Is Free Costing You Your Social Media Reputation?

Advertised Price: Free. Real Price: Your Reputation and Influence.

How much will you pay for a service that saves you time in social media? Judging by the $1 to $10 per month price tags for a number of tools, outside of business accounts, it isn’t very much. However, increasingly companies are asking us to pay by promoting their products and services to our connections.

A number of tools and services are available for the cost of social promotion. I can imagine the mindset of those creating these tools:

  • Create word of mouth support for our offering.
  • Drive traffic and increase our advertising revenue.
  • Expand our user base and increase opportunity for a big cash out.

The challenge is, required sharing does not create credible word of mouth. Paper.li and TrueTwit are both illustrations of the problems that arise when companies require promotion to your connections.

Paper.li:

When you sign up for Paper.li, Paper.li sends a daily (or weekly) tweet on your behalf, mentioning your connections and creating the obligatory thanks or self-promotional retweet. According to Klout, this increases influence. In fact, it is meaningless. The action people take in response is either an act of courtesy or self-promotion, not a mark of influence.

In addition, if Paper.li is really a valuable “paper”, it would be a meaningful traffic driver. However, despite multiple links to B2B Digital Marketing in various Paper.li editions, I receive more mentions on Twitter from Paper.li than Paper.li-referred visits to this blog. That is not influencing, it is not driving activity, it is simply adding noise.

Required word of mouth promotion has not made me an advocate. My current recommendation regarding Paper.li: Add Paper.li to the filtered sources list in TweetDeck. You will almost never see them again.

TrueTwit:

TrueTwit’s messaging is not as public as Paper.li’s, but its promotion is more direct. When you click a TrueTwit validation link to confirm you are human, there is a prominent call to action to sign up for TrueTwit, to permanently confirm you are human, and begin DM-spamming your new followers. If you do not agree to start DMing all new followers, then you need to validate manually every time you receive a validation DM.

Yes, TrueTwit sends DM’s to everyone on your behalf that doesn’t agree to do the same to all of their new followers. In my opinion TrueTwit it is a multi-level spam scheme.

I follow people that use TrueTwit, despite their tacit endorsement, I do not recommend TrueTwit. My current recommendation: Don’t validate with TrueTwit. Since the sender isn’t following you, respond in the public stream with something like “I followed you. You called me a Twit and asked me to prove it. Now I’m reconsidering. #SaynotoTrueTwit”. This can be a great conversation starter, and may even persuade some people to cancel TrueTwit.

Your reputation and influence are certainly not free, so don’t freely give them away. Carefully consider before signing up for a product that uses your network for its own promotions: are you willing to endorse this?

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  • http://mindtimegroup.com Maureen Blandford

    I wish I could go applaud line by line above. But I’ll do my best in the comment box!

    My hope would be that those of us who are passionate about B2B revenue generation, thought leaders even – if you will, would have some method to our madness in utilizing SM tools available to us. You know, test out what works, dump what doesn’t, be discerning. But, like you, I see a lot of noise, not much value and I definitely think it hurts reputation.

    Speaking of reputation, there are several folks I’m following that I truly esteemed at one time, but they seem to have completely fallen off the deep end. They appear to be far more interested in the video game aspects of social media, collecting points via mad SM skills, but have completely forgotten what the point of it all is anyway.

    For me the point of any Social Media is content, savvy, connections <– and how those can combine for more effective revenue generation for me and for my clients.

    1. Content – what can I learn from others for my personal growth and for my clients' growth. What content can I share that educates my community and helps them move the RevGen ball down the field.
    2. Savvy – how can I evidence my own savvy (w/my content and interactions with others)? And, I want to interact with others who are evidencing savvy. Show-offs and popularity contests gag me.
    3. With whom can I connect – and I'm looking for folks who have extreme savvy in Business, not social media.

    Paper.li, TrueTwit, the Dailies, Klout <– savvy, accomplished business people understand that this stuff is a distraction. When people mention or support, it makes me think they're crazy.

    Bravo, Eric.

    • http://digitalb2b.wordpress.com Eric Wittlake

      Maureen, thanks for the kind words! Your comment about people you held in esteem at one point is spot-on. Klout’s recent +K feature seems to have caught a number of people up into the gaming aspect, adding noise and distraction without adding value.

      I think it was Jay Baer that recently said the point isn’t to be good at social media, it is to be good at business in part because of social media. I firmly believe the business value is there, but as you point out, it sometimes gets lost amongst the Klout, follower, traffic, etc game. Thanks for continuing to add great comments here, educating and challenging me. This, to me, is what social media should be about. Using your words, connecting with people that help me to become a more savvy marketer and business person.

      • http://mindtimegroup.com Maureen Blandford

        Love the possible Jay Baer quote – wonder if we can track that down. Regardless, agree with the sentiment!

        • http://digitalb2b.wordpress.com Eric Wittlake

          Ask and you shall receive: The 6 Step Process for Measuring Social Media

          The correct quote, from Step 1, is “Remember, the goal is not to be good at social media, but to be good at business because of social media.” Jay, well said.

  • http://InternetTechSpecialists.com Debbie Mahler

    OMG! Thank you so much for saying it. I agree with the twit validation service. It’s so annoying!

    And thank you for explaining the lack of value in the papers. But, to be quite honest, I like them! I don’t have time to sit on twitter all darned day and read the entire feed as it goes by. I subscribe – yes subscribe – to many of the papers so I can get the condensed feeds of important news I need to watch. I actually find them VERY valuable in managing my time. Now, whether it helps klout or not doesn’t matter to me. I want and need the information.

