Digg/Reddit And Marketers: A Love-Hate Relationship

I’ve made it no secret how much of a fan I am of Digg and Reddit and how much there is we can learn from these networks.  In terms of horizontal sharing communities, they’re especially interesting because the entire community gathers around the same content.  What this creates is a tribal culture due to the normalized experience everyone has.  Whether I’m into business or technology, I’ll see all the stories that go popular if I’m subscribed to Digg’s main feed.  Reddit is not exactly like this due to subreddits, but similar in that much of the community is subscribed to the larger feeds.

Today I want to focus (mostly) on Digg.  I used to actively Digg stories and comment, but now I just lurk and study the communities/content/interactions (it’s a one of the places that helps me stay on top of the latest viral images).  Once in awhile content from this blog gets Dugg too, which is surprising considering I’m a marketing blogger.  For the uninitiated:  the influential web communities of Digg and Reddit have a love-hate relationship with marketers.

Love, in that clearly top users are some of the sharpest content marketers around (although this isn’t publicly acknowledged on the communities themselves).

Hate, in that many in the community outwardly disdain most things marketing.

Fair play to them, there’s no shortage of spammy marketers making the rest of us look bad.  But I’m hoping the Digg and Reddit communities eventually realize we’re not all spammers, since in reality the most popular users on the sites are also in essence marketers.  They’re the good kind, the ones the web finds valuable.  The kind I talked about in qualities of effective web promoters.  In other words:  I don’t think these communities hates marketers who use permission marketing.

But on the whole if you mention marketing in a thread on Digg or Reddit it sets off red flags.  I’d like to dissect why this is:

Reason 1:  they think marketers are gaming their community for links/traffic

Too often in the past, (and even in the present) marketers would collude to game social communities for the traffic benefits and links that would result.  The spike in traffic is quite significant and the right types of sites will convert some subscribers if their content goes popular.

But the bigger opportunity which some black hat social marketers colluded to use Digg for is the SEO benefit of reaching many other influential users:  inevitably bloggers and web publishers will take their reactions off Digg to their own sites, linking back to the original content.  Content which goes popular on Digg and Reddit also ends up getting shared on a slew of other networks/communities.  Additionally, tons of sites are scraping page 1 content from Digg and Reddit and using it to populate their blogs.

Essentially:  content that goes popular on Digg and Reddit generally gets quite a bit of linkjuice.

Is this a legitimate reason to hate marketers?

Overall, I think these days the community does a good job of policing itself against the obvious spam content (although something sneaks through now and again).  No doubt, there are closed-door deals happening between the right kind of content based sites and top Digg users — but hey, that’s what happens in a network that is essentially an oligarchy.

But why should users only hate marketers?  It would be naive of them to think the media outlets enjoying traffic and linkjuice from Digg do not have designs on the system.  The smart ones do.

In a world where content is advertising (and advertising is content) I think it’s the wrong viewpoint to consider only marketers as promoters.  Media play that game equally so.

Reason 2:  they think marketers are gaming their community for ad revenue

Many in the Digg community think marketers are trying to game the system for the ad revenue that will result from pageviews generated.

Is this a legitimate reason to hate marketers?

Tech savvy users aren’t the demographic that click on ads online, they know better (many are even using AdBlock plus).  To be honest, it’s not much ad revenue from getting Dugg once.  If the community keeps Digging the same site, sure traffic is going to spike – but Digg is too hard a system to game more than once or twice, which isn’t going to result in much, if any ad revenue.  It would be even harder to game Reddit – their users are far better at knocking out the junk.

This is a legitimate reason to hate spammers, no marketers.  I think we should start making a distinction.

Reason 3:  they think marketers are disingenuous

There is a stigma that marketers, advertising people and PR folk can’t actually contribute to digital conversations and are just there to take, take, take.

Is this a legitimate reason to hate marketers?

There is something to this:  the few that mess things up make the rest of us look bad.  But as a marketing/PR blogger, I won’t link off to or share content from these people either.  In other words, it’s pretty obvious to me what the difference is between those who are genuine and those who are 24/7 shills.  If I can tell the difference, then members of web communities should be able to also.

In response to Digg and even Reddit users – I’d challenge them to seriously read the content of what sites are getting shared and not immediately react negatively if it is submitted by a marketer or even if it is marketing-related content.  We’re not all trying to game the system – sometimes we’re members of the community too.

Social web users obviously like marketing in the sense that it’s the spread of ideas, but if it’s in our job description many immediately write us off and it’s somehow a taboo subject.  Why is it only those who don’t outwardly display themselves as marketers (yet are still obviously marketing) get a free pass?

As I know a few reading here are Digg (and Reddit) users, what are your thoughts?