Last week a new precedent for punishing cyberbullies was set as Missouri mom Lori Drew was convicted of three misdemeanors for violating MySpace’s terms of service in a complex hoax that led to a young girl’s suicide.
Megan Meier was thirteen when she had a falling out with Drew’s daughter, Sarah. Drew took it upon herself, with the help of a teenaged employee (who was given immunity for testifying against Drew), to set up a fake MySpace page under the name Josh Evans, complete with fake photos and a fake life story as to why this “new boy in town” couldn’t call Megan on the phone or why she’d never seen him at school.
This went on for weeks, and Megan, who had a history of depression and ADHD, started to care about the boy online who told her she was pretty and made her feel special. Even though her parents closely monitored her online activity, she still grew attached.
Drew and the others used “Josh Evans” to flirt with the girl, telling her she was “sexi,” the indictment charged.
Around Oct. 7, 2006, Megan was told that “Josh” was moving away, prompting the girl to write: “aww sexi josh ur so sweet if u moved back u could see me up close and personal lol.”
Several days later, “Josh” urged the girl to call and added: “i love you so much.”
- Chicago Tribune
Eventually Drew decided the ruse had gone far enough and the tone of the messages started to change. So, suddenly “Josh” heard Megan was mean, a bad person, someone who treated her friends badly. He didn’t want to talk to her anymore. The last thing Megan told “Josh” before running up to her room and hanging herself in the closet was “You’re the kind of boy a girl would kill herself over.”
At the time, there weren’t laws in place governing whether what Drew and her accomplice did was a crime, but Drew was convicted by bloggers before the courts ever got to her. The case stayed quiet for a year as the FBI sorted through the story, but slowly it gained more and more exposure.
There are no pictures of Megan, and the paper doesn’t name the family responsible for all this torment, out of “respect” for their daughter, nor does it name the single mother, out of respect for her anonymity and community decorum, which on one hand is understandable but on the other hand, actually f*** that. F*** your community, f*** any hope for cordial ties with those people, and ex-friend of Megan’s, f*** your parents. One age group’s peer pressure is another age group’s “I don’t want to be the b**** who talked to the newspaper.”
When the police wouldn’t release her name to the public after the stories came out, a blogger named Sarah Wells did her own detective work and posted her name and address. The tidal wave of outrage grew and the Drews were shunned by their community, but the police’s hands were tied – mad as the nation was, there was still no legal basis to punish Lori Drew.
Federal prosecutors in Los Angeles thought otherwise as they believed they had jurisdiction over the case because MySpace is headquartered in Beverly Hills. On May 15, 2008, Lori Drew was indicted on one count of conspiracy and three counts of accessing protected computers without authorization to obtain information to inflict emotional distress under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. On November 26th,she was convicted of three misdemeanor offenses of accessing protected computers without authorization to inflict emotional harm, reduced from felonies. Drew faces up to three years in jail and a fine up to $300,000 if she receives the maximum sentence.
So what now? What can we do to safeguard our social networks? MySpace issued a statement condemning cyberbullying after Drew’s indictment, but how can this be prevented? Children and adults alike need to be taught that bullying on the Internet is just as harmful as physical abuse – what is the role of the Internet professional to help prevent cyber harassment, and where do our responsibilities lie? Should violating a social network’s terms of service be a crime? Should Drew have received stricter punishment? One can only hope this outcome will quell any ideas of potential Internet bullies, but in between now and then, hopefully a real solution will arise.
MySpace is looking for ways to increase its revenue stream and MyAds may be just what they are looking for.
The new program targets small and medium size businesses and allows users to create their own advertisements using a template hosted by MySpace. Advertisers can upload images, logos and text to create banner advertisements.
The program is similar to Google’s AdWords which lets advertisers bid against each other to be displayed. In Google, advertisers bid on keywords and the ads are displayed when a user searches for those keywords.
Under MyAds, ads are targeted based on self-disclosed demographic information of MySpace users. Advertisers can target users based on gender, relationship status, age, zip code, and even musical preference. Like Google, advertisers pay per click with rates starting at about 25 cents.
MySpace was once the most popular social networking site and is now losing ground to college-based Facebook. Recently, MySpace launched a music library giving users free access to thousands of songs in an effort to win users back from Facebook.
However, Facebook established an advertising program similar to this months ago. Facebook lets advertisers target their ads based on information in a user’s profile. Facebook also has more developed tracking tools and offers more flexible pricing options.
MySpace hopes the program will let small organizations such as local bands or small businesses advertise on MySpace and reach out to specific demographic groups. Critics are concerned that the timing is off. Most small businesses are cutting back in these slower than usual economic times and are not looking for new places to advertise.
