What should we do about self-marketers who could enventually plant links on mefi? September 6, 2002 8:33 AM   Subscribe

yesterday, on./ was reading an interesting discussion about a product when someone accused the poster of Viral Marketing, in effect really trying to grab publicity off of ./ while they're covertly under contract to the company they are posting about.
Today, in a very useful MeFi discussion, someone raised the Same Suspicion.

Whether Octavius is correct or not, I think there's no reason to doubt that firms are cropping up to harness communities and blogs to plant publicity on the net. On its face, it would likely be far more effective advertising than a pop up or TV commercial... Once the corporate heavyweights catch on, it could get quite excessive and sneaky.

But it could seriously undermine a community since to some extent, we'll all start scrutinizing the motives of any given post and poster.

Could well be the beginning of the end (or at least the end of the beginning) of the innocence for MeFi etal... Any ideas on how to contend with this?

posted by BentPenguin to MetaFilter-Related at 8:33 AM (39 comments total)

Innocence? Where?
posted by monju_bosatsu at 8:38 AM on September 6, 2002

this sort of thing has come up in the past. there's really no easy way to decide if something is "viral marketing" or not. at the time, i believe the consensus was to let a post be judged on its merit. if a post is mostly a booster for commercial products, the chances are good that it sucks anyway, and should be deep sixed. that'd hopefully cull 8 or 9 out of 10 viral marketing threads. the rest, well--they're good posts, right?

i've posted to info about music bands in the past, so i guess i'm a bit sensitive. (i'm a computer programmer, not some label's marketroid.) you should be able to include links to bands, or books, or film or shows. the criteria we've always used should remain the same: is the post good or not? commercial sources do not necessarily make for a bad post i think.
posted by moz at 8:50 AM on September 6, 2002

But it could seriously undermine a community since to some extent, we'll all start scrutinizing the motives of any given post and poster.

Shouldn't such scrutiny be SOP?

posted by trondant at 9:12 AM on September 6, 2002

I've been worried about this for some time. And my suspicions about this incident are heightened by the poster's profile.
posted by gsteff at 9:17 AM on September 6, 2002

Sitting here drinking my CokeTM, chomping down on a Big MacTM, and playing John Madden FootballTM - I have no idea what you're worried about.
posted by owillis at 9:18 AM on September 6, 2002

gsteff: Kevin owned up to his newbieness w/in the thread (By the way - thanks for the great response to my first MeFi post!). I suppose the question remains about whether that's sincerity or marketing savvy.
posted by blueshammer at 9:24 AM on September 6, 2002

Oh, and as for ways to contend with this... well, we could bombard any post that we consider inappropriate with vehement ad hominem attacks and claim that whatever position the post supports is also endorsed by the Bush administration. Wait, we already do that.

Yeah, I saw that blueshammer. I don't think that comment helps either side, considering that it came after the first voicing of suspicion. I think I'm simply going to install Ad-aware, sell my TV and radio, draw the shades, plug my ears and sit in my room until all the advertising goes away.
posted by gsteff at 9:32 AM on September 6, 2002

Initially I saw the post of a well know brand and combined with the posters # thought it was a little odd for a 1st post. It was meant as half joke half genuine concern.

That being said a nice discussion (i.e. directors and hard to find movies people liked) did come out of the thread as well as some nice varied input on Netflix. I did leave the thread with an interest to invest in a Netflix account, and I,m not sure how to feel about that.

I guess my points I trust everyone here. If a post advertises a service/product whats most important to me is everyones comments or experiences with said article. A single company cant employ 15700 of us, can they?
posted by Dr_Octavius at 10:03 AM on September 6, 2002

Loyalty oaths for all: that's the answer!
posted by timeistight at 10:16 AM on September 6, 2002

I don't know about the rest of you folks, but I would like to be among the first to welcome our new (YOUR AD COULD BE HERE!) overlords.
posted by Smart Dalek at 10:20 AM on September 6, 2002

I pledge allegence to Metafilter and all related blogs

And to the communities on which they stand

One URL under Mathowie, with pancakes and trolling for all.

posted by Dr_Octavius at 10:24 AM on September 6, 2002

I think it was a poor front page post, not viral marketing, and just an innocent newbie mistake. Some good comments ensued though.

