Tobold's Blog
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
The value of friends

... on Facebook appears to be less than 10 cents, according to Australian company USocial, who will happily sell you thousands of Facebook friends and Twitter followers for that price. Or used to, because now Facebook threatened USocial with legal action, and USocial at least temporarily suspended their Facebook activities. You can still buy Twitter followers in bundles up to 100,000. USocial also started this month to sell YouTube video views. As I recently had another blogger bragging here about his higher visitor numbers, I now wonder if USocial is also selling blog visitors and RSS feed subscribers. If not, I'm sure that service is just around the corner.

I woke up this morning to the 1973 Roberta Flack version of the song "Killing me softly with his song", which tells the story of her feeling that a young boy is "killing her softly" with a song text that too closely resembles her innermost feelings. How did we get from that notion of innermost thoughts being very private to the idea that innermost thoughts should be posted on the internet, and buying in people to read them if not enough of them show up on their own?

Ultimately I hope that companies like USocial will help to destroy the cult of "eyeballs", which is an artifact from the era. The more people realize that for anything which is free the number of visitors can be manipulated by various techniques, like "search engine optimization", or buying followers from USocial, the more sceptical everybody will hopefully become of those empty numbers. I do think that people vote honestly with their wallets, but for anything where you can sign up for free, a visitor is worth not even the pocket change that USocial will sell them to you for, even if technically those visitors are called "friends" or "followers".
I have a feeling we're hot on the heels of another bust, but this time it'll hurt more than just investors.

What we are seeing in the social networking space is unprecedented in terms of how many people openly put their personal details out there for the whole world to see. People think that their information is safe because these sites require them to "log-in", yet they have no clue as to the millions of spider bots there are crawling around that gather every scrap of information they can from webpages.

Just recently I got an e-mail addressed to my brother's name on my oldest e-mail account. Somehow, someone somewhere has crossed matched my e-mail address with information he entered on his PS3, and somehow matched my e-mail addy with his information. It's scary what these information companies are doing with personal data.

What happens when Facebook prevents people from deleting their personal information when they decide to leave the site?

Oh..wait..they did that already, earlier this year.

But, back on topic...

The fact that USocial is making money off of these types of services says a lot about the mentality and mindset of the people who use their services.
If I find the blog interesting, I read it, and sometimes comment as well. If it's not, well, then I don't. Having a billion visitors is not going to change that.
And websites like facebook, or twitter... I think I both visited them once, thought they were useless, and never came back. Hopefully the "social" hype will pass soon, because it's becoming an damn annoying static on the web.
Well I expect now that you have advertised USocial's services on your blog, you'll really see Markco's blog popularity eclipse yours.
Hi, I am selling this comment for $.10.
Search Engine Optimization is big business because a certain percentage of visitors will click on ads, and a percentage of those will actually buy things. In an information-rich economy, what's valuable is attention.
There was an interesting video posted a few weeks ago on with Kevin Rose from digg speaking at a convention. In his speech he talked about a person he knew irl that was pumped about having 90 some followers. When Kevin searched through his friend's follower list he found that something like 90% of the followers were bots.

Kevin spoke about how he found it interesting that the notion of having an audience was enough to encourage the user to use the Twitter service but in actuality he was essentially speaking to a room full of cardboard cut outs.

I'm of the belief that services should actively fight against sites that create false users since the false content will only hurt them in the end.

I guess we'll see how it plays out. Here is that video
What's the average person going to do with 100,000 twitter followers?

I'd slightly understand it if I was promoting something. If I could get it cheap, but $10,000 for a bunch of untargeted advertising is not worth it.

The whole concept of what's going through these peoples head of getting more followers and friends to their page is ...... mind-boggling.

Is there anyone here who understands it?
@Nees-It's interesting that you think of facebook as some static noise while I see it as a social tool. Do you know how nice it is to be able to freely and continuously advertise your product or yourself to people who are genuinely interested? I’m not blind to the fact that people can and will use sites like USocial to get at people who might or might not be interested in their product. But don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. These sites are worthwhile tools, there for whoever wants to use them.

In my opinion, if people are clueless enough at this point that they can’t discern when and where they should enter personal information, or how to properly set up their social site accounts, then maybe the internet isn’t the place for them.

TLDR: Survival of the fittest.
Visitor traffic is useless if it's not the right type of traffic. Apart from making yourself feel good and being able to brag about your stats, what does it really offer? Disingenious visitors aren't going to spend time reading your content, click on your ads, trust your promotion or return to your side. Just seems pointless to me, even from a money-making point of view.
"The cult of eyeballs" predates the era. It's the predominant metric from the television age. The savvier .coms understand the limitations of the metric and go for more meaningful ones. In the advertising trade there's constant deliberation and press toward what better, smarter metrics are.
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