Social Media: White Hat vs. Black Hat

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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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