Have you all had your box of Chikn-In-a-Biskit snack crackers today? You really should, for the good of the conutry.
posted by Kafkaesque at 10:27 AM on September 6, 2002

If you don't eat The Colonel's Popcorn ChickenTM, the terrorists have won.
posted by owillis at 10:31 AM on September 6, 2002

It seems to be happening more and more. Over at plastic, this submission (link will only work if you have a plastic id) came in this morning. For those who can't read it, it's an ad for some new program that even includes pricing terms.
posted by toothless joe at 10:32 AM on September 6, 2002

Please raise your right hands and repeat after me:

I, [your handle], pledge allegiance to Mathowie and his entire Metafilter community (except fold_and_mutilate), and to the bleeding-edge liberalism for which we stand, one community, under God, with broomsticks and overlords for all.
posted by gsteff at 10:36 AM on September 6, 2002

Damn, you Octavius! Foiled again!
posted by gsteff at 10:36 AM on September 6, 2002

I agreed with Dr_Octavius in the thread...but just with a one word "agreed" comment. Having spent much time around marketing people, it struck me the same way that it struck him.

That some interesting discussion came from it, I'll grant...but still, the thread is better advertising than the company could buy. It's a buttload of testimonials for goodness sake. Expect to see quotes from it and a reference to it on the NetFlix site.

posted by dejah420 at 11:32 AM on September 6, 2002

If we start second-guessing every poster, accusing him or her of being a corporate suit in disguise, then the only way I see this ending is with Matt and Miguel pointing guns at each other and screaming about the All-You-Can-Eat Riblet Basket at Applebee's.
posted by Hildago at 11:46 AM on September 6, 2002 [1 favorite]

Most of the good discussion was about films and directors not about NetFlix. The same discussion, possibly even a better one could have been spawned by a post about say Jodorowsky and other directors that should be better known.

Hell, I would have preferred "Who's your favorite director?" to that shameless NetFlix promotion.
posted by vacapinta at 11:46 AM on September 6, 2002

the only way I see this ending is with Matt and Miguel pointing guns at each other and screaming about the All-You-Can-Eat Riblet Basket at Applebee's.

You say that like it would be a bad thing.
posted by Kafkaesque at 12:00 PM on September 6, 2002

I posted this recently, attempting to ironically duplicate the phenomenon witnessed during an episode of "Sex and the City". Was accused of much the same. Advertising and products many of us use are bound to be part of a discussion. I don't think there is any reason to be paranoid as long as all the posters are free to talk about how much the product sucks.
posted by McBain at 12:05 PM on September 6, 2002

They have a riblet basket now?
posted by adampsyche at 12:09 PM on September 6, 2002

McBain, what if once a week some corporate shill joined MeFi, posted some badly disguised advertisement for his product, and drove, say 500 MeFite dollars to his company? And never commented or posted again? Would that be ok with you?
posted by gsteff at 12:35 PM on September 6, 2002

It worked on me. I signed up with NetFlix after reading the post & comments. With no late fees and a huge selection of all the latest DVDs, it really is a service that can't be beat! You know what else? After signing up, I lost 10 pounds, my teeth straightened and the ladies are noticing me now more than ever. Thanks NetFlix!
posted by pemulis at 1:21 PM on September 6, 2002

Wow...I gots to get me some of that NetFlix action
posted by dangerman at 1:29 PM on September 6, 2002

*suspiciously eyes pemulis and dangerman*

Hey! Have you two signed your oath?
posted by timeistight at 1:34 PM on September 6, 2002

Netflix? Who's talking about Netflix? I was talking about greencineTM, "the best thing in entertainment since cave paintings!" SM
posted by majick at 1:38 PM on September 6, 2002 [1 favorite]

I've been worried about this for some time. And my suspicions about this incident are heightened by the poster's profile.

Since I'm the newbie who posted the link to Netflix, I'd like to respond to the slew of comments about it. I have been reading Metafilter twice a day for months now and couldn't wait to finally register and post. I don't know of any other community quite like it, and I looked forward to being a participant instead of just a lurker.

I spent a couple days thinking about how to create an interesting and relevant post about films. I thought about how it would look to link to Netflix directly, but that's what my post was about. That was the topic. If it came off wrong, I apologize. To tell the truth, the thrill from sparking a great thread on film overpowered the disappointment of having my first post dissed by the old timers.

I believe that every community must have it's rules, and now I understand the MeFi rules a little more clearly. I'll still be reading MeFi tomorrow and will look forward to posting again when I have something else interesting to contribute. but thanks for the etiquette lesson. (At least I didn't post a broomstick link)
posted by kevin123 at 6:56 PM on September 6, 2002 [1 favorite]

being a corporate suit in disguise,

suit in diguise...that's making my head hurt man....

Dont feel bad kevin123, just sing a song:

Oh how I wish, I could be the mustard on your knish.....

posted by jonmc at 7:04 PM on September 6, 2002


If I had a dime for every allegedly deficient FPP that nevertheless spawned a great discussion, and of course vice versa, I could afford to be reading MeFi all day long.
So, no need to explain or justify. Consider yourself baptized.

