A search engine marketer who posts on Reddit using the name Friggersly has done the world a favor by posting the text of an online conversation between two spammers who are paid to sabotage the brand names of rival clients by getting them banned from Reddit.
Reddit is of intense interest to advertisers because of its huge audience -- 70 million unique visitors monthly. But Reddit's self-policing system prevents PR people from "upvoting" their own content on the site, by banning the entire web domain of anyone caught promoting their "own" content. Publishