Social media sewage … and hope

I’ve started and trashed this article at least six times.

As you will see, I have my reasons to be conflicted about publishing it. Yet I can’t deny this gnawing feeling of disenchantment about the social web that seems to be also reflected in so many other blog posts I have read recently.

I am a positive person.  I want to lift people up. But at this moment, I can’t be “positive” and also be “honest.” I need to write about social media sewage for a moment. If you make it to the end of the article, it gets better!

There are three underlying economic drivers of social media that are creating desperate and increasingly unethical practices that are turning the social media space into a cesspool.

The first is search engine page rank, a business practice largely built on deception.  I know there is much more to it than that (spare me the flaming comments) but face it, billions of dollars are spent each year in an effort to deceive Google.  Those who do the best job become rich and are awarded rockstar status. On an almost daily basis, people make offers to me to participate in their complex SEO ruses.  I recently told the story of a person lying to me (and other bloggers) to get a single link to their website.

Related to SEO is the battle against spam comments on my blog. These comments, using increasingly sophisticated ploys, are meant to provide a back link to a website or trick us into clicking on a link.  Can you imagine that you and I are in a business where human beings  are creating bots and building Third World sweats shops with the goal of getting you to click on a link for black market Viagra or worse? What kind of a person can wake up each day and be happy with that kind of a career?

I have been spending so much time purging porn-purveyors and MLM link-builders from my Twitter stream that I have now assigned a virtual assistant to the task.  That’s right.  I work in an industry where I have to pay an employee to keep pornographers away from me.

A second economic driver on the web is content.  In an industry where content is power, people routinely steal and publish my original work — word for word — because that is easier and cheaper to do than creating their own material.  Last week a young and promising blogger asked, “What do I do when somebody steals my content?”  Unless you want to dedicate your life to chasing ghosts, the answer is “nothing.”  I have given up.

Not only are people routinely stealing my content to promote ideals and businesses I despise, even my fellow bloggers think nothing of taking content from others, without license or permission, to promote their own commercial efforts.  In the “real world” this would be a cause for a law suit. On the blogosphere it is celebrated as a best practice.

Another major economic driver on the Internet is social proof.  By this I mean the numbers and badges — like number of Twitter followers or Klout scores — that provide a shortcut assessment of authority.  In real life, we can actually meet people, watch them in a meeting, or observe the college degrees on their walls that create an impression of authority.  On the social web, we usually only have shortcuts — social proof — to serve this purpose. If you immerse yourself in the blogosphere you will quickly learn that social proof can be a more important source of influence than actual education, experience, or accomplishment.  Mitch Joel recently remarked in his podcast that it seems “dangerous” to him that the least experienced people on the social web seem to carry the most authority, largely by racking up social proof.

On the Internet, it is far too easy to become a guru. The entry barriers to being a social media marketer are so low that I recently met with a young man who had never taken a marketing class, never had a marketing job, never worked in sales — in fact, had not had a job of any kind since graduating from high school — and is now representing himself as a social media expert based on fake badges he had plunked down on his website.

Of course this is ridiculous but also commonplace.  Can you imagine somebody in this same situation advertising themselves as an “engineer,” or an “accountant,” or a “professional athlete?”  Twitter followers, Facebook likes, positive reviews, Google “plusses” — the most valued commodities of social proof — can all be purchased on eBay. You can certainly fake your way into our profession like no other.

And then something happened …

I don’t want to sound like a “victim” in all of this, but the fact is that if you are immersed in the social web, corruption is foisted upon all of us at almost every turn. If you examine our working conditions objectively, a large part of the economic value delivered by the social web is being created through deception, stealing, gaming the system, and faking your way to glory.  It’s enough to make you stop and think … and maybe just stop all together.

But just as I was ready to publish this article, something really weird happened.

I don’t spend a lot of time checking my Google Analytics but I decided to look at the keywords people were using to find my blog last month. Here is what I found:

This made my heart skip a beat.

I can’t explain this connection at all but in the last 30 days, 175 people typed a single word into Google — “hope” — and landed on this blog.  It was probably the precise message I needed to see at this disheartening moment in my career.

Sure the social web can be a strange place. But it has also given a lot to me.  Thousands of connections, hundred of friends, dozens of customers and partners and wonderful career opportunities.  Exactly one year ago I wrote a post called The Spirituality of Social Media and today I’m being whiny and cranky.  Maybe I’ve fallen down on the job a little since then but I guess that’s part of human nature too.  There is something to be said for enduring and prevailing.  Endurance creates character, and character creates hope.

When you get down to it, we can only impact our own little sliver of the world, and for me that’s {grow}.  Sometimes I do get tired of the ugliness, but you know, it can be different, a least here.  People doing a search for “hope” … and finding me. Wow.  That’s a kick in the pants. I’ve tried to lift up many other people over the years and now I maybe I need to lift myself … endure … prevail … and get back to the job of dispensing hope.

What do you think?  Will you join me?

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  • Mark, feeling better? Nothing like a good vent. That Google result is oddly fantastic.
    I’m with you except for one thing: the “Guru.” The reality is that social media and business is much like the old west. Until business catches up (how long is that going to take?) they will be willing able to buy pretty much anyone’s snake oil on social media. The shiny object syndrome takes over, but eventually this will shake out. As for the other complaints, take solace in the fact that one or two paragraphs to vent your valid complaints is not undoing your otherwise positive output.
    Have a good week, this was a great start to mine.

  • Anonymous

    Positive vibes always overshadow negativity over time as you found out through google analytics;-) Really enjoyed reading this post and I am sure this post will help to increase your organic search results without even thinking about SEM;-)

    Have a great day,

  • Yes, of course I’m with you!
    Found myself sitting back for the last few weeks wondering about stuff you have mentioned. But if the good guys quit then all there will be will be spam from porn and mlm and that would be a travesty. Billy

  • Are you ready for the onslaught of feelgood-isms from everyone?  You always have a positive spin on an otherwise smarmy industry. I love what we all do but there are so many spin doctors and snake oil salesmen out there that at times, I’m hesitant to say what I do. I know I can always turn to you (either on purpose or by accident) and you’ll offer a positive and refreshing take on the topic du jour. 

  • Mark, 

    At first I thought you were doing your best to start my week off on a negative vibe, and almost stopped reading, except for the hope you held out in the third paragraph, that it would get better.

    And it did.

    It’s amazing to look at Google Analytics and see the words people type in to land on your site. And its great to know that the majority of these are folks who couldn’t care less about SEO or making themselves look better. They are normal folks looking to find something on the web. Whether it is HOPE, or information about something you are knowledgeable about, if they land on your blog after doing a search, you have helped them.

    The world has always had charlatans and snake oil salesmen; thieves and  murderers. Political leaders in many third world countries are so corrupt that medical supplies or other assistance can’t get to the people without first lining the pockets of the elite with cash. 

    Perhaps you’ve never been the victim of a scam in real life; but there are millions of unsuspecting citizens who have lost their life savings to a “low life” masquerading as a home improvement contractor, or something similar. Most of them go undetected and unpunished.

    It seems to me that in social media this audacious and unethical behavior is out in the open, for all of us to see. Eventually that should allow us to eliminate much of it. You are out in front helping to lead that effort. Pointing out the unscrupulous activities makes your readers more aware and able to protect themselves. 

    So, thanks for giving us all HOPE that what we do on the web may bring some joy or hope to someone else, even when we least expect it. Thanks for inspiring ME to keep going despite the potholes and sewers that occasionally cause damage to the vehicle.  And thanks for giving me inspiration for a future blog post (a story about coming way too close to child pornography in real life, and how it could happen to anyone).

    Have a great day and a productive week

  • “oddly fantastic”  … I like that! : )   Thanks for caring enough to comment Todd!

  • Maybe so. Whow can figure this stuff out for sure : )   Thanks Claude!

  • I wonder just how much worse it can get.  The bad guys always seem to be one step ahead! Thanks Billy!  You are definitely one of the “good guys!”

  • Thanks for making my day Kristen.  Can;t wait to meet you IRL in a few weeks!

  • This comment is such a very thoughtful gift to the community Alice.  Thank you. I look forward to reading that blog post. Maybe send me a note when it is out so I don’t miss it? Thanks!

  • Mark. other commenters have said everything I might say on the subject matter, except for one thing. Great writing is a rare gift! Consider this my ‘thank you’ note!

  • It is really nice of you to take the time to say that Ellie.  Much appreciated!

  • Faked credentials, plagiarism, and advertisement based on tricks are nothing really new though, are they?

    There have been plagiarized dissertations, ad posters glued on house walls, and I even remember a case where someone had got a job as a medical doctor with forged papers. All of this before social media.

    True, this unpleasant behavior may be more prevalent in social media because of the low entry barrier, but it is nothing new. Many people, and perhaps some of the structures of our very society, are shallow, and that is just the way it is.

    However, there are a couple of things about social media that make up for much of this:

    1. Low entry barrier works both ways. While it lets the crap come through, it also means that you don’t need a PhD from a top university to be heard. Social media is a viable avenue for meaningful and exciting content from people who would not have been heard before. Content filtering and curation will be major issues in the future, and how all of this turns out depends a lot on what solutions will be found on those fronts.

    2. Just like in real life, success through deception depends on finding new people to deceive. “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.” Social media provides ways to spread the word on these deceptions on an unprecedented scale. This inherent property works against the deceivers. How many companies can find lasting success in deception? Social media tricks will not work for long; remember that it is still very young, and lasting success is measured in decades, not months or even a couple of years.

    I for one am thrilled to see where social media will take us. How will we be able to filter the stream, what is the future of content curation, will social media truly bring about a communications revolution where anyone who creates good content can be heard?

    The cesspool is an unavoidable threat, but it can be controlled, hopefully!