Thread rants: Keppin' the Meta in Metafilter
posted by BentPenguin at 7:11 PM on September 6, 2002

Trust me, you don't want to know what goes on.

Putting my consultancy hat on (don't scream and shout, I'm just being honest), if I was asked to give best advice about seeding a viral campaign (obviously it would depend entirely on the type of campaign), I would probably consider recommending a stealth post on MetaFilter's front page. Why, well because this is a prominent gateway to the blogging community, and a place where a lot of top net influencers hang out.

Obviously I know that this type of stuff is very bad for communities, and as a member of this one, I would not in fact advice anyone to use this place..or would I?

For instance, here's a good example of something that could have been a stealth promotion- in fact a post I made about the launch of customised Monopoly.

The reality is that people use this place to find stories for their blogs, content for their newsletters, posts for other community boards, links to send their friends through IM/Emails, and I suppose, as a place to find things to talk about. Because of all of that, if you are looking to get a bit of buzz, this place has to be considered.

Now obvious one could just advertise here, however, advertising isn't good for seeding a viral/stealth campaign. You need a perceived recommendation.

Personally I find these types of discussion very interesting. It is entertaining watching people trying to spot stealth campaigns. My advice - keep looking, I doubt that more than 1% are ever exposed.

Oh yeah..just for the record - I think that Kev's post is too blatant to be stealth marketing ;-)
posted by RobertLoch at 10:43 PM on September 6, 2002

I'll still be reading MeFi tomorrow and will look forward to posting again when I have something else interesting to contribute. but thanks for the etiquette lesson.

cheers, kevin123. Welcome to you.
posted by Kafkaesque at 11:11 PM on September 6, 2002

From RobertLoch's Monopoly thread:

From the looks of it now upon skeptical examination, this post looks like blatant stealth marketing.

Stealth marketing within stealth marketing!!! Aiee!! Adbusters was right... oh what a world what a world.

Actually, I'm more scared that Adbusters was right. Anyway, I'm interested now. Could a lot of unintentional stealth promotion on Metafilter be caused by REAL stealth campaigns? For example: The Animatrix. Let's say my friend who got suckered by viral marketing IMed me to check out the Animatrix website. Me, finding it really neato, posts it to Metafilter. Am I wrong for this? Can this even be controlled?

More importantly, is Mathowie an instrument of the corporate hollywood agenda???
posted by Stan Chin at 11:11 PM on September 6, 2002

Or, at the very least, he's a Spirit Foam salesman.
posted by Stan Chin at 11:17 PM on September 6, 2002

BentPenguin, it sounds like you read my post, How to Advertise By Stealth on Slashdot!
posted by wackybrit at 2:21 AM on September 7, 2002

Stan - I've got a solid defensive. If I was marketing it, I'd have got them more incoming links. They only got 28. No self respecting marketer (read - spammer) would stop at that ;-)

As I said in the post, I got the tip from a thread on Ecademy. The source was in fact the boss of the company behind its creation, but hey, what difference does that make. He was telling business people what he was doing, and I found it interesting enough to post here. I also genuinely believe that a customised monopoly set would be an excellent gift, and that no one is anyone, unless they own one. In fact, if you don't, you're just scum.

It is important when discussing this to make a distinction between viral marketing and stealth marketing. Viral marketing in general is open, (apart from the seeding aspect of it, and even then it often is) and requires some form of viral object/idea. Stealth or buzz marketing is different, and generally revolves around the 'false' support of a brand/product, i.e like the Slashdot example.

Being the sceptic that I am, I see a future (it could well be the present) where everyone from bloggers to camgirls to IMers are put on a marketer's payrole. That's just the reality of our times - individuals now have personal networks in the 100's or 1,000's - that makes them of interest to marketers.
posted by RobertLoch at 8:25 AM on September 7, 2002

You have to take these things pretty seriously. I used to be a pretty active member here, albeit one with a hidden agenda. I decided to lay low for a while after it was discovered that I was a undercover corporate shill for The Hostess Bakery Company. Rushmc put two and two together, and came up with Four.

Four delicious and cream-filled Hostess Twinkies, that is.
posted by iconomy at 6:35 PM on September 7, 2002

I think it's pretty simple: some folks are so helplessly immersed in corporate commercial culture, all they talk about is television, what they watch on television, things advertised on television and crap they just paid for because they saw it advertised on television. You don't have to be a viral marketer to lead a pathetic life like that.
posted by Mo Nickels at 4:30 AM on September 19, 2002

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