Is Money Ruining Social Media?

Today, my RSS feed brought to my attention a few blog posts about a web based service, Subvert and Profit, in operation since April of 2007, which actually buys votes on StumbleUpon and Digg.Digg

For those of you who may be unfamiliar with these types of sites, StumbleUpon and Digg are social media sites combining social bookmarking, blogging, and syndication with democratic editorial control. News articles, blog posts, and websites are nominated by users, and then promoted to the front page through user ranking and votes.

Subvert and Profit is a self proclaimed:

“ever-expanding black market for votes on social media sites…We are the crowd hackers, and we are very good at what we do.”

How does it work?
Advertisers buy “votes” to attempt to get their websites or articles to appear on the front page of Digg or StumbleUpon. They can buy as many votes as they like for $1 per vote. In order to fulfill this agreement with the advertiser, Subvert and Profit gives their “voters” a list of sites and articles that they can get paid $0.50 to vote for (they must vote all of them). I haven’t been able to find how large the list of sites that are sent to the voters is…does anybody know?

Subvert and Profit also offers voters a referral fee- 20% of the earnings your referred friends make, and 10% of the cost of advertisements that referred advertisers spend.

Is it legal? Immoral?
The whole feel of the site makes it apparent that the individuals that run the site know they are doing something that could their voters and advertisers in trouble, or banneStumbleUpond from the Digg and StumbleUpon sites. On their FAQ page, Subvert and Profit proudly says, in response to the question “Won’t I get banned from StumbleUpon and Digg?”

“We encourage you to violate any Terms of Use at your own risk…We minimize the risk of you getting banned.”

In a blog post further answering this question, “Why our users won’t be banned from using Digg,” they admit:

“While this is a valid fear…we’d like to tell you how we’ve minimized the risk.”

I guess my point is that this site is intentionally breaking Digg’s and StumbleUpon’s Terms of Use agreements, justifying their actions with the mere fact that it is not illegal.

Where will this lead?
I believe that Subvert and Profit will continue to acquire voters because the site pays for $0.50 for very little efforts. Voters recognize that this amount will add up and give them a few extra dollars for doing little to no work. Therefore, those that no little about or have no passion for the very essence of what social media is will simply sign up and reap the cash rewards with little thoughts of what they are doing to Digg and StumbleUpon’s authenticity.

Despite my thoughts that this site is wrong, I must admit that its a brilliant idea, and it seems as if the creators have done a very good job covering up their tracks. We’ll have to see where this goes.

For more about Subvert and Profit:

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7 thoughts on “Is Money Ruining Social Media?

  1. Merry Christmas , Erica!
    Do not let money ruin your social holidays.
    Christmas is a time of gift giving, but the very best of gifts are personally made and from the heart.

    Your blog is obviously that and we have been celebrating the holiday since you started passing out this gift.

    May peace and joy come to you in return.

    Best regards,
    Danny Lucas

  2. well about subvert:
    ist kind of a start to what is called web 3.0
    People in social networks will create the market instead of accepting what is given to them by adverts

    Its obvious that in web 3.0 companies will hire pepole to vote for their products on social media sites, as conventional marketing will be out of date and not effective.
    Its a sort of never ending struggle between customers and companies.

    is it legal, moral? well everyone has to judge by themselfs. Is it moral to have people hired to wear certain clothes, to go to certain pubs just to make others do the same… ?

  3. Hey.
    I’d like to get ahold of you regarding this service. I MAY be doing an entry on it, and could use an alternate viewpoint. Of course, you’d be cited in the entry.
    If you get a chance, please contact me. My e-mail is obviously listed in this comment, so I’ll drop my IM info here.
    AIM: SlightlyShadySEO
    Yahoo: xmcp123
    MSN: E-mail me to get this one.
    I appreciate it.

  4. In what ever the industry, you get “spoilers”. Those who look for quick bucks, and spoil the long term potential of the industry. I see these guys as the “spoilers” of Social Media Marketing industry.

    Earlier, we had spoilers in PPC. Those people who advertised on Google Adwords for popular keywords, and land the visitor on a page full of some other set of ads! That resulted in loss of credibility for Search engine sponsored links.

    But, I’m sure they will learn a lesson this time, by trying to mess up with Social Media sites. Because, the #1 rule about social media is “Be real”. You can’t cheat people for a long, on social media.

    Thanks Erica, for bringing this out.

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