  • I could mirror other comments here… it was a great read without question.   Loved this bit, “I can’t explain this connection at all but in the last 30 days,
    175 people typed a single word into Google — “hope” — and landed on this
    blog.”  I know that feeling of ‘losing my religion’ in the marketing world.  You gotta stick with the positive… and if you need a sabbatical, I have a cabin you can rent for cheap in the Catskills, hahaha.  Great blog post, I’m reposting on our Twitter feed @jpatrickjobs:twitter

  • Erica Allison

    I’m with you! Mark, I have to believe that just as in real life, the fake, untrustworthy people will be outed or figured out.  We see this in business now: people with little to no experience charming the pants off their client, only to take them to the bank and deliver nothing in results.  The same applies here; we just have a much more difficult time of figuring out the good guys from the bad guys (sort of like @tlyden:disqus reference below).  I think you’re vent just shows us you’re human and get frustrated like the rest of us; what sets you apart is that you at least try to find the positive in the situation and then share that with the rest of us.  Thanks, Mark!

  • Teddy Burriss

    Rant a little, it’s OK.

    I only wish there were a good way to rid our Social Media streams (& life) of the foolish activity of selfishness, trickery, spam and fakes. Unfortunately, we’ll just have to always be leary of what we read and who we meet online (& life).

    Now, grab ahold of the Hope you found, along with your Desire, Attitude & Passion and keep moving forward.

    Thanks for a good message.

  • Thanks, will do!

  • I kind of agree with you. Of course deception is part of our society and it always will be. But pre-social media days i did not spend a measurable amount of time and money combatting unethical behavior as i do now.  Again, I am very sensitive to not coming across as a whiny victim here but the fact is, if you work in this business, unethical behavior is a way of life that you cannot avoid. In fact, some in the SEO world would argue it is becoming difficult to compete WITHOUT being unethical.  So there is a difference I think.  Thanks for the alternative opinion and the fantastic comment!

  • Kathi, in the end it is still about people.  All of the nefarious practices  you have described are not much different than what has been going on in the “analog” business world forever.  Only difference is that the application is a little different and the reach is broader and faster.

    Personally, I pay little attention to these new metrics and only regard them as entertainment.  As example, I really don’t care how MANY twitter followers I have so much as I care about the ones who really care about me.  I think it is somewhat challenging, but by avoiding getting caught up in all of the hype over stats, you can weed out the hucksters, the cheats, and the outright criminals and still find the good stuff.

    That’s just me.  I don’t take anything that seriously.  Especially myself.

  • Good point Elissa.  Every day it seems that I repeat to myself “stay centered, stay centered!” Somebody is always trying to pull you into the muck. And if I were closer, I absolutely would love to rent your cabin!!

  • It is a risk, at least to me, to vent and be negative. But at the same time if that’s where my head is, it’s going to come out one way or another.  I’m mindful about how I show up because I do want to be a positive influence.  Thanks for the supportive comment!

  • Very kind of you to send that message along today Teddy.  Thanks!

  • Thanks for the balanced perspective Marc. Or should I call you Kathi?  : )

  • Mark, I wish I had said that!  I couldn’t agree more, because my experiences are so similar to yours.  There is hope, because social media isn’t any different from other technical advances: telephone, television, cell phones–all are used by con artists for unethical and illegal purposes.  But, eventually the good guys (and gals) will become educated to their good and proper use.  When that happens, time, effort, and money invested in social media will be worthwhile and profitable.  It is now, but it will get better.  As Churchill said, ” Never, never, never, never give up.”

  • I can’t tell you how frustrated I get with the onslaught of linking requests, porn bots, slimy DM messages, etc… that we receive through social media. I feel your pain! We had a similar hopeful experience recently, however, that really helped us realize that we ARE doing some good in the marketplace. We don’t hear from our customers that often — mostly when someone has a complaint! 🙂 In an effort to gather information and build some case studies, we asked our readers for their input. What results have they gotten with their news announcements lately? 

    The responses that poured in over the week were truly humbling and thrilling. We felt like Sally Field at the Oscars. 

    I think what I’ve taken away from your post this morning is that us “good guys” need to continue to take the time to support each other — interact on FaceBook and Twitter. Comment on blogs. Build relationships that are mutually beneficial. Karma will take care of the rest. 

  • Absolutely Mark! 
    In the long-run and the long-term — encouragement, ethics and hope shared are and have been the guidelines that matter.

  • Super comment Harvey. Way to rouse the troops!

  • Great perspective Tara.  Congratulations on that great customer feedback!

  • Just need to keep reminding ourselves that in the midst of the muck! : )

  • Mark, this is really beautiful, and touching. I can’t help but feel a little disillusioned with the whole online world sometimes, and I just have to shrug it off, and get back to work, a tad bit less motivated.

    We have to remember that in spite of all the sewage that’s out there, there are a lot of really good people who are interesting in doing something real and valuable, and are excited about those of us who are trying to do the same.

    Your post really put a smile on my face, Mark. Thank you.

  • Anonymous

    I sure needed a positive kick in the head today and your article did just that. Thanks Mark.

    For some reason it made me think for a few minutes about stories my grandfather told me. Your perspective on the hucksters and the shams that are so pervasive online had me thinking about what happened to rural people as they migrated to big cities for jobs during various industrial booms around the world.

