Social Media Corruption

Some months back, we received word from down under about a movement to expose the nefarious PR practice called “astro-turfing” in which stories were pitched (to bloggers) pseudonymously or friendly-sounding groups were started to opaquely advocate for social, political or business agendas.

More recently, we were greeted with irrationally exuberant pronouncements by some numbnuts touting the “promising” trend of paying bloggers to post on certain subjects or commercial endeavors. “Why shouldn’t bloggers be able to make a buck?” was the jaundiced rationalization for such an obviously dangerous practice.

My friend and colleague Colin Nagy pointed me to an insightful and ominous post over the weekend on “the corruption of social media,” which has implications for all marketing and public relations professionals who engage social media to advance their clients’ fates and fortunes:

“…enterprising companies have gotten into the business of actively corrupting that socialization for a fee.”

Tony Hung of “deep jive interests” observes:

“If you want any proof for how popular and well accepted PayPerPost is, just sign up for Google Alerts under “payperpost”. After a while you will see that every day all of the alerts for “Payperpost” are about how great it is and how people are using it to make a little cash. The blogosphere, by and large, isn’t outraged by it, but are embracing it as another means to monetize their blog.”

At a time when the PR community to some extent is defining the ethical boundaries of new media relations, we need to put our collective foots down to confront the naive, if not unscrupulous marketers whose professional underpinnings never grasped the intrinsic value that separates church and state, edit and business. Mr. Hung concludes:

“Users of social media, and as it grows more prevalent, really, anyone who uses the Internet, needs to ask some fairly important questions on a fairly routine basis.

Who am I really interacting with?
Who is really behind this story?
Who benefits from the promotion of this story?
And above all — who has really earned my trust?

For our industry’s very survival.