I Know It’s Social… But STFU Already!

Social media has brought about a great change on the web. It has never been easier for just about anyone to have a voice online, and have that voice heard by thousands. With so many people authoring blogs, participating in social communities, and utilizing the various social communication tools, how do you keep people from saying too much?

I mean it is social and all, but when is it time to “Shut the f**k up already”?

Marketers talk and they always have. In the past, when they shared tricks, accomplishments, and information, it was done on a face to face basis. Whether through an IM conversation, emails, or over a drink or two, the sharing was always controlled to a certain extent.

Sure even in those controlled environments, information can accidentally get out. For example, when Rand Fishkin, a well know search marketing expert, overheard Matt Cutts talking with some people at SES San Jose about the sandbox, he blogged immediately about
and caused quite a stir for publically releasing information that was from a private conversation. Luckily, social media was not as evolved as it is now, so the information and visibility of the blunder was minimal, thus quickly forgiven and forgotten.

Revealing too much information is not is not a new issue that is related only to social media. Even as far back as many of you might remember, there was always some marketer giving away just a little too much information. One example was when Bob Massa, SearchKing, announced that he was selling PageRank through his PR Ad Network. This prompted a trend of buying links for PageRank and resulted in Google launching a war against paid links.

Had Bob only shut the f**k up, he could have made a lot of money, but instead he lost the PR on his sites and it took four years to get it back.

So why is that people feel the need to talk about their accomplishments and the tricks they have figured out? There are three main reasons why people just cannot shut the f**k up:

The Good Guys are really good hearted marketers. When they discover a trick that works, they want to share it with their peers and friends.

We all love the good guys. They already know when to shut up and when to speak, and they are more likely to spend an evening sharing their tips and tricks face to face. It is the braggers and the ambitious people that you have to watch out for.

The Braggers lack confidence or desire attention. These marketers feel the need to brag about their accomplishments to fit in and make them feel accepted.

Normally I would say that the braggers are harmless, since they tend to have small followings and less of a reputation. However, every so often a somewhat visible and reputable marketer brags about something that they probably shouldn’t have.

Take Matt Inman, former SEOmozzer, who used widgets and quizzes to get inbound links with the anchor text “Free Online Dating” and “Online Dating” to his site Mingle2. The accomplishment earned his site the number 1 spot in Google for the top dating keywords above top dating sites like eHarmony.

Matt, obviously proud of his accomplishment, went on to explain in great detail exactly how he did it during SES San Jose in 2007. Something he would probably later wish he had just shut the f**k up about.

Mingle2 was later sold to JustSayHi, a competing website, due to Matt’s success. Next Internet, the parent company of JustSayHi, later asked
Matt to swap out some of the quiz and widget links with keywords like “Cash Advance” and point to some of their lead-gen websites.

It was a swap that did not go unnoticed. As a result widget links became an issue that Google felt had to be addressed immediately.

The fallout cost Matt all of his properties’ rankings, which was the success of his technique to begin with, but that was not all. It also
caused many big companies to lose millions of dollars when Google put an eye on widgets and the links they contained.

The Ambitious marketers want to increase their reputation and respect within their industry, at any cost.

The Ambitious are the people who scare me the most. They will gladly give away any tricks or tips they can so that they are seen as a leader in the industry. They often do not care about the industry or the people who work around them.

The recent Lyndoman situation is a perfect example. Lyndoman is a social media marketer who was well respected among the top social media marketers. He created a social media linkbait for a client that went to the front page of Digg and was even
mentioned on a television news broadcast.

Needless to say, the linkbait was a huge success. Lyndoman probably would have gone on to continue to do more linkbaits for the client, if he had only learned to shut the f**k up.

Lyndoman decided to brag about the campaign and announced to everyone that the article was actually false. “Absolutely-completely-utterly a fabrication, a tissue of lies weaved in a fog of deceit. Or what most people would call satire.” In addition to admitting the content was false, he also put his client out in the open to be judged on his behalf. An action that later drew the attention of Matt Cutts from Google, who commented, “

This resulted in multiple problems for Lyndoman and the social media marketing industry.

Although we have seen a major change in the way corporations have begun to embrace social media, there are many who are still concerned about losing control of their image, message, and reputation. The control they are accustomed to with traditional media doesn’t exist online. As a result,
corporations are afraid that one of the extreme or edgy content pieces marketers convince them to do. They are concerned it will hurt their reputation and business.

Unfortunately, this incident could hurt the entire industry by making clients wary of participating in social media. It will also impact the way social communities perceive content submitted by marketers.

Lyndoman admitted later, after losing the client and gaining a lot of negative media exposure, that the short lived fame from exposing the success of his campaign was not worth it. He even decided to remove the original post from his site saying, “At the end of the day it did more harm than good discussing publicly such effective tactics.”

As social media and online marketing continues to grow, we will see an even stronger desire for marketers to expose tricks and techniques in exchange for potential fame and recognition. In an effort to eliminate the chance for this to occur, an increasing number of top internet marketers have stopped talking about their secrets completely. The days of buying someone a beer and having them share their tricks are being replaced by smaller behind the scenes groups. They are increasingly becoming very cautious with who they allow in their circle of trust.

Even the newly crowned “rockstars” can still make mistakes, especially when they don’t realize the power of their voice. A great example is Jeremy “Shoemoney” Schoemaker. Shortly after becoming widely known online for affiliate marketing, he published a picture of a very large adsense check sent to him by Google.

Through blog posts and his radio show Net Income, Jeremy explained how he was able to make large amounts of money from the ringtone industry. This caused a lot of people to get into the ringtone market and drove up the keyword costs in PPC engines. Something he admits probably cost him a lot of money.

I have a lot of respect for each of the people referenced in this article. They are all experienced internet marketers, who at one point or another made a mistake. I use their examples only because they had a large impact on the internet marketing industry as a whole.

Everyone brags and everyone shares secrets, but you need to pick and choose the right time and place to do so. If you really want to gain the respect and reputation in the industry and your peers, save the bragging and ambition for the face to face encounters.

When it comes to disclosing your techniques and tricks, just shut the f**k up already!

Brent Csutoras is an internet marketing consultant, who specializes in social media, viral and search engine marketing.