    They had to fall off the turnip truck and learn not to trust everyone.

    In my grandfather’s case it was stepping down off the bus from Winchester, Tennessee to start boot camp. Then it was on to New York City, London and ultimately the supply line to and from the battlefront in WWI.

    All along the way, literally from the first day of boot camp to his trip back home, he learned lessons from his exposure to some of the most unscrupulous characters you can imagine. The funny thing was, he could still laugh about the experiences sixty years later and I did too.

    There will always be snake-oil salesmen and P.T. Barnum was right. We are all born suckers but most of us learn fairly fast to deal with deception. – even in the age of social media bots and work-from-home spammers.

    Thanks for being one of the most honest voices out there. Whether we’re trying to grow our businesses or simply find some wisdom within the day, you give a lot of us hope.

  • Wow, that is great Danny. Glad the post had an impact!

  • A great and beautiful comment Billy. Much appreciated!

  • Wow, what a wake up call!  I loved this and believe it is a mantra for everyone to focus on: Endurance creates character, and character creates hope. I’ve been a bit behind in my reading and first read your blog about “The death of marketing as we know it”  and now this. Strangely, I feel the two are very connected. One talks about totally dumb marketing moves based on some knee jerk, real time influence and this one discusses many of the “questionable” approaches to achieve  real time influence and the debatable integrity of it….. But, I repeat: Endurance creates character, and character creates hope. Apple has endured, as have many others.  They’ve fought through the early wars and stuck with their plan, through good and bad. 
    Like you said in this post, there are a lot of “debatable” practices impacting how some players work within the social domain.  It’s very early days yet in this space and I’d be willing to bet that the leaders of today will possibly (probably) not be the leaders of the end game for all of the reasons you’d mentioned. But (dare I repeat myself): Endurance creates character, and character creates hope.

    Mark, for me this was your best blog post yet!

  • Hopefully you’re enjoying a little bit of the same thing today with this post! 🙂 

  • What a wonderful article! I actually started tearing up, just a little, when I got to the end. I also find myself frustrated by gamers and word thieves, but like you I choose to ignore them and move on with my own positive message. I am a Social Media Consultant and Virtual Assistant, both, and have a team of people working for me, as well. It truly is amazing how much time we devote to blocking and deleting “adult” content from Twitter and blogs. Thank God for Akismet! I wish there were a similar program for screening porn links from Twitter; that would be a huge time saver and a relief. My content is almost always G rated and never, ever would be rated higher than a PG-13 and my clients like to keep their streams professional and clean, too. 🙂

  • I think more than any other person in the {grow} community, you have an uncanny ability to connect the dots on these blog posts … even in ways that are not apparent to me. Certainly legitimate and thought-provoking points, Steve.  I love it when you make thematic connections like this.  I learn something every time, Thanks!

  • The interesting thing about a blog is that you may get a lot of comments, but you don’t necessarily get “feedback.”  There’s a big difference.  So, like you, it is always a great experience to get both positive and negative feedback that will help me move forward!

  • Miriam

    I cannot even begin to thank you for this.

  • I think that’s important. Everything communicates.  I don’t want to be associated with that crap. I don’t want to be part of the game. Maybe enough of us doing a “block and report” will tear down their system eventually! Thanks Laura!

  • Thanks for letting me know : )

  • I can see why your natural optimism would deflate from time to time.  But your post about Hope sums up the real purpose and value you provide by rising above the din and delivering real value (knowledge and information). Thank you for sharing!

  • Just want to say, as a newbie to all of this social media marketing, that some of us may be following bad practices because we have been guided to do so. I may have been guilty of that because I don’t know any better, and I’m learning by just jumping in. Your article will make me more vigilant about what I try to do, and maybe research the ethical side of using social media. Thanks.

  • Thanks very much for that kind comment.  I have appreciated your participation in the community and look forward to the day you come out from behind the logo : )

  • Ray

    There’s a lot of ugliness in the world Mark. so I look to my beacons of hope for clarity and vision. 
    And you’re one of these beacons. 
    You say it like it is and do so in a humane, professional way.
    It’s understandable that you feel “down” when crap like this goes on. 
    I actually find myself defending my choices not to “game” Google or pay for followers. Clients, especially still measure success by numbers.

    We recently lost the Leader of our Royal opposition, Jack Layton. Much of the nation spent the week grieving a man who lead by strength of character and clarity of vision.
    Although I didn’t always agree with his policies, I did respect him for being honest and optimistic in the face of an ever increasing climate of political cynicism. He left us with a great quote:

    “My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world.” 

    Thanks for this post.

  • I think one of the things that makes this environment difficult is that over the years I have worked for companies and customers who valued INTEGRITY.  Many of the people in this social media space would not even make it through the front door. Keep your eye on the ball. Forget about what everybody else is doing if it’s not something you would be proud to tell your friends and family about. Stay centered. Be principled. Goals matter, but how you acheive them matters too. And stay connected to the people on {grow}.  You’ll find the good ones here!

  • Ray that is so appropriate to share with the community. Thank you!  Very inspiring and it certainly reflects my take on things, too.

