Today’s story is about how a portion of the Internet really is a secret society, run by a select few individuals who know the rules for success. If you choose to enter their world, you might become ‘rich’ beyond your wildest dreams.
The problem is, that success grants no guarantee that you’ll survive outside Cyberspace.
It begins with a guy I ended up blocking on Social media several years ago because he was just too honest for his own good. The time he took great joy in telling me how much of an idiot I was (he was right), it was time to walk away for good. It was a shame because I got on well with the woman who’s now married to him, and I miss her warmth. In the end, however, his toxicity was too much. It was this man who told me that if I truly wanted success online, my URL needed to be #1 in Google’s search rankings.
If it were not for him, I’d have never jumped down this rabbit hole to begin with.
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is the holy grail of successful online marketing. It relies on what used to be known as ‘spiders’ but which are more commonly referred to as search algorithms, which effectively act as the arbiters of all online information. Search Engines produce increasingly relevant results when you’re looking for an answer to your question, based on what it gleans from your webpages. To make sure you have the absolute best chance of being noticed and ranked above everybody else, all your back end code can be tweaked to ensure it is as attractive and engaging as possible to the algorithmic harvesters. WordPress offer this service now as standard if I chose to upgrade my blogs to a business plan. It is pretty much accepted business practice that if you want to even start being successful online from scratch, you’ll need a robust SEO plan.
This does not simply extend to the web: social media now operates under the same rules. The hashtag, which celebrated it’s 10th ‘Birthday’ as a tagging device is now being used alongside other metrics and indicators to allow smart programmers a way to offer the potential of instant overnight success to anyone, assuming of course they’re prepared to pay from the privilege. You know those annoying auto Direct Messages that people sometimes send when you follow them on Twitter? This is the next step up: employ increasingly sophisticated algorithms to precisely target your exact audience, use the bots to follow them, and then wait to see if they interact.
If the searching were done by real people, there’d be no worries about unemployment, but this isn’t the case. The future is less and less about people talking to each other organically and more around what robots THINK we should talk about, or what is needed based on the mechanical analysis and breakdown of billions of conversations each day. I’m about to start a Twitter ad campaign for the Internet of Words tomorrow, and am all too aware that my search terms need to be spot on in order to allow their algorithms to find the right audience. I’m spending £100 on my ad campaign: for the same amount I could use software from the company above and simply follow everyone I think might be interested before selling at them.
Except I’d argue that’s not how true success is generated.
The problem right now is that people follow me because I hashtag, based on nothing but the desire to exploit their niche. They completely miss the point of how Social media works best, and that automated traffic effectively strangles the strength of the network itself. None of these companies, none of the SEO experts or Social media gurus talk to each other at all, they just retweet each other or content they think will be popular, in the hope that people will fuel their continuing development. Actual conversation is pointless, because you can’t schedule it. Talking smack about your mates is worthless, when it wastes good bandwidth and makes you look like a real person. Nobody wants that on Twitter. You’re here to sell stuff, not have relationships.
I’ve started asking people who I suspect are playing the Algorithm Game why they’re following me, to see if those ‘using’ these systems will be honest or not. Amazingly, there’s a lot of honesty from the people behind the facades: some admit the platform being used, others try and hook me into their schemes by targetting content directly at me. So far, in what must be several hundred accounts of this type, only one person’s done a decent job of selling at me, and she remains as my sole reciprocal follow. We’ve not exchanged a social word since she followed me, but her advice has been more helpful and gratefully received than anyone else’s in that time.
Many of these people don’t like being asked what they’re doing when you challenge them for filling the Internet with what is often crap. Until Twitter cracks down on the automated component of the interface, and removes those who are effectively gambling and exploiting the genuine population of the platform? You need to be vigilant, and look at any follow that doesn’t appear as if a decent conversation is going to occur from your follow. The biggest issue, of course, is that most people think the only way you’re a true success on Social media is with a bazillion followers.
Until that bubble is comprehensively burst, this story never gets a happy ending.