There are avenues springing up on the web, for retailers to get their customers to network on their behalf. In the good ol'days (circa 2005), you had to rely on getting lucky and having one of your posts or videos go viral to really make social media pay off directly. (The true rewards are somewhat intangible and difficult ot quantify.) But now, you can benefit for spamming your friends' newsfeeds.
Just for the record, when I start seeing "spammy" posts show up in my friends' Facebook or Twitter feeds, I block the app when that's possible. When that's not possible (i.e. on Twitter), I either "hide" that person ( on Facebook) or "block" them if necessary on Facebook and the other sites.
I don't need to know what products my friends like, and now that I know they're most likely either getting paid or at least receiving free or discounted merchandize in return for recommending the services, their recommendations are meaningless to me.
While I would like to think that this is going to be3 a short-lived "fad" in social media, I remember the blog roll, and some people are STILL doing that in spite of evidence that it actually hurts their blog traffic.
So, one of these new companies capitalizing on the astro-turfed "word-of-mouth" trend which is getting some attention this week is 500Friends. The concept is that companies can spend a portion of their advertising and marketing budgets on rewarding happy customers for "social actions," (tweets, Facebook updates, etc.), because everyone knows that word-of-mouth usually tends to skew negative.
The problem with this is that no one really has 500 "friends." If he has 500+ connections on a social network, he's probably a really good networker, but it is unlikely he knows those 500+ well. And it is unlikely that those contacts added him to their respective feeds to hear about what soft drink or online travel agent he uses. If his tweets get too spammy or off-topic, they simply aren't going to read him anymore. He'll be dropped from lists and feeds, and may not ever really understand what happened. More and more of the social networks are now giving your friends a way to ignore someone without actually dropping him as a friend, so it's hard to know who is really paying attention and who isn't.
My advice? Enjoy your favorite retailers, wear their T-Shirts, and it's even fine to occasionally tweet your undying affection, as long as your friends can tell you're just sharing your unsolicited joy - not getting paid or rewarded for spamming them.
Jennifer Pointer (e-mail) is in Tulsa, OK. She promotes a simple, a low-tech approach to effective online profile management, search engine optimization and social networking.