Still, targeting based on user disclosed data gives advertisers a chance to really segment and target their audiences as well as employ analytic tools to track their results. This just might increase MySpace’s revenue and give them the capital they need to compete with Facebook.
Apogee launched our very first social media client in September and it has been quite an adventure bringing their corporate presence to the masses through Twitter, Facebook and the like. It’s been exciting to set up new channels of contact between our client and their constituents, and we’ve learned a lot already.
Why social media? What’s the difference between social media and the rest of the web?
Without Social Media: You bookmark a link to a muffin recipe. With Social Media: When you bookmark a link to a muffin recipe on delicious.com, not only can you access the bookmark from any computer, but people looking for muffin recipes on delicious.com will find the one you bookmarked, as well as many other bookmarked recipes and other links. You may also find out that someone else has made the recipe and it gave them hives, thereby avoiding the dire consequences of said muffins before even cracking an egg.
Without Social Media: You can read about spaceships on a website from one source. With Social Media: You can read about spaceships on a Wikipedia page, which links to user-created informational spaceship videos on YouTube, which leads you to a Facebook group for like-minded spaceship enthusiasts.
Web 2.0/Social Media is information by committee. It’s the internet equivalent of the town crier, oral histories of old learned men, beauty shop gossip queens, and the local paper all in one medium. And it is remarkably efficient in connecting like-minded peoples to desired resources.
What’s in it for you?
All social media are not created equal, and not all outlets are appropriate for any given entity. A creative mind can think of appropriate content for video, text, and image sharing. But content generation can be very time consuming and in social media quality is often more important than quantity. Just because you can split all your time evenly between Facebook, Myspace and Twitter doesn’t mean you should.
In the next parts of this series, we’ll examine the pros and cons of various social media outlets, and which would be right for your business.
In the history of monolithic number two companies there have been a variety of innovations that have shifted the market place’s attention from the leader. Pepsi made clear cola, Reebok put a .002-psi pump in a shoe, Burger King concocted some sort of Chicken French Fry, and now Yahoo is creating a social networking site.
With ideas like this Yahoo deserves their perpetual silver medal, or in some cases: purple participatory ribbon.
Yahoo Mash is the number two search engine’s attempt to enter the already crowded social networking arena; and although it hasn’t been formally released, one can only guess that Mash is the byproduct of Yahoo’s highly publicized $1.6 billion Facebook acquisition fall-out. Either that or their R&D time travelers just returned from the year 2003.
The Yahoo Mash blog boasts new social networking innovations such as the ability to change your friends profile settings (I guess I shouldn’t have pluralized “innovation”). However, if you keep in mind the design and functions of Yahoo’s current social networking site, Yahoo 360, the ability to do more than update a blog is absolutely mind-blowing. All ribbing aside– I want Yahoo to prove me wrong. I want this site to make Mark Zuckerburg think twice before he orders his third Critsal and Sprite. I want this to be the application Google kicks itself for not thinking of. I want the tables to be turned for at least one fiscal quarter! However I don’t think any of this can be done until Yahoo stops its reactive development.
Second place is undoubtedly the first loser, but no movie was ever made about the winning bobsled team of the ‘88 Winter Olympics. There has to be a point where Yahoo steps up and outside of the box, and is recognized for being the innovator of something. It doesn’t have to stick, but it has to be memorable, and in order for this to happen Yahoo needs to stop playing catch up and start creating a bobsled team!
Again, all statements are paraphrased as fast as I could type them.
Moderator – Danny Sullivan, Editor-in-Chief, Search Engine Land
Rand Fishkin – CEO & Co-Founder, SEOmoz
Cindy Krum, Senior SEO Analyst, Blue Moon Works
Todd Malicoat, Internet Marketing Consultant, Stuntdubl
Neil Patel, Author, Pronet Advertising
Danny – This session will have more fundamental information in it, as many of the old school SEO’ers don’t get social media marketing. It’s about more than the twelve year olds on Digg.
- I’m glad this is in Seattle. The last conference I did was in China, and there was no AC.
- SMM is the life-blood of how one takes a site from infancy to success.
- Social Media Marketing: Creating Profiles on Web 2.0 Sites, Building Friends & Relationships in the Blogosphere
- SMM can help you rule the SERPs, control your brand, get link love, show the community you’re a participant, get traffic and influence traditional media
- Wikipedia great place for SMM, no matter what Rand writes on his blog.
- Comments on Flikr do not have a NoFollow on them.
- Best of Craigslist is one of the best links you can get.
- Twitter is not useful, unless you have a big community.
- Viral Media = Branding
- Viral Media = Search Rankings Through Links; have to write something really good and valuable.
- Viral medial = Growing Your Fan Base
- Official rules: don’t pay for votes, create multiple accounts or submit illegal content.
