Cheater! Breaking the Rules in Gamification

Cheating the system to get ahead in marketing and social mediaWith the recent news that large music industry networks on YouTube were caught faking billions of views on their channels, a lot of people are talking about the so-called dark side of social: the side that involves buying hits and views, faked data, and other forms of “cheating.”

When it comes to the gamification of the content marketing space, it’s important to look at these forms of cheating and how the public tends to react to them. Hint: it’s not super friendly.

YouTube Views

One of the two big cheating scandals that have recently struck the web world is the revelation that the music industry basically bought 2 billion views on their programming, inflating their ad revenue, as well as building a visual bump in their numbers.

The channels and networks in question used paid services like Fiverr and YouLikeHits to grab these views, building a fake base of data regarding the popularity of various acts and their music videos.

These views were deleted on their discovery by YouTube, causing a bit of a stir in the world of the web. But YouTube isn’t the only site to have some controversy surrounding paid hits in recent news.

Facebook Posts

Another casualty to this cheating instinct was social media giant Facebook, which has seen increasing abuse of the promoted posts feature on their site. Promoted Posts isn’t exactly a method of cheating, but it is a way to inflate the reach of posts on the site, by pushing them into the news feeds of not only the people who have Liked your page, but onto their friends as well.

Again, this isn’t properly cheating, but it has illicited the same reaction from a lot of the Facebook-using public, with many un-liking guilty pages and even responding with vitriolic comments.  In fact, the linked article used the angry comments to track which posts have been basically shoved into people’s feeds – posts that generally included links to other content.

This kind of obvious promotion isn’t very well regarded in the online space. What solid content needs to do is communicate on a human level and then bring up that there’s a link to other stuff if the person reading is interested. The trick is to do that in a post length that’s the appropriate size for Facebook or Twitter.

Dark Social

In fact, an easier way to get people to share your content might be to appeal to various “dark social” means. The term “dark social” refers to non-social-media means of sharing links and information between different users. E-mail, chat rooms, and other sites that lack the referrer data that analytic trackers tend to utilize all fall into the web of dark social media.

Data seems to show that around 69% of social referrals are part of this dark social, or direct social, pool of data. Facebook, the second place spot in the data, ranked at just 20%. Twitter lagged behind at a by-comparison pitiful 6%. The potential to mine these “pure” person-to-person linkages in the way links and information are passed could be a missing link in your marketing strategy and should definitely be something you consider this year.

Dark Marketing

Heading back into the darkness for a bit, it’s important to consider the dark side of content marketing as a whole. What are the sort of shorthand tricks, the black hat ideas, that have seeped into the space? And is it a good time to start clearing them, purging the bad out of the system, and refocusing content efforts on quality material?

Maybe the “sources say” fake story that JK Rowling might be writing a short story for Doctor Who will do gang-busters for your SEO, but it’s a whisper from unreliable people and should really be treated as such.

Into the Light

As these things usually go, the answer seems to be to trust in your better angels. Create a maximum of quality, no matter how difficult that might be. Do your research, think out your material, and don’t be afraid to miss a beat in the schedule if it means that the quality – and readability – of your work can go up.

Build better bridges and more people will cross them!

How will you build a better content experience?

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Michael is a graduate of New York University’s Film and Television program. He specialized in writing, channeling a passion for storytelling, no matter the medium. In addition to his work at CEM, Michael primarily works in web content production, including projects like Geek Crash Course, a geek-educational series, the Ansible, a comics-based interview show, live performance series The Next Lab Sessions, and many more. In addition, he’s written and edited for the digitally distributed Champion! Magazine.

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