Web 2.0 gurus who don’t get it, redux

The irony is delicious: my friend and colleague Scott Allen wrote an interesting piece on his blog entitled Pet Peeve: Web 2.0 gurus who don’t really get Web 2.0 and then promptly asked people to Digg the article in an email he sent to LinkedIn Bloggers, a mailing list we have in common. Hmmmm…. what’s wrong with this picture?
In his email to the group, he notes: “I rarely (in fact, I’m not sure I ever have) ask for a Digg / Stumble / del.icio.us, etc., but if I ever I wanted one, this is it. Please consider helping me tell these Johnny-Come-Lately gurus that they still don’t get it.”
Now, when you have to ask for a Digg or StumbleUpon rather than just relying on the strength of your message, you are eating some of that “don’t get it” dog food in my book. I admit that I too have occasionally asked my colleagues for a quick Digg on an article — and indeed that it’s not only reasonable to do but consistent with the intent of social bookmarking sites like Digg — but to write about how so-called gurus are clueless and are just trying to game the system, then ask for Diggs on the article… well!
But let me be fair here and dig into (uh, “more closely comment upon”) Scott’s blog entry…


Being a part of the Internet marketing community — I speak at conferences, participate in fun video projects and help out with private, high-quality forums — I have to step a bit carefully with this topic, but Scott’s basic criticism is of the tactics that fellow Internet marketer Jack Humphrey uses with his Authority Black Book.
Though Jack and I haven’t met in person, we have definitely bumped into each other electronically as we’re both involved with the blogging and social media space. I subscribe to his Friday Traffic Report blog on and off and perhaps he also reads my writing too.
It’s darn tricky to try and encapsulate the best practices for social networking without delving into the world of spamming or gaming the system, whether you’re talking about the chaos that is MySpace or the brave new world of StumbleUpon or whathaveyou. I know because my friend and colleague Don Crowther and I have been working on something similar for a few months now too.
Those caveats out of the way, let’s look at what Scott complains about; the viral networking “tell a friend” tactics Jack uses on his download page to help spread the word about the Authority Black Book. Apparently, before you can download the free ebook, you are invited to tell three friends about a supplemental audio program by entering their names and email addresses into a form. When I go to this step in the download process, it looks like this:

Download the Authority Black Book? Not before you let us spam your friends on your behalf

Scott’s primary concern here is that the “personalized” letter is standard marketing copy and that there’s no way to add a true personalized message to this email you’re about to send your friends. What Scott misses, though, is that there’s still an inherent mistake here, one that’s a shocking gaffe for any marketing: you’re inviting your friends to check something out, trading on your authority, without ever hearing the audio material you are recommending.
That’s a far bigger problem in my eyes than the inability to personalize the email message. Imagine you went to a restaurant and then had a dialog like this:

Maitre’d: “Ah, before I can seat you, I need the phone numbers of your three closest friends and permission to tell them that you recommend our fine dining establishment.”
You: “But I haven’t actually tried the food or even walked in the door yet.”
Maitre’d: “C’est la vie, monsieur. You can skip this step, but, well, your friends will be sad that you don’t really want them to know about the finest dining establishments.”
You: “How about this: let me have a meal here, then if it’s good I’ll share those numbers with you?”
Maitre’d: “Non. It does not work that way here. A thousand pardons, but this is your one and only chance to share this great news…”
You: “Okay, okay. Can I record an introduction to the solicitation, though, so my friends will know that it really is me and why I think they’d be interested in your restaurant?”
Maitre’d: {sighs} “Non. I am in control here, mon ami, and I need but your name and the name and phone numbers of your close friends. Nothing else.”
You: “Well, my friends won’t believe I was involved if you don’t say something from me.”
Maitre’d: “C’est la vie again, mon ami. Really, you are getting to be quite troublesome. Perhaps you should stick with quick food cafes as you Americans are so fond of anyway?”
You: “$#$@#&**()#&@&$*(#)&@)$(*&@”

If you think about it, that’s exactly what Jack’s doing with his tell-a-friend landing page, which while it might be successful in harvesting email addresses is surely not going to be generating a strong click-through for the report itself.
Scott has a great point about the personalization, of course, but that seems to be the key complaint he levels against Jack and then uses that as the sole data point of a so-called social networking / web 2.0 guru who doesn’t “get it”.
My conclusions:

  • Scott, don’t over-generalize. 🙂
  • Jack, let people sample something before you invite them to tell a friend, and
  • Jack, also, let people add a custom subject and introduction to the subsequent message you send on their behalf.

In the immortal words of Bogie, this probably doesn’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy, mixed up world, but if you are going to use social media ideas in your own marketing, it’s definitely smart to try your best to get it right.
I mean, really. Tell a friend! And isn’t this worth a Digg or two?

2 comments on “Web 2.0 gurus who don’t get it, redux

  1. Hey… if I can dish it out, I’d better be able to take it, right? 😉
    For starters, let’s put that Digg request in context… I’ve been an active member of that particular group since its inception. I freely give of my time there (sure… there’s some commercial interest on the back-end… but that’s usually the case). I have friends there. I have “social capital” there.
    I don’t see it as “un-Web-2.0” to ask my friends to help call attention to something. In fact, I see that as *precisely* what Web 2.0 is about. I have relationships there. I have a history there. I have credibility there. Asking an occasional favor in that group setting is totally consistent. Buying Digg votes isn’t. Asking friends for them is. It doesn’t matter that they’re friends in another group rather than friends on Digg.
    Regarding Authority Black Book… actually, the book itself is OK — I even learned a thing or two — but that rip I did was just part one… I’ll be posting part 2 today, and watch for part 3 later this week. It certainly would be unfair to generalize just based on that one thing. But it’s not just that one thing.

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