Fair brand representation and black-hat SEO

What is ‘fair’ on the internet?  Should your brand engage in unscrupulous marketing techniques in order to gain ‘followers’ and raise brand awareness online?   Search engine optimisation is a bag of tools that can be used to drive brand popularity – but how far should you go?

David Cushman writes a helpful explanation of the difference between “black hat” and “white hat” search engine optimisation.  He is careful to explain where he sees the boundary between appropriate and unscrupulous marketing practices.

Abuse is normal in business and in life.  There are always people who play ‘fast and loose’ and ‘fly close to the wind’ and sometimes the law catches up with them.  Most people and businesses play fair and North Americans and Europeans brought up on a strong sense of fair-play will tend to align with these rules of engagement.

What is right for your brand?

Brand positioning is a fine art and the tools used for marketing communicaitons will tend to help consumers reinforce their views of the brand positioning.  As David says, Twitter is open; the API is open. Opportunists will continue to spot ways of gaming the system.

I am grateful to David for writing this article and ‘labellling’ the practice.  I have been irritated recently with a similar action by Scribd.   It’s a nice file sharing tool a bit like Slideshare. But it automatically told my friends about itself on Facebook (because I used FB to sign up) and signed them up too.

I received a flush of inbound emails from Scribd telling me my friends had signed up to it – but few had any documents loaded.  So I wrote to them asking what they use it for, how they found me and what the purpose of the app is if you haven’t got any documents loaded onto it.

Kristie Wells of Social Media Club’s views matched most of the other respondents.  She wrote back to say she agrees with me

I just started using Scribd on a different account to host a couple of Social Media Club’s documents, and had signed up a personal account (just in case).  I had no idea signing up via Facebook was going to automatically seek out friends and add them for me.  Honestly, I hate that. I actually wondered why I was receiving quite a few notices of people scribing to me, especially when there were no documents there.

To be honest, I am not sure I am going to use it personally. A good business tool for me, but now I wonder about the practices with the auto add I am not sure I am thrilled about using them.

I absolutely hate that feature.  Give me a choice to auto find friends and add – I don’t like any service that does that automatically.

Unscrupulous, certainly.  Fraud – probably hard to prove.  It’s certainly an app that is now unlikely to gain widespread traction because of this practice.

Spread the word.

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