Social Media: Is It Viral, Or Just A Virus?

    January 25, 2007

Much praise and adoration has been lauded on the alleged marketing and inbound link potential that social media sites, Digg in particular, present to companies looking to increase their incoming traffic and search rankings.

Social media was the all the rage around the conference circuit in late 2006, specifically PubCon and SES Chicago. Many search engine analysts predicted that social media would present the new pinnacle in word-of-mouth marketing, generating seemingly limitless possibilities for both incoming traffic and inbound links.

Digg seemed to catch the largest amount of social media praise, with prognosticators everywhere dubbing the social news site as the epitome of citizen journalism.

Those who blindly heap acclaim upon Digg, however, have forgotten one of the most fundamental rules of construction; no matter how much you build something up, it will eventually all come crashing down if the foundation is faulty.

Research is becoming available which reflects that referral traffic from Digg might not be the type of audience the aspiring Web 2.0 startup necessarily wants.

Scott Karp has posted some pretty revealing statistics about incoming traffic from Digg. According to the figures presented in his article, users who are referred from Digg spend upwards of 50% less time on site than the average viewer who arrived via other methods.

Spending less time on a page, however, doesn’t mean that Digg users won’t make their presence felt. Karp continues in his piece:

[M]ounting evidence suggests that Digg traffic in particular is less like networking with like-minded individuals at a social event and more like getting attacked by a pack of wild dogs, who leave nothing of value in their wake, other than lessons learned on closing comments and crashed servers.

Kim Kraus Berg has also had some less than savory experiences with Diggers. She details the ordeal in her blog entry:

In a Web 2.0 world, if you participate in it, there are new rules that can take some getting used to. One of them is watching something you write end up being twisted and manipulated into something you never intended or even dreamed of.

Another way of looking at it is this. You take a walk through a park and quietly enjoy it and the experience. Perhaps you will recommend it to someone else. Or, you can visit the park and leave graffiti all over the benches, paths, and toss toilet paper into the tree branches.

This is what people are doing nowadays. The Internet continues to reflect the physical world. No one is held accountable.

Kim also notes that as a result of Digg referral traffic to a particular blog post, she was forced to disable comments due to some disparaging remarks that were made. This is the first and only time she had to result in such a drastic measure.

So if you break it down, those referred from Digg spend less time as a whole on sites, but tend to leave the most outlandish and damaging commentary in their wake. Would you be willing to endure this potential nightmare just to get a few extra inbound links and a momentary spike in page views?

Many site owners are starting to believe that it is, indeed, not worth the trouble.

Add to | Digg | Reddit | Furl

Joe is a staff writer for WebProNews. Visit WebProNews for the latest ebusiness news.