If you live on social media networks, or if you write a blog, or manage a Facebook page, you’ve certainly seen a rise in efforts to game the networks for profit. Way back on September 11, 2006, I predicted right here on this blog that people would begin to use Avatars — their online identity — to make money by selling their craven image to the highest bidder:
What’s to stop active — or better yet, INactive — blog commenters from getting hired by companies to change their Avatar to promote a website or a phone number or some other advertising blitz? Can you imagine being a new beer company and going out and finding the top 1,000 blog commenters and having them all change their Avatars to the logo for your beer?
Why it’s sheer viral genius! You could buy hundreds of thousands of page views on the cheap that could reach for years back into the history of Avatar-enabled blog pages on thousands of blogs — and the beauty part is this: No one would be the wiser.
The Search Engines already indexed and tagged the old content as safe and sufficient and your Avatar Ads would be silently served up when a search return is clicked through to the blog. The Blogmaster would never know — especially if you were not posting recent comments.
Unfortunately today, that prediction has come true on many of the social networks. On WordPress.com these Gravatar adverts use the LIKE system to push their Spammy images and links. There’s currently no way to stop people from LIKE-ing your articles unless you just turn off the feature. LIKEs are strange because they do not count toward your readership or hits. People don’t have to click-through to read your article to LIKE your articles. People don’t even have to be on your blog to put a LIKE on your article — they can do it all from the WP.com Reader.
LIKEs are not sifted through Akismet for Spam checking like comments posted on articles, so there’s a huge incentive to set up Spammy Gravatar identities that then link to sales sites. Nefarious people then get on the WP.com network and start LIKE-ing up a storm to scheme to sell you junk.
Intrepid blog owners who take the time to click on a Gravatar identity can report the Spam account to Automattic, but that takes a lot of time and processing power from you daily duties. Bad people don’t have to own a WordPress.com blog to LIKE an article. They only need to have a free WP.com account.
I’m sure there will eventually be some sort of Akismet-like filter to block these Spammer LIKEs, but until that happens, bloggers beware! There’s no way to remove a LIKE on an article without turning off all LIKEs for that article, or for your entire blog. Publishers love honest LIKEs because it helps build a community of minds.
How many times have you seen someone on Facebook post a link to an image, and for you to see the rest of the image or story, you have to click on the image and then LIKE something in exchange for actually viewing the content?
That, too, is annoying Spam behavior and Facebook needs to find a way to disincentive LIKE abuse. Sure, LIKEs on proper content have great meaning and weight on the network, but when LIKEs become monetized and gamed behavior, the entire fabric of social goodwill begins to fray in the threads of commerce.
How do you handle endless requests to LIKE Facebook content that clearly isn’t personal? Will you LIKE on the promise of a false thrill? Or do you refuse to click-to-LIKE?
How do you feel about LIKEs on WordPress.com? Do you have them turned on for your blog? Have you seen the commercialization of your LIKE Avatars in a craven image or in Gravatar links?