  • ha! My name is Jennifer Roberts (rideboulderco). 🙂 If you’re
    interested you can read about me

  • You are not alone in your observations and thoughts. But, I too continue to remain hopeful 🙂

  • Jenn

    Yes! We must put some beauty back, be it hope, inspiration, or otherwise. The social media sphere can be a void, but good people give it value by putting out great content. We need them. For those of us toiling away in our studios to make some beauty for the world- we need people like you and social media to stay connected at times. Ill remember the words at the end- Endurance creates character, and character creates hope.  …..   Now that is exactly what I needed to hear to get me through my week (month).Thanks.

  • Yes, I can tell you the same stories, although my blog is far less popular than yours – but I am working on that matter 😉
    Regarding to your question, who is doing this: We have a saying in Germany: Every day a fool is getting out of bed, you only have to find him (I am interested, if you have something similar.
    As you know I used to be a banker and in the times before the internet, people send out faxes from deep Africa to tell people, they have inheriting a fortune. All you have to do, is to send some 10k in advance, to make sure, you get the money. And a lot of people send money. Some asked me for advice. These do not send money …
    In our days, this is still working, but via e-mail. The next step is to use social media…
    Steeling content
    Yes, I found out, that one Austrian Blogger copied a full article from my blog , including pics. I write a mail to him, asking, if he is a professional thief. He did not understand, what I ment. He thought, content is for free, if you add the source…
    Social Proof
    You may know already my opinion on klout and the other ways to get social proof. I find the article of Rebecca “Five reasons why measuring influence is elusive” quite good on that. Social proof measured by klout & Co is not influence. That is important to know.
    I did not find you on that keyword, but we all may find a little bit of that, while reading your blog. And that is a good thing, we should concentrate on
    Kind regards from Germany

  • Awesome Jennifer.  Maybe you could think about this: Your company’s single biggest mistake on Twitter

    The idea has worked for a ton of people who have come out from behind the logo 🙂  Hope to “see” you soon!

  • Thanks for taking the time to comment!

  • Hang in there Jenn. Keep creating beauty and let us know how we can help.

  • Wonderful observations my friend ( and I think we are becoming friends!). One of the amazing things about social media — how else would we have connected?  Hope, indeed!

  • I think I may have an idea on why you spend so much more time fighting against unethical behavior now than you did before social media: you are interacting with such a huge number of people!

    There is simply no way you could have connected with so many people without this technology. This brings us back to some of the arguments in my original comment: the tools we have are still very much work in progress and evolving, and ways to control the filth are being worked on.

    I do not know enough about the current state of SEO to say whether honest competition is too difficult. However, I do know that the search engine companies are fighting this battle as well, for example, take the Google Panda update, which is specifically targeted against some forms of unethical SEO. Many people are working on cleaning this sewage!

  • Hi Mark, 

    As someone who is a constant consumer of social media news, updates, “best practices,” etc. from many self-proclaimed experts (and occasionally an actual expert), it seems like a lot of people are feeling this frustration. I’ve been hanging around this corner of the interwebz for a while, but as I get more and more involved with people across all industries, I realize how little the average person knows about social media, but as you said, how low the barriers to entry are here, and how all it really takes is someone who is great at selling their intangible knowledge about using Twitter to get clients. It’s frustrating for me, as someone who works behind the scenes (and behind some really great people I may add!) 

  • I certainly share that sentiment Jess. Not a day goes by that I don’t read some blog post or social media promotion and think to myself “you have GOT to be kidding me.” Thankfully, I was a marketer long before social media and can see throught the scams where many people can’t. You’re right. All we can do is put our head down and do good work. : )

  • Mark–What a lovely gift to learn that you are a “hope” result.  There is so much negativity in the world & social media makes it easy for that negativity to spread like cancer.  However, social media also gives those of us committed to rising above the negativity a chance to spread hope and connection just as easily.  I’m glad you rediscovered your inspiration, and I appreciate the fact that you didn’t toss this draft of the post!

  • Hi Mark- The {grow} community is your “little sliver” connected to everything else.  In other words, your actions (and mine and all) affect widely, more widely than we can really understand.  Of course you go through heart dramas over the present state of social media, it is a reflection of the state of us as humanity.   And it is despairing stuff.  I am most dedicated to moment by moment responsiveness to live and choose according to our Truth.  This path is steep- it does not allow “ignoring”, it does not allow “glossing over”.  It demands digestion of what is on the surface into what IS.  There is no shame in having indigestion.  The path you have chosen is sometimes WORK.  With love to you brother- thanks for telling us about the hard times, it normalizes the journey for all of us- and allows you to have some support from us.

  • Vera

    Mark – I couldn’t not respond to your post. It made me sad for you because you’re so passionate about what you do and I have learned so much from you and been inspired on many, many occasions. I “hope” you feel much better after reading all the great comments today.  Don’t let all the losers out there affect you!  I truly believe that karma will get them, but if you continue to do good things and stay positive then you will receive good things back tenfold.  