- Violators of rules can be banned quickly.
- Audience is very young. You have to relate to that.
- Unwritten rules: don’t self promote, add biased information, or ask friends for votes.
- Violators of unwritten rules have to deal with pissed off users.
- Neil’s Golden Rules: add tons of friends, participate in the community, become a top user, use their features against them, and create a social brand.
- Do what is ethical
- Don’t jeopardize your brand
- Think long term
- We’re all just starting to understand social media
- Lots of opportunity for links from trusted sites
- In many cases, they do not pass link juice
- Spam is defined by intent and extent
- The size of your brand matters as to how your activity is defined
- Build neighborhood of sites.
- Vary anchor text and copy
- Social media sites such as MySpace can be very useful for time sensitive promotions such as for movie launches
- Test social media site for SEO link value. Does it rank? Is it indexed? Can use nonsense phrase testing.
- Social Media is unique opportunity to change your brand, both online and offline.
- Cost of participating on social networks is expected to remain free.
- Refresh content regularly so that visitors come back.
- Use remote image hosting so you only have to upload pictures once.
- Leverage the email functionality, blogs and billboards
- Follow traditional SEO best practices
- Initiate friend-ing campaigns
- Drive traffic to the profile using standard marketing methods (online and offline)
- Use SEO to push detractors out of top positions
- Give brand evangelists cool stuff such as widgets, profile layours, games, videos, podcasts, promotion codes and special deals.
- Direct traffic off line: host local meet-ups, offer in-store only coupons
Question – If you have a product or service that isn’t using SMM, is it ethical to create it for them?
Rand – Any time a question starts with “is it ethical”, it isn’t. It does happen. It is ethical to associate your brand with one with which you’re already associated. You’re in a legally questionable area is the relationship isn’t close. It might be successful, but the legal and partnership ramifications may be significant.
Cindy – There’s a Mountain Dew profile on MySpace that wasn’t created by Mountain Dew.
Neil – Make it an unofficial profile in such cases.
Todd – Don’t make it work overly well. Taper your success.
Question – Is it my most bizarre content that performs best in SMM, or will any well thought out, useful content worl?
Rand – I tell my client, before you submit anything to Digg or Reddit, you are required to spend two weeks reading everything on there, so you get a feel for the community.
Neil – Bizarre reviews will play better with the social networks with younger audiences.
Todd – If you’re getting your anchor text in there, it doesn’t matter.
Cindy – If you’re going for things that are super bizarre, think about the impact to brand. People are likely to take whatever you put out there to the next step.
Rand – Many large marketers shy aware from SMM because it can’t be controlled. This is a huge opportunity for smaller marketers.
Question – Would you equate social medial to old school link love from forums.
Rand – It’s similar, but it’s more like the Slash Dot effect. But because of the network effects, after the traffic, you get lots of links.
Neil – Like forums, you don’t necessarily care about the link from the forum, but the traffic and later links it generates.
Question – If you have a fan who has build an unofficial site, does it behoove the brand holder to create their own site, or should they just feed the unofficial one.
Cindy – It depends upon the quality of the unofficial site. You can get burned either way. You don’t have control of the unofficial site, but if you create an official one, you may offend the existing community.
Rand – Let’s say there’s a crazed, rabid fan out there. Create your official site, but let the fan know you love their site as well.
Side discussion of the Barak Obama MySpace page. Consensus that they should have either bought the site from the fan, or built their own, and embraced his site as well.
Question – Are widgets and new applications the way to build on social networks, or is it about links?
Todd – I’m all about the links, but I like the traffic as well. Social media is just taking it a set further. Widgets are a great way to get links.
Cindy – Widgets are cool and get links in and of themselves. But they can also reinforce brand.
Neil – When you get on these social media sites, while it’s great for links, the real benefit is branding. Create a viral aspect using widgets, and push them out via social networks.
Rand – You have to consider why users would put a widget on their site. They have to take an action to do so. Our page strength tool links back to our site, and has created tens of thousands of links.
Question – There’s a meme that Digg and Reddit are getting harder and harder to link bait. What would you recommend to get the bang for the buck with new content.
Todd – You have to be genuine when you’re doing this stuff.
Neil – I’m a whore and pretty much target all sites. Try to network with the top users. Don’t abuse them; befriend them. Create a great piece of content that is time lasting.
Rand – If you can build up relationships with high profile bloggers, get your content out that way.
Cindy – When you’re doing stuff like this, you have to think of everything as a community.
Rand – You have to optimize your content for people who might link to your site, not your actual customers.
John Battelle’s Searchblog:
John argues that Google was wise not to purchase MySpace as this might “queer its AdSense business”. Google has certainly done plenty to spook its partners of late, but this is a step in the correct direction.