Goldman Sachs has invested in Facebook at a valuation of $50 billion. The social-media website itself purports to have 500 million “active users,” so that means that every single person on the network has added $100 of value to the company. It is not a bad success for an idea that has spread virally with little advertising and self-promotion — but I wonder, has all of the advertising I have ever seen on the network over the past few years been worth $100 to social-media marketers on Facebook even though I have yet to click on any of the ads?
The continued private-investment also allows Facebook to remain wholly privately-owned as well as independent of government regulation and public financial-reporting until — and if — the company ever has a public offering of stock. Essentially, that means the company can do practically whatever it wishes (within the confines of the law) — and I fear whether Facebook will still engage in questionable activities regarding user data. If consumers do not trust a media platform or publication, then it will be of little use to online marketers. It is one reason that Facebook has yet to be successful in Japan, where anonymity is prized, and perhaps another why the hype surrounding the social-media platform will fade.
Stanley Fish comments on the effect of anonymous comments on the Internet on society. As a former journalist who still writes a current-events blog but now works in SEO and online marketing, I have yet to determine how I feel about them myself.
On the group blog I founded, Considerations, I have a liberal comments-policy (and, no, I am not referring to politics). I allow all comments whether they are anonymous or named, offensive or polite. In a journalistic capacity, I believe in freedom of speech — and that includes the freedom to be, well, a jerk. I believe in letting people state what they honestly believe (partly because I am curious to see what people actually think). The only line I draw is when people make comments that are factually untrue, and then I encourage readers to correct the writer if I am unable to do so myself. Still, forcing people to identify themselves — through efforts including the preference for posting one’s real name in comments — may impede honest debate even though the discussion will become more civil.
However, there is a drawback. The content-is-king nature of the online world has led to message boards, comments, reactions, and replies on everything — which have in turn led to the creation of so-called “Internet trolls.” These are people who, in a nutshell, take pleasure in offending people in these forums and have no real desire to participate in the marketplace of ideas. Any online publisher, including myself, has had to deal with these people.
But while I encourage anonymous comments in my journalism life, I usually despise them in SEO, SEM, and marketing because in that context they are usually trolls by another name — spammers. These are the people who visit numerous blogs, leaving a spam comment and the URL they are promoting.
If you are new to SEO and online marketing, it is not hard to identify the spammers. If you look on sites like oDesk and Elance to hire people to do link-building on the cheap, most of them will promise something along the lines of “1,000 permanent backlinks for $10!”
Run away from these people. They have programs that “troll” websites and blogs, leaving spam comments and URLs. Nearly all of these are stopped by spam-blocking software, the others are deleted by webmasters immediately, and links in comments are almost-always “no-follow” (they give no SEO credit). If the spammers are slightly-more devious, then they build random websites of their own — whom no one visits — and then place the links of their customers on them. It is useless, a waste of time and money, and usually a black-hat SEO technique.
Links, of course, are an important part of SEM. The websites that rank highly in search engines are those that are optimized best for selected keywords and have the greatest number of valuable links pointing towards them. Not all links are created equal — it is important to learn the strategy on your own or hire an SEO consultant to help you.
So, to repeat, I have mixed feelings about the anonymity of the Internet. Comments without names tend to be harsher in general, but they do (usually) communicate what people actually think. (And there is a debate in the SEO community whether websites and blog pages with more comments tend to rank more highly in search engines.) But the practice also opens the door to trolls, spammers, and the dark side of the Web.
As with most things in life, it is important to determine your priorities and act accordingly. There are times when you may want anonymous comments and times when you may not. But there is a good and bad side to each.
LinkedIn Going Public?
LinkedIn, a site geared towards professionals rather than the general public, is reportedly going to offer stock later this year, according to the New York Times.
Good luck to them! Personally, I am spending more time on LinkedIn and less on Facebook. From a business standpoint, my social-media marketing on Facebook and Twitter is 90% automatic — in a non-spam way, of course — so I need to spend less time on each. (And I can also help your website to do the same.) So now, I find more value with my limited time by connecting with other SEO and online-marketing experts in the field. I can learn more tips, share advice, and gain more clients. I do not know if anyone else has had success in this capacity on Facebook, but LinkedIn seems to be far better.
And from a personal standpoint, I am growing increasingly tired of having to manage my Facebook account — I need to check notifications; respond to Facebook messages and e-mail messages; see how friends are tagging me in notes and photos; respond to event invitations; and so on. It grows tiresome, and Facebook increasingly seems to suck more and more my time into a black hole of uselessness from a personal standpoint (though SMM is still very useful to businesses).
If I want to interact with my real friends in real life, I’ll just call or e-mail them. As much as I love Internet marketing, I don’t want to spend every minute on the computer.
Anyone else feel the same way?