  • Mark, wow, may I just simply say I found this moving and heartfelt. Love your vision of ‘hope’. Keep it going man.


  • All good points Ville. Many thanks for your thoughtful perspectives.

  • That is so nice of you to say. I literally sat on this for months. And it’s probably the tip of the iceberg with my frustrations. So much of the world would be better and different if we put love, respect and integrity in the middle of our interactions.  Thanks so much for commenting Ann. 

  • Love back to you Becky.  Thanks for your inspiring comment.  It’s a real gift! 

  • The comments are great but I am strong enough to set my own path and get re-centered. I know that {grow} is more than a blog, in many ways it is a movement. It touches people in unexpected ways, in ways i don’t even know, as you mention here.  So there is no way I’m going anywhere : )   Thanks for stepping up and commenting today. I’m glad you’re part of the community. As my graphic says today, Your Existence Gives me Hope! 

  • Thanks very much for taking the time to comment today buddy.

  • You have a really good pt. I’ve always wondered about using my face instead of the company logo. Your post made a really good case! Thanks for the encouragement. I’ll let you know how it goes :-)!

  • I had a very similar experience in the last few weeks when my klout told me that I am influential on the topic “heaven”…maybe blogging is worth my time after all. 🙂 Love your blog.

  • Mark, I’ve only ever responded to two blogs before, but your honest emotion really grabbed me. It’s said the definition of coincidence is “Those times when God chooses to remain anonymous.”  I don’t think it was coincidence that you came across the keyword of “hope” just when you most needed encouragement yourself.  🙂

    My own discouragement with social media developed after seeing so many posts filled with graphic language I never ever heard uttered by my Navy veteran father. Then, there was the onslaught of complaints that Hurricane Irene wasn’t more severe.  Disheartening to be sure, but thankfully, they WEREN’T the majority!

    In fact, I noticed that the majority of posts focused on sharing reassurances that loved ones were fine, sharing offers to help or trying to lighten the mood. Since God promises that we WILL reap what we sow, I can confirm what you already know — people like you that strive for character and integrity WILL be the prevailing voice when all is said and done! Thank you for all that you do, Mark.

  • Wow, that is quite an honor Monica!  Half of all your blog comments have been devoted to me!  I hope you’ll come back.

    I agree that this was not a coincindence. I know that I’m not in charge of this blog, or anything for that matter, anyway.

    I hope that you’re right and that those with integrity will prevail. If they don’t, perhaps those with regulatory power will!  

  • You’re influential about heaven? Wow.  Will you be my new BFF?  : )   Thanks for the very kind comment Alice!

  • What a wonderful, heartening story. Well, the Hope bit. 

    I recognize a lot of your gripes. Unfortunately the web is a bit of a cesspool for unsavoury types. I get so many offers to SEO my site from India on a daily basis my junk mail folder is at breaking point. 

    As for Twitter, I’ve got to the point that I only look at the new followers once every three or four days because 95% seem to be spammy, keen to sell me something because of some word I’ve mentioned. At the weekend, for example, I mentioned WordPress and got about 35 WordPress developers, themes, gurus and whatnots following me. 

    How do we weed all this noise out of the web? Maybe you’re right. A VA could take care of it all. 

  • Sad, but that is what it has come to for me. It was a hard decision but I enjoy the organic feeling of looking through new Twitter followers but i get something like 50-70 new follwers a day and many of them spam so it has become a job in itself. Part of the irony of being popular on Twitter. It makes you less able to engage! Thanks for the comment Jon!

  • I think you will be quite surprised with the results!

  • You know what I think of when I think of Social Media? I think about the Indigo Girls song which I *think* is called “Prince of Darkness.” In it, they sing, “I will not be a pawn for the prince of darkness any longer.”

    There’s a lot of stuff that can get me down about the online world. Stuff you didn’t even directly mention here, in fact. But I figure if I really start getting bogged down in that junk, I’ll just end up adding to the negativity for someone else. So my place is of the sun and this place is of the dark, and if I can spread a little sun without going bat **** crazy, hey, we all win. 

    Right? 🙂

    Glad the post had a happy ending for ya, friend.

  • What an awesome story Billy. Thanks for sharing and drawing the comparison.

  • Wonderful addition to the conversation Margie. Thanks for taking your precious time to share it today!

  • Excellent post Mark, excellent post –

    I feel this has been in the air recently, as many of the blogs I’ve selected to fill my RSS have been talking around this topic.

    Yes, the glory days of Social Media may be over (much like all other forms of media before it) but the cool thing this time is that there is a lot of good that can still be done.

    Again, excellent post

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  • Hey Mark,

    I’ve also wrote a follow-up post (to long to make into a comment):

    Stay Connected

  • Thanks for this blog – clearly it resonated with many of us!  But your Google Analytics seems like a sign from the universe, doesn’t it?  You’re creating and nurturing this authentic community here on your blog  – and that’s the true power of social media, not all of the gaming and social proof and spamming. Thanks for enduring!

