Make Money with Social Networking?

I received a spam email the other day claiming 70% of Americans use social media sites. I’m not going to link to the site they directed me to, because (A) I don’t want to give them any more publicity and (B) the site has a really annoying exit script installed that won’t let you close the window without clicking through several JavaScript alerts.

Frankly, I kinda doubt their stats, considering according to this chart of Internet usage statistics, only about 71% of the people in North America have Internet access to start with. Saying virtually everyone who has Internet access is also an active social media user, well, that just doesn’t match my observations. Certainly I know quite a few people who regularly use the Internet, but who don’t have any use for social networking or social bookmarking sites, such as Facebook, MySpace, Friendster, etc.

I mean, yeah, there are a lot of accounts on social media sites. But you know what? In a lot of cases, it’s the same people signed up for multiple accounts.

For instance, my husband has a personal MySpace page, and as a working musician he also has a professional MySpace page. And the recording studio he owns also has it’s own MySpace page. That’s three “users” of MySpace that all resolve to the same individual. I have personal accounts on MySpace, LinkedIn and FaceBook, and maybe a half dozen or so others, so I’m one individual accounting for “users” on multiple social media sites.

Let’s just say I’d advise taking that “70% of Americans use social media sites” claim with a huuuge grain of salt.

But I digresss. The point is, the spammer was trying to get me to sign up for some “system” that would teach me how to game social media sites to make money.

And the only thing I can say to that is, if you get this same solicitation or anything similar, please don’t. These folks and others like them offer high-pressure sales pitches with all sorts of attractive-sounding promises (like making hundreds of dollars a day without any work), but if you value your business or personal reputation, you wouldn’t touch this sort of thing with a ten-foot pole.

Members of social media sites don’t want to be bombarded by high-pressure sales pitches, endless ads and “once-in-a-lifetime opportunities.” They don’t want worthless “members” who try to manipulate the social networking site solely for the purpose of driving traffic away to the member’s own get-rich-quick website. They do not respond kindly to those who try to exploit their communities for profit without giving anything back.

Join an online community because you want to contribute something of value (and, yes, I’m talking about waaaay more than simply links to your own website content) to the community, and you just may be surprised over time by the value you can gain from the connections you make. The relationships you build can continue to pay dividends in unexpected ways for years to come.

Join an online community with the intention of exploiting the members to make money and you’re throwing away those long term benefits for an unlikely shot at short-term income — which will dry up as you are blacklisted, booted out or ignored by the influential members of each community you try to spam.

This would not be acceptable behavior in real life, and it’s not acceptable online.

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