book Managing Online Forums and, as a public speaker, have presented for organizations like CNN, institutions like Australian National University and conferences like SXSW. More about me.



about 16 years ago

Patrick - I understand your points, my question to you is how does this differ from a book store putting a new release they want to sell a lot of copies of (incentives form publisher) right in the front of the store. The book store is helping to manufacturer interest by positioning the book right there. Very similar to what these companies are doing - manufacturing interest - to help their clients get noticed.



about 16 years ago

Dear Mr. Levy, Thanks for the comment. I don't count those two things as being similar in any meaningful way. That is, what I talked about and book sellers placing books that they make them a bigger profit at the front of the store. Please note that I didn't criticize them paying people to post about their videos on their own websites. That's a different issue. In such a case, they are paying someone to post about their product on their own website - something that the person they are paying owns or is responsible for. What I take issue with is when someone steps into my site that I own and that I am responsible for and purposely violates my guidelines and disrupting my community. I dislike it even more when they try to act like they aren't affiliated with the link or when they try to pass themselves off as more than one person. In such a case, not only are they violating my guidelines, but they are lying to my members and I will put a stop to it. Using your example, this is more like if I owned a bookstore and someone stood in the front inside of my shop and sold books, without asking me. Thanks, Patrick


Leave a Comment

Thank you for taking the time to read this post. If you would like to comment, I welcome you to do so. Please keep in mind that the atmosphere here is kind, respectful and work appropriate. If you can't disagree without being polite, this probably isn't the best place to comment.

I'm probably more strict as far as advertising goes than other sites you've commented on. If you aren't sure if something is OK, please contact me privately (rather than in the comments) or read the full Comment Guidelines. Participation constitutes acceptance of the guidelines.