  • Wow, with 81 comments I admit I’m skipping them as I just felt moved by this post enough to comment – I feel your paid as the SEO cheats and spammers drive me nuts (and I also question how they are motivated to do this stuff and live with themselves). I keep working at blogging and social media honestly and in the hope (there’s that word!) of helping at least a few people – I think there are more of us than the others but we are just less obvious.
    “Oddly fantastic” is a great description of your hope in Google – I’m going to check my analytics now to see what unexpected words I can find!

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  • Hi Mark,
    That’s wonderful! I love it that people found your site through just that one word!
    I’m also appalled that people would steal and use your content word for word!?
    These words resonate with me, a good reminder as I prepare to launch my first book: “When you get down to it, we can only impact our own little sliver of the world”
    I agree Mark – we need to remember that and keep giving it all we’ve got!

  • Thanks for the very uplifting comment! 

  • Another good use of Google Analytics keywords is to get ideas for blog posts. Kind of shows you what is on people’s minds.  Thanks for taking the time to comment!

  • I do think this is a very special community.  Lots of amazing people who really care about each other.  A real highlight for me every day!  Thanks Anne.

  • Really well done. A  beautiful post! 

  • It’s an interesting question … are the glory days of social media over?  I don’t have a sense that it is evolving in a positive or new way. Everything seems to move toward mass broadcasting eventually, dominated by big brands. I don’t know. Something to think about.

  • Many thanks Mark –

  • I agree, as it we have seen over the past 2 – 3 years a significant shift in social media to being more mass broadcasting, and many big brands dominating the channels.

    And although many will claim “well I build my own experience” if the only way major social media channels are making money is through “click” advertising (as you said in a past post) – then guess what…

    Certainly something to think about

  • Just had to point this out …

    Here is an example of somebody ripping off my post — THIS post — and putting it on their site to drive ad traffic.  They did not ask me, they did not acknowledge me as the author, and I have never heard of them before.  It just seems too weirdly ironic that they ripped off a post about ripping off posts:

    This type of blatant stealing happens every single day. Using my hard work to sell their ads. What a world.

  • Yes, people’s search terms are useful blog fodder – I probably should check them more often, lol! I used this post as inspiration for my own blog post today, too, so thanks for that 🙂 

  • OMG! There is no pretence about it with them copying the images, links and all!

    Glad you have named and shamed them – I have noted to stay away from their site forever…

  • Sorry – I had to add what is funnier is that the link for ’10 comments on this item’ comes here. So they are not only unethical but also DUMB!

  • While I FULLY agree with you on all of the points, I hate to say this but many out there are implanted with those ideas because these information are the easiest to obtain out there. Tons of books, articles and seminars out there give the same bunch of tips, resulting to these practices which have become somewhat of a standard in the industry. 

    It starts with posts such as yours to tell the world that online success goes beyond deceiving search engines, frequent content and social proofs. A step goes a long way! HOPE! 🙂 

  • Mark Schaefer

    That is an extremely interesting and relevant point Jan!  Especially when these “standards” come from well-known bloggers, they tend to take on a life of their own, for better or for worse. Usually worse. All we can do is try to re-create a better place in our own little way, right?  Thanks for the great comment!

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  • The last 16 words of your post made my eyes well up, Mark. Yes, I will absolutely join you.

  • So happy about that Kat. Thank you!

  • Think about all the people who help and enlighten, all the people that have more rewarding careers now based on your insight. That’s what keeps me going everyday.

  • Mark, 

    Had a similar revelation recently. Was asked to speak for two hours about social media Tuesday night. For the first time in a SM seminar I did not show a single social media website, and I spent 45 minutes telling people to make sure they were happy doing what they were doing first. It would come across in their marketing,  their sales, and eventually their social media. The next day the seminar reviews came in. On the question of of “What did you think about the speaker” someone write “Inspirational”. That has never happened before. Best review I’ve ever had. 


  • Mark, 

    Had a similar revelation recently. Was asked to speak for two hours about social media Tuesday night. For the first time in a SM seminar I did not show a single social media website, and I spent 45 minutes telling people to make sure they were happy doing what they were doing first. It would come across in their marketing,  their sales, and eventually their social media. The next day the seminar reviews came in. On the question of of “What did you think about the speaker” someone write “Inspirational”. That has never happened before. Best review I’ve ever had. 


  • That is wonderful. What a great story Partrick. Congratulations and thank you!

  • Thanks Jeff!

  • Mark, I really like how you turned what could have been a negative article into a positive one.  Fact is plagiarism has been around forever.  Fortunately, we are protected by copyright laws and they also apply to web postings.  If you composed and published original content, it is automatically protected by U.S. copyright law.  Of course, you need to police the territory yourself since there are no official copyright police.

    But, looking at the larger picture (as you have), I would prefer to maintain my sunny and positive attitude and not worry about things I have no control over.  Thanks for your insight and thoughts.


  • Thank you.

  • Great post Mark, not sure how I messed it but it was just want I needed to read today. I woke up again today thinking about Trey and if all of this, is really worth it. I mean Social Media often times is worse than Capital Hill with the back stabbing and steeling of idea. 

