TechCrunch put up a post yesterday by someone named Dan Ackerman Greenberg (everyone else gets by with just two names, but for some reason Dan seems to need three) about how his company uses a variety of secret “black hat” techniques to get videos to go “viral,” and the post has caused a bit of a blogstorm on Techmeme, not to mention some strong reaction from readers in TechCrunch’s comments section.
Howard Lindzon says the whole thing was obviously designed to suck readers in from Techmeme (which seems to have worked, if that was the intent). A comment from Mike Arrington on the post implies that he would have rather posted the info without giving Dan — a student at Stanford university — and his company a whole pile of free publicity, but then a comment farther down from TechCrunch writer Mark Hendrickson says that despite Mike’s comment, the post did “go through an editorial process,” whatever that means.
Regardless of the intention behind the post, I find it hard to believe that everyone is so shocked at this company’s “astro-turfing” and “sock puppet” approach. Use thumbnails for your video that include shots of women who are only partially clothed? Wow. Thanks for that top-secret tip, Dr. Greenberg. Setting up multiple accounts and then posting comments on them, or using a Facebook account to do the same, or emailing it to a list? Evil genius. Who would have thought of that?
My friend and marketing whiz Leigh Himel makes a good point in this post: strategies like the ones suggested on TechCrunch work really well — right up until someone finds out about them, at which point you lose any goodwill or trust that has built up. If that doesn’t matter to you or your brand, then good luck to you. You will probably need it.
Dave “Mc500hats” McClure makes a good point in his comment on the TechCrunch post (which has more than 300 comments now). He says that reading about tactics such as CoMotion uses is educational, in the sense that it opens your eyes to the kinds of things that go on all the time.