What do I mean by this? 'Viral marketing' employs individuals who are paid or otherwise compensated (often with free stuff) to enter an online forum, develop a favorable ethos as a knowledgable and reasonable (and thus trustworthy) individual, and then slip in recommendations of a particular company's products, services, or web sites.
So-Called 'Viral Marketing' Is Stealing.
Web sites like this have paid advertising banners for a reason -- the care and maintenance of a site like SPCR costs money, yet the owners of the site wish for it to remain a free service. So, for a fee, site and forum owners allow companies and online marketing firms to place advertisements in prominent locations within the forum. You should be seeing three such banners at the top of this page. Clicks on these banners generate additional revenue for the site. By contrast, viral marketers usually pay nothing for the space their thinly veiled advertisements occupy, and are in return handsomely compensated for their efforts. Some viral marketers (hired by a firm called AEG) who were recently identified on AnandTech.com's forums were found to have received NVidia video accelerator cards in return for giving favorable recommendations of NVidia products to other members of the forum. This practice constitutes 'stealing' because as I just mentioned, these advertisers pay nothing to place their messages on web sites, often alongside legitimate paid banner or text ads. But what really burns me up about this is that these viral marketers are corrupting online forums as a source of trustworthy information in making purchasing decisions. Marketing firms that hire individuals into these so-called viral marketing schemes instruct those individuals to masquerade as 'experts' on the subject of the product they have been hired to represent. Because of this, new forum members who haven't been around for a while won't know the difference between a biased member and an unbiased member. The internet forum has played an instrumental role for myself in my own buying decisions, and it OUTRAGES me that marketing is even infiltrating the content of posts on online forums in such a despiccable way. Who can you trust anymore?
Why a poll?
I'm deliberately opening a can of worms here so that would-be viral marketers will know the position of the population of this forum on the subject. Please make your opinion heard. On one side of the argument, viral marketing is stealing, and has corruptive effects that impair the function of an online community. On the other side of the argument, it could be argued that on a public forum, people are free to post whatever they feel like posting and people should know well enough to take online forum posts with a grain of salt. I'm also kind of hoping for an "angry mob" effect as a deterrent to would-be guerilla or viral marketers thinking of setting up shop on this forum. (note - I'm not asking for some sort of witch hunt, just a public outcry against these practices.)
If you've discovered a typo or some factual error with this post, please drop me a line and let me know. WRT NVidia, AEG, and the recent AnandTech situation, I'm only reporting what I have read in this AnandTech thread
. Addendum: Here's a ProSoundWeb thread that I found that also addresses this type of marketing, apparently also referred to as "Guerilla Marketing" -- link
. Don't know how useful it will be, but it's relevant and offers a chilling account of a guerilla marketing scheme. Also - you'll notice I'm editing this post like crazy whenever I think of something appropriate to add. I've edited it four times now.