Let me begin this post with two admissions:
- I’m always looking to draw business analogies from my favorite TV show of the moment (Previously Mad Men and currently The Walking Dead on AMC)
- I’m completely biased from a business perspective/interest in my belief that links and traffic that come via sharing activity are the most valuable
With those caveats out of the way, I’m wondering how much of the online audience is Walking Dead: click farms, zombie accounts, spyware spinning people in circles, etc. I love Twitter and am a Twitter bull, but of those 160 million users, how many are actually active in any real sense. The number is still huge, but when you’re tweeting, you’re still hitting a lot of the dead. Just a quick survey of your followers immediately makes clear that many, and potentially most, are spammers or abandoned accounts.
Jonah first raised the idea of zombie users with me, and we’ve been noodling on it for days now. He also pointed out that one of the best metrics used to counteract these unrealistically high numbers was the “active users” metric deployed by Facebook with regard to Facebook Apps.
The Walking Dead also relates to the current obsessions around micro-targeting according to cookies: “buy me pet lovers on the upper east side who have purchased a latte and a hammer in the past 3 days,” how many of these “people” are like the residents of Atlanta that officer Rick Grimes confronts in the picture above. Cookie eaters maybe, but also dead.
It should come as little surprise that:
More than 2.2 million US PCs were found to be part of botnets, networks of hijacked home computers, in the first six months of 2010… (Microsoft via BBC)
When I meet with agencies and brands, it is making increasing sense to me why the love Facebook: all the users are real. Of all my Facebook friends, I think only one to five (maybe less) are zombie accounts. Further, this is why we’re so focussed on “sharers” at BuzzFeed: it’s a real indication of pulse and human on both sides of the view and share behavior.
Over the next six to twelve months, I’m hoping and predicting the dialogue continues to move from raw views and targeting to one that includes humans vs. walking dead. We’re already beginning to see it; it’s at the very roots of “social” marketing, and I think it’s why social marketing is so important and could almost be called: “marketing to the living.”