How many times have you come across hit stories on Digg and kept wondering how on earth they got the huge promotion? Well, it is highly possible that one of the top stories had ‘paid sourcing’ as its success secret. There are groups of people who work together to bring a story to the top by making repeated promotions; once the link receives good attention, the crowd takes over to make it even bigger! Such groups are often paid for their work.
Digg is not the only place where ‘paid sourcing’ or ‘mafia sourcing’ as it is commonly called, is practiced. Various social media channels, including Facebook and Twitter have seen this trend in recent months. Facebook ‘fan seeding’ is a term they use for increasing the number of fans of a business page. Packages vary according to the number of fans and so on. As an online marketing professional, it has always been difficult for me to fathom the after-effects; how would you feel if you see that the fan-base of a certain page you ‘Like’, has gone up by a thousand heads overnight! I mean, I would feel deceived and would prefer not being a part of the ‘random’ crowd. Similar ‘follower seeding’ is common on Twitter. It can have ill-effects if not practiced in a smart way.
But is Paid Sourcing ‘unethical’?
My answer would be No in most cases. The reason is simple. Every form of media thrives on paid advertisements from individuals, business owners and organizations. Television, radio, newspaper, and magazine – you name it and there you will find paid promotions, and it is ‘ethical’. SEO experts help businesses increase their visibility on the SERPs and so on. This brings out the obvious question – Why should social media be an exception?
Social Media is powerful as there is a cloud of attention floating around to get a signal to focus on, and somebody will definitely walk the extra mile to use the advantage. So, it can be safely predicted that social media will continue to see more paid sourcing in years to come.
However, when it comes to paid promotions online, it is necessary that the subject is of substance. Paid sourcing can take it to a certain level, beyond which the crowd has to take over. And that happens only when the subject (story/page/etc) has a resonance value. Mafia sourcing will not have prolonged effect if subject is not strong enough to be distributed wide. Thus companies will lose money, and in the process, they will learn that good work is appreciated sooner.
What I observed is, Social Media is in itself a semi-permeable membrane that permits only deserving matter to pass on and get spread.