Yes, But Can You Seed The Blogs And Online Social Networks?

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I would say "no," but some might say otherwise.

I’m not naive to the point of thinking that there are no "black hat" operators in the social media space who specialize in doing anything and everything they can to get links and build search power through more nefarious online marketing tricks and tactics, but when you come to the end of a meeting with a potential client and all they ultimately want to do is pay to get their products, services and brands mentioned in Blogs and Online Social Networks, the appropriate action is to either run in the opposite direction or spend another hour educating them as to why this is a bad idea and not a long term marketing strategy with positive ROI outcomes.

For a while there seemed to be a train of thought that you could seed message boards ("seeding" is the nomenclature for spreading your message in the digital channels). You could have people who were being paid (in either cash and/or prizes) to spread your gospel. Back then, the online world was all about anonymity, bad usernames and there was enough elbow-room that with a couple of mentions on some prominent message boards, you could rank higher in the organic search results.

That was then… this is now.

The new online world is way more about authenticity, transparency and being radically honest. Most people engaged in the new digital channels might even argue that it is exactly these standards that make it increasingly more difficult for Marketers to play in this space. Most brands trying to be transparent wind up coming off as looking even less authentic in the public forum.

Having a seeding program is a bad idea. You may get some immediate "hits" and traffic spikes, but my guess is that it will mostly be junk traffic that won’t convert (I could be wrong, and I’m sure there are some black hat marketers who are reading this and laughing). Marketing already has a bad enough reputation, so why not take the money you were going to use to seed the channels and hire someone passionate who might actually enjoy joining the Blogs and online social networks where you brand might be appreciated? Let that person lead the charge as a new brand evangelist.

Who knows, that person may already be in your organization (hint: go see who works in the mail room or on the factory floor). Your own employees are the best (real) seeders there are. Why? because like all great seeds, they only grow and flourish when it’s natural and if given the right amount of watering, sunlight and time.

Ask the experts, you can’t rush an amazing garden (and I don’t even have one green thumb on my body).


  1. Reports have it that the Chinese government is astroturfing : hiring close to 300 000 (mainly) students to regurgitate the party line. I’d suspected it, noticing some odd similarities in writing style when students on Facebooks leaped to the defense of China in forums criticising the Beijing Olympics for everything from Tibet to Darfur.
    My god. Let’s cut that figure by 99% and you still have an army of 3 000 visiting various forums making pro-Chinese comments.
    Wonder if THEY get access to the Amnesty International websites?
    Sometimes astroturfing is for more than drawing traffic in. Sometimes it’s to keep it out.
    Looks like the Chinese government has quite the PR/marketing machine behind it.

  2. But how exactly do you get the person working in the mail room to help you with your garden? It’s a nice theory, by exactly how do you make it work?

  3. I like this post a lot Mitch, I certainly hear the “black hatters” laughing right now too. lol
    To respond to Matt’s comment about how? Well I mean it is pretty simple, post something on a bulletin board, ask for someone to volunteer to write a blog for a little extra compensation. I am sure you would get a least a handful of people thinking they could do it. Then I would just make sure they have a good writing style that matches your companies voice and let him/her go to it and start writing.
    I am sure there is a million different ways to get this to work just go and try something new and see what happens. I recently was reminded of one of the greatest “sayings” I have ever heard .. “Insanity is trying the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” – Einstein

  4. I think seeding is possible, but just not in a black-hat kind of way, and definitely not as a quick blitz strategy. Rather, it’s more about establishing and building relationships with relevant community members.
    Take blog seeding, for example. It’s like you once said: the difference between bloggers and journalist (for PR practioners) is like the difference between dating and sex. Bloggers want to have their hand held.
    Well, if you comment regularly on a blog, add something good to its conversations, and establish a rapport with the blogger, they’re a lot more like to pay attention to what you’re doing. Of course, this takes a lot of time and can’t be rolled out over night.
    I think, then, where PR/marketing is headed is somewhere where potential candidates will judged based on the communities to which they belong.

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