The Reciprocal Social Sharing Circus


This occurs mostly in Twitter. You’ve seen it. The daily Tweet circus of users sharing reciprocal social links to each other’s sites in an automated fashion, usually without even reading what they are sharing.

They pollute the social stream in the same way a factory thoughtlessly leaks chemicals into a nearby river. To try to benefit themselves by sharing links of others, as those others share their links. There’s nothing ‘social’ about this, and it is not really different in my eyes than using software to create automated spam links on the open web. It’s not good for users or your community and is in fact disingenuous and selfish.

I’m not talking about tactics like using RSS to auto-import headlines from sites you find valuable. This can be really useful. I am talking about the systemization of sharing links in the social web, a social traffic pyramid scheme if you will. People engage in this sort of behavior using software because their content is not worth sharing on its own. If content is truly worth sharing and you have an organic, opt-in community, you do not need to game the system to have your ideas spread. 

I’m not calling out any specific users or software packages because I don’t think either party deserves additional attention. And you’re right, I can unfollow these people. For the most part I have. But as I recently pruned my social followings, it became very apparent who on stream-based platforms like Twitter simply exist to take and not give. These users don’t realize that sharing links by itself without any thought is not actually a good thing, and you are what you share. As more users will focus on pruning their networks to focus on signal and kill the noise, the spammers will (hopefully) leave.

What bothers me about this is I do want to follow some of these people. Several I know personally and would prefer to stay connected with in social. But their sharing of useless links has turned them into social media zombies and our time is too valuable to be subjected to traffic schemes in a subversive attempt at our attention. If you’re someone involved in these types of tactics simply looking for traffic, stop. Build influence, authority and trust instead, but realize that right now you’re hemorrhaging those things.

Reciprocal social sharing is a short term play for attention that hurts your reputation and sacrifices valuable, long-term results you should be focused on. It’s two-steps backwards from a marketing perspective (a return to spam) and smart users see right through it.