SMO pisses people off

They consider my personal voice a commodity to be acquired, along with what little credibility and authenticity I have. This--I'm afraid--just pisses me off.

That's a quote from one of my favourite blogs,, by Tom Coates of Yahoo.

Tom goes on to note that even Jeremy Zawodny finds some of the SMO approaches to be slightly queasy.

Tom's talking about 'PR people' but this is PR in the SMO sense. In particular, a comment from keeneypr got his goat - and rightly so.
Our job is to get even "challenging" people like you to write, say and/or do what our clients and companies want -- of your own volition -- and not even realize that you're doing it. If you are telling us that you only want information from people whose views you like and trust, then we'll just reach you through them and you'll never be the wiser.

Talk about smug confidence, huh?

The thing is - Coates is smart. He will realise when he is being 'optimised'.

Most of the blogs you care about are written by smart people. These smart people will have either made the decision to accept influence (often in return for a goodie or two) or will, like Coates, reject it.

So, am I against Social Media Optimisation?

No. I actually like it. I like it because it works, because it represents one of the evolutionary paths that Search Marketing is taking as our discipline begins to take over from traditional marketing and I like it because we get to work with smart people like Tom Coates1.

The issue with Social Media Optimisation (other than the word 'optimisation') is that it is new and we are learning.

I believe that we have ethical social media optimisation and unethical social media optimisation. An example of 'unethical social media optimisation' could be something as a false review or as something as malicious as faked complaints.

I think we will also see aggressive social media optimisation and polite social media optimisation. It's the aggressive social media optimisation that, I think, pisses Tom Coates off. Aggressive SMO is bombarding key influencers with press releases or shelling blogs with a never ending rain of sycophantic comments. Polite SMO is the willingness to come forward and invite conversion, to rate key bloggers as highly as key journalists, a quick response time to issues on the web, openness, community insight, trust networks and I'm sure we can find time for some influence diagrams too.

I predict that we'll see some division over which works best - aggressive or polite. My natural inclination is to favour polite. I suspect it'll work better and piss less people off.

One thing is for certain - if "PR experts" are commenting that they're getting you to say what they want and that you'll never be the wiser - then the SMO/online PR community still has a lot to learn.

1 I don't actually work with Tom Coates.


Tom said…
You see the bit I'm not sure about is whether I'd feel any better about 'polite' social media optimisation, and I've certainly had a long history of being highly suspicious of search engine optimisation.

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