Brand Seduction/spambod

There’s a lot of hype surrounding the current crop of Social Networking applications (LinkedIn, Friendster, Huminity etc.) But I’m wondering about a couple of issues. The first, is that there are too many of these systems, with no common architecture. How many times do I want to have to code my social network? Possibly once, probably not at all — let the software work it out for itself. Which is why I think Friend-Of-A-Friend architectures, which allow various spiders to work out the links for themselves, are ultimately better than an archipelago of unlinked proprietary systems.

The other concern is maybe slightly more fanciful, but I’m not so sure. It goes like this: social network applications will only succeed if they successfully proxy real-world behaviours, and efficiently surface patterns and structures within social networks. So, imagine the opportunities for marketeers. With a nice social network map to hand, it shouldn’t be too difficult to identify the all-important Bridgers/Connectors, and target them with a little brand seduction in an attempt to leverage their influence over their peers to tip over whole social subnets in favour of particular brands or memes. Of course, this is already part and parcel of any kind of real celebrity, but it isn’t something that most people have had to deal with. Imagine the day when you suddenly discover that your brand-new-best-friend is a spambod in the employ of a marketing communications company, being paid by the hour to change your brand loyalty, in the hope that you will then tip your network of friends and contacts over with you…

7 comments

  1. its already happening bigtime in meatspace so i’d lay bets that there are *many* spambods out there already.
    http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2003/10/23/60minutes/main579657.shtml

    what sucks about the Friendster equivalent is you can’t kick your spambod in the nuts … i guess you just get your real friends together and plan a DoS … which would probably flush out any remaining spambods.

    given research of late, all things magical and secret appear to be tracable in the USPTO database.

  2. I think SN-based spamboddery takes this to the next level — the crafty bit is trawling social network tools to find these people even when they’re non-obvious influencers, and commencing a brand seduction… not just being in a place where the cool kids are, but knowing which individual kids are the ones that matter — i’m imagining that spambods would have a longer-term relationship with their marks, ingratiating their ways, cable-guy-like, into their lives and the lives of their friends…

  3. …and of course the next obvious question concerns the EULA for all those SNA sites. Does their business model assume that at some point they sell their lovely digraphs of to Acxiom or similar? If so, would be interesting to try some link poisoning and see what happens a few months down the track…

  4. Why does the hunt for a ‘viable business model’ for grassroots or bottom-up online phenomena usually turns unsavoury in its marketing e.g. the Emode Friend Network or caught up in proprietory rigidity e.g. Friendster. I share the concerns of Jerry Michalski in the article linked in the comment above.

    It seems that emergent phenomena are not easily converted to top-down business models for VC firms to understand and fund.

  5. That’s a very good question. I don’t have an answer to that one, but its sad that my first thought about most of those businesses is indeed the suspicion that they feeding their nice network maps and weightings straight into someone’s marketing model.

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