Social Reputation On Sale

Would you buy an used car from a Girl Like That? Mmh… probably she is not the best person for this kind of deal, but I grant you that if you wish to buy some pounds of social reputation on sale she is just the right (virtual) person. You only need to go on Twitter and search for @JuliannaAlln to understand why…

Some hours after publishing my last post about Mr. Obama’s speech and its implications for Revolution 2.0 (thanks to @brunehel for suggesting this intriguing name) I received a strange mention from @JuliannaAlln:

@paulsparrows: I just saw your tweet about Linkedin. This site is great for adding LinkedIn connections: http://is.gd.dfnfQV

Tweet about Linkedin? It sounded strange to me, even if in a certain sense the last tweet mentioned Social Networks, it had (nearly) nothing to deal with LinkedIn.

I could not help noticing the attractive young girl on the picture (a typical stereotype of social honeypots), and consequently at first glance I immediately thought about the affair of @PrimorisEra or Robin Sage. Anyway, since it is really unlikely that my unconfessable secrets may be of any interest to someone for the purpose of espionage or whatever else, this idea without rhyme or reason only lasted a few seconds: the truth is far less romantic and is just a click far from the link contained in the tweet.

As a matter of fact the link inside the tweet brings you to Viralso, an Internet Marketing Agency, whose main course consists in selling Social Reputation: with “only” 89 bucks per month you may choose to reach the mentionable amount of 2400 LinkedIn connections (with a Delivery Rate of 200 per Month) or 2000 Twitter followers (understandably, inventing building a social profile on LinkedIn where you must prove the references of your skills is much harder). If instead you want to surprise your friends on Facebook with an endless array of friends, there is no problem at all: with “only” 89 bucks per month 500 new friends (per month as well) will bring you to the noticeable number of 2400 friends. In any case you will be able to become a “social black hole (in the sense that you will be able to attract anything to your profile) with 100% satisfaction guaranteed.

Analyzing the matter more seriously, I find that this is only the latest implication of the polymorphic main concern of social networks which is Reputation, from a security perspective (may you really trust who you are talking to?) but also from an individual and (real) social perspective. In particular from an individual perspective the social reputation (and social impact and credibility) is not built upon what one individual is (because the real identity is hidden behind an avatar) rather than upon the number of friends, followers or contacts, one individual is able to show, even if there is no way to prove the real identity of them. If I cannot show or prove who I am I can only use indirect tools (i.e. my contacts) to build my reputation.

The worrying thing relies on the fact that apparently there is no difference between personal and professional social networks: I might also understand the presumption by “virtual flirt hunters”, of flaunting thousands of Facebook friends to impress unlikely preys; unlikely I hardly understand how a huge amount of fake professional contacts on LinkedIn could work, in a social networks where the references, at least on paper, can be verified. Maybe even for this reason the LinkedIn IPO was far beyond the most optimistic expectations (seems to be back at ten years ago).

Even if the agency claims that:

We do not incentivize people to Become a Connection on LinkedIn

We use proprietary marketing techniques to find “real people” that will become a LinkedIn connection.

the qoutes around the term “real people” are more meaningful than a thousand words (and now that I know that the marketing process is based on the strategies used by President Obama, and, most of all, by Britney Spears I feel much more confortable). Actually I really would be very curious to know how the not better defined “proprietary marketing techniques” are able to build the fake profiles, and to check, most of all on LinkedIn, their level of (social) reliability, anyway I must confess that rather than trying it, I much prefer to spend my bucks (or better my Euros, or Euri how we say in Italy) for a real social life, for instance with some real friends and a fresh beer…

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