Social Media

Social Media: White Hat vs. Black Hat

I am on a panel today at SES San Jose called Social Media: White Hat vs. Black Hat.

The description of the panel is as follows:

Black hat techniques have long been criticized in search marketing: “Black hat” practices are now cropping up in social media. This panel takes a hard look at the right and wrong ways to go to market with a social media based marketing component, and how to spot early signs that you may be heading for trouble.

Not biased at all.

The reality is that social media marketers are still confused about automation, spamming, and other concepts. It isn’t their fault, the vertical is young. The confusion stems from the fact that they believe “black hat” is synonymous with “stupid”.

They say:

Belkin reviews = Black hat

Walmarting across America = Black hat

No. Those are just examples of really bad social media behavior, and clever spammers, no matter your thoughts on them should not be associated with these campaigns. The reality in social media is the same as search, the black hat is a necessary evil.

The Role of the Black Hat

The black hats main roll is to serve as an agitator. A washing machine is only able to clean clothes if it has an agitator. The clothes will not become clean without it.

Search engines, as an example, have greatly improved due to the work of black hats. The black hat finds flaws in relevancy and exploits them, thus causing the engines to get better. They also work as an oversight for an industry that has very little. The traditional argument is that black hats ruin the platforms they leverage, when in fact the improvements we enjoy have been put in place because of them.

The same is true in social media.

The reality is that while many social media purists believe social media is only for conversation, the problem is that the platforms that they are utilizing do not share their opinion. Digg has slapped adds on its front page results. Facebook has turned itself into a spam cesspool with lenient API developer rules. Push marketing is the monetization method for the aforementioned Facebook with personalized advertising offerings. The platforms only care about one thing, the exit strategy their business plan and venture capital funding is based on.

But, the automated social media user is seen as the problem, and lazy, ill planned social media usage is seen as the same as the clever concepts of automation specialists.

Black hat needs to be more clearly defined in the social space. Does it mean automation? Does it simply mean bad practices? Once that definition is clear then panels like this will have a stronger foundation for argument.

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14 thoughts on “Social Media: White Hat vs. Black Hat

  1. “A washing machine is only able to clean clothes if it has an agitator. The clothes will not become clean without it.”
    My front loading washing maching does not have an agitator.

    I do see what you are saying – things have been improved because of black hats. Otherwise the web search engines would still be using meta keywords as the main method of finding websites.

    I am unsure of my own definition of Black hat when it comes to social media.

  2. I need to respectfully disagree with the premise.

    If people did not intentionally pollute the search engines, they would have had to eventually evolved due to the pure nature of ever increasing web content volumes. The need to improve quality results in itself would be a driving force. Could it be that black hat methods expedited that? Sure. Yet that’s simply a justification or rationalization.

    The same thing applies to social media. Over time, volume and user experience pressures are quite capable of bringing positive change. No help from black hat needed.

    And in the mean time, both the SERPs and social platforms would be a lot less polluted along the way.

    Just sayin.

  3. Very interesting point of view. I think you are right in many ways that the black hats have helped to evolve search engine technology. It is similar to how hackers have made Windows more secure or would it be less secure. Ha. Either way, I still like to think of black hats as the dirt my washing machine gets rid of.

  4. This gives a new positive meaning to black hat.

    And I do agree that becasue of these so-called blck hats that search engines makes more and more improvements and that is always a positive thing.

    Black Hat is not at all that bad. There’s a good side into it.

    A very good post. You made your point very well.

  5. Interesting….yet I think somewhat “stilted” David. What I mean is that “…the automated social media user is seen as the problem…” is not so true in my world. As a techie from 30 years ago, what I can tell you based on my experience is that ANYTHING you use to acheive a goal can be a problem for someone….regardless of the goal. In that light, the web itself is the problem, eh?

    :-)

    Jim

  6. The topic of Social Media and Black Hat techniques are especially relevant with Twitter. There are so many ways to automate that it seems 50-70% of what one does on twitter is sorting through spam or automated messages/followers. In fact, the direct message function is almost pointless because of all of the auto-welcome messages everyone sends. If twitter doesn’t figure out a way to slow down the spam and trending topic jumpers, I’m not sure they can sustain over a couple years max…

  7. As long as there are businesses out there striving to make a living there will always be “Black Hat Practices”
    So, please write another article and tell us your opinion, given the circumstances, what are the best practices for businesses who use social media to promote their services in a “White Hat” environment.
    As you said, there is quite a lot of confusion out there.

    Thanks

  8. An elderly gentleman being, one evening, in the company of some persons
    who were much amused at the witty sayings of a child , said to some one near him, that witty children usually made stupid men. The child heard him and said to him: “Sir, you were very witty, no doubt when you were young.”

  9. Great post thanks for this David. I think you’re right, black hat has crossed over into something that people know they shouldn’t do but are not sure how to go about not doing it. However, I understand that it has helped develop how search engines work and become fairer for those trying to reach the top spots.

  10. “Black hat” practices are now cropping up in social media. This panel takes a hard look at the right and wrong ways to go to market with a social media based marketing component, and how to spot early signs that you may be heading for trouble.