    I have to say in 2011 your blog was one that brought me a lot of hope. After meeting IRL in the Spring at #SoSlam I love your thoughts and wisdom even more. 

    Here is 2012 being the year of redemption.

  • Wow. Powerful comment Justin! Look forward to seeing you again in the spring.

  • Interesting article as I just sent Klout an email this afternoon with concerns with people “gaming” the system. Here’s the email I sent: 

    I’m writing you to express my concerns with regards to the future of Klout and the measure of online influence, or I should say the measure of bribery efforts. My name is Michelle Marie, I’m a social media strategist that’s been doing research on Klout’s service over the last few weeks. I have a Klout score of 79 and have over 1.1 million followers on Google+ ( so my motives for conducting this research and discussing my findings with you does not stem from anger of a dropping Klout score, disgust, or jealousy as I’ve noticed from many other users who publicize their concerns with the way Klout measures online influence. 

    My concerns aren’t with Klout per se, but concerns for brands and how they interpret Klout scores and online influence. It’s no secret that people are gaming Klout to their benefit. Sadly that “gaming” is growing in popularity; a trend that has a very high potential to damage the marketing efforts of major brands that rely on your service in order to find top online influencers – take Red Bull for example. 

    A couple weeks ago I was tipped off from a few of my Google+ fans on how they “game” their Klout score by using a social exchange networking website called Empire Avenue. In my efforts to find out more I signed up for the service and was disgusted by what I found after working my way through the ins and outs – social media bribery. What was even more upsetting was seeing MANY of the people who were listed on the Forbes top 50 Social Media Influencers list ( were HIGHLY active in this social media bribery game. Many of these users were not listed on Forbes for their expertise and influence in social media like everyone thinks, but instead paying people to rise above the ranks.Familiar with Empire Avenue?  Simply put… it’s a social media stock exchange service based on measuring your social media activities across multiple social networks. The more active you are across these platforms the more you’re worth in stock. On Empire Avenue users invest in those who are highly active in social media hoping to profit. Instead of earning real money in this social stock exchange game users earn “e’s”. Users then create “Missions” with these e’s (or one can even buy e’s with real money). When you earn enough e’s you can pay other investors to push your social media message, in return raising Klout scores and tricking brands into believing they’re highly influential. This isn’t true influence; this is paying people to make them _look_ influential by using bribery. Missions are limitless. I’ve seen Missions where users are paid to Tweet or retweet a message, mention them on Twitter, giving +1’s on Google+, watch a Youtube video and give positive feedback, and a very popular Mission: paying users to give them +K’s in a given topic making them look like an expert or influencer in that given field. 

    As a social media strategist I’m well aware of the importance of organic influence and relationship building. The growing trend in “buying” followers, retweets, Likes, etc… is worrisome to those who don’t game the system and strategize their plans to receive organic results. Brands are being misled and money is being flushed down the toilet due to this unethical use of social media bribery. Take for instance Red Bull. The users on Red Bull’s top 10 influencer list are there because they paid people to be there by creating Missions on Empire Avenue – yes, including myself. Part of my research was to determine which was stronger – paying for +K’s on Empire Ave or asking for +K’s on Google+, Facebook, and Twitter. Because of my large audience on Google+ it won’t be surprising to see that organic influence will outweigh bribery as there is a larger reach across the Google+ platform. But seeing that no one on Empire Ave has over a million followers such as I do their efforts will be successful in bribery, not organic influence. 

    Getting the word out vs. paying people to support you. As far as I’ve seen most people have been paying other users to up their influence without regard for spreading Red Bull’s marketing message organically. Red Bull’s brand manager Brandon Curtis ( has been actively watching the activity of Red Bull’s top influencers ( though I’m not sure he’s aware of the social media bribery that’s going on behind the scenes. I can only imagine the damaging effects this would have on Klout if or when word gets out how easily people can game the system with very little effort. 

    So why am I telling you all of this? As a social media strategist I care about brands and true influence. Paying people to do something is NOT influence. Making trades with someone is NOT influence. Influence is based on trust, not trades and payments. 

    The trend in social media exchange is growing. Gaming the system is becoming easier and easier as people find new ways to pay their way to the top. I’m currently working on a couple projects in which the system can be gamed and so far the results are not good.  I sincerely hope that Klout is working on a way to prevent such easy gaming of the influence measuring system.Regards,Michelle [email protected]

  • Your article is a gift – a juxtaposition of feelings. I love it. Thank you for pointing out the perils of online marketing but also the positives. 

  • A post like this is exactly why blogging is still a great thing. It’s your platform, your audience and your opinion. And I value it.

    You’re right to call out any sort of “douche baggery” SEOs are generally the worst offenders, because they care less about readers and more about robots. Those that chase social proof are the second worst, in my book.

    But the lowest level of online hell is reserved for thieves. I once had my entire website stolen. They copied everything: the design, the content, all of it.

    My reaction? Write about it. Call them out. Tell the world. Here’s the post that came out of it. And the comments are outstanding.

    Thanks for this one, Mark. Don’t hesitate to vent when necessary. We’ll all find hope when we know how not to be fooled by sewage…

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