    Maureen, I agree with you about folks going off the “deep end” but the video thing isn’t the only unnerving thing I’ve noticed. It’s the incessant quotes by supposed “gurus” on there. Perhaps in the old days when Twitter was not so heavily populated and I wasn’t following over 7000 peeps, putting up mindless quotes might have been a way to get “seen” repeatedly in the timeline. But I think we’ve outgrown that mentality and someone needs to tell these people! I stop reading and watching for them because I’m not going to waste my time.

    Thanks so much for starting THIS conversation Eric!

    • http://digitalb2b.wordpress.com Eric Wittlake

      Debbie, thanks for the comment, and the perspective on Paper.li. I do genuinely like the idea of Paper.li, in short, personalized content creation. What I don’t like about Paper.li is their promotional model and the ‘cost’ of using it.

      Thanks for the comment, and I’m glad to hear people are finding value in the underlying Paper.li service.

  • http://dooid.com/joshhumble Josh Humble

    While I’ve enjoyed using various free services to promote business, along with the rest of the world, it’s always concerned me that we’re heading in an unfavorable direction of no return. There really is no free lunch – nor should there be. I think we should ALWAYS consider how our business infrastructure may change with so many free services used, as well as SO MANY of our services being third-party. We could look at it with the cautious eye of, “all our eggs in one basket,” or in this case, “all our eggs in everyone elses’ basket.”

    As for the services you mention, I believe I’ve found some value with twitter presence from Paper.li. Even though great material can be ascertained from the lists used by the service, I don’t think people really read too much into the articles – information overload.

    I’ve found TrueTwit, so far, to be a scary approach. The app has asked me to validate a few times, and I’ve simply declined. It’s a major usability hindrance, and quite suspicious in its approach.

    Thanks for your thoughts, Eric.

    • http://digitalb2b.wordpress.com Eric Wittlake

      Josh, you raise another interesting issue here, what happens when we rely on services that do not have sustainable business models? If you didn’t see Augie Ray’s post yesterday, it is worth reading. How You Can Prepare for the Coming Social Media Bubble Burst.

      Thanks for the comment!

  • http://twitter.com/PamMktgNut Pam Moore

    Hey Eric! You have good points. I have to admit I use both.

    I have thought about kicking Paper.ly to the can. However, it’s the people’s names who show up in the paper that seem to like it. I get tweets every day with people thanking me. It’s a decent traffic driver but that’s not really the goal for me. The only thing that has kept it from the delete can is the smiling tweets I get from those who get published. Haven’t had any complaints yet.

    I also use True Twit validation. However, I pay for the upgraded plan. With the upgraded plan it doesn’t send auto DMs. The benefit for me is if people are already validated on True Twit it will auto follow them. It’s one less step I have to take in following them back and keeping my follows clean.

    It also has a ranking to determine if they have a high chance of being a spam bot. Some people believe in following every person back on Twitter. I am not one of them. I want only the highest engage, real people. I have seen good results with True Twit as most the people that take the time to validate have similar goals so the people the tool auto follows for me are high quality. True Twit is not the only tool I use to keep my follows clean. I use other tools weekly and bi-weekly that purge the inactive and based on other stringent criteria I sent. Even ifI auto follow you on True Twit it doesn’t mean you won’t be unfollowed based on other criteria I use with another tool a month or so later. This has kept my following clean, free of bots, and very engaged!

    I think some get it confused on what True Twit is really doing. It’s not validating you can follow me but instead is validating you so that I can more quickly follow you back. If people want me to follow them back the fastest way to make it happen is to be automatically verified with True Twit. Once you are you don’t have to touch it again. Pretty cool.

    Anyway, good post. I think you have valid points. To me it all comes down to a matter of preference. Each tool needs to be analyzed and a decision needs to be made what tools if any work for you and will help you meet your goals and objectives.

    Have a great day!

    Pam

    • http://digitalb2b.wordpress.com Eric Wittlake

      Hi Pam, thanks for your comment!

      Glad to hear you are using TrueTwit’s paid service, I have no issue with that. The basic premise of TrueTwit. particularly as spam increases in Twitter, is valuable, and you are paying the cost directly, not paying with your influence and aligning yourself with the service. The current free version of their model and the way it uses customers for distribution in a structure similar to MLM is what I have an issue with, and do would not want to align myself with.

      Paper.li is more interesting, and was the original inspiration for the post. You are a Twitter rockstar, 53,000+ followers and a Klout score of 72. [I looked it up!] Yes, people appreciate mentions and recognition from you, even when it is a Paper.li mention. When I was getting started, I know I would have. But I appreciate the real discussion on Twitter, the RTs through Triberr and the comments here far more. They are conscience decisions to give me the time of day. Your followers, at least those that are engaged enough to understand how Paper.li works, I’m sure would appreciate that real interaction more as well. Personally, as I’ve realized how little a Paper.li mention means (I get them from keyword use from people who have never engaged with me), I don’t value them anymore.

      I love your last point. Everyone needs to decide what is right for them. I want to see people make that decision with an understanding of the real cost, even if the button says its free.

      Thanks for taking the time to comment! I will take the comment over 100 Paper.li mentions any day!

  • http://twitter.com/osakasaul osakasaul

    For a while I, too, thought paper.li made something nice and weekly out of a tag, my social media group (KdL Web2.0 / LinkedIn) etc. but I agree – I lose more, or pay a “cost” a you point out, by adding to the noise.

    • http://digitalb2b.wordpress.com Eric Wittlake

      Saul, thanks for taking the time to comment and helping to balance out the views on paper.li in the comments.