It never ceases to amaze me how on social media, people I consider to be among the smartest of my friends and business connections still reply to stupid quizzes, contests or puzzles of shady origin. These quizzes have many forms: a series of numbers of which you have to guess the next one, a diagram in which you have to guess the number of squares, a series of sums in which you have to predict the next one or something stupid like ‘name a country (or a fruit) without an a’. All worded in such a way that they are teasing out the replies.
A somewhat different category of posts with similar goal is the ‘click reply to win this xyz’, in which xyz can be anything from a vacation to a brand new luxury car. Apparently freshly started Facebook pages are not suspicious at all when there is even the remotest chance to win a brand new BMW. (Yes, genuine sweepstakes exist, but these are often easy to spot: well established websites and social media profiles)
Of course, all these exist to extract likes, comments, links, reposts, retweets etc. To gain influencer score, to increase reach, to harvest information. Your comment today will probably mean you’ll see a more commercially flavored post from a similar origin later.
So what can we learn from all this?
One, people are people: they respond to challenges and social circumstances in such a way that optimism or ego perhaps overtake ratio sometimes. I find this a very positive thing: every time I see someone reply to one of these, I think ‘ah, the sign of hope, the sign of a confident optimist’.
Second, it again proves that social media ‘likes’ are really worth harvesting and that it doesn’t take much to do it. On this topic, I’m a bit less optimistic, especially if I put this in the context of machines that think. What spam was for email, these gimmicks are for social media, but slightly smarter. And if machines really get smarter, will they learn to create their own ‘irresistible content’ and swamp the web?
And third, all platforms really are part of one digital realm. Even LinkedIn is not immune to this. Basically any platform that has some social dynamic will be susceptible to this type of content. I’m guessing that over time, the differences in content between the different platforms may fade, as they all want to focus on content that is most eagerly shared and discussed.
But, personally, perhaps the most annoying thing I find is that I’m always tempted to post ‘People, don’t reply to this, it’s spam’… but in doing so I would fall into the same trap. It would add my 2cts of social media value to someone’s profile, which I’d much rather spend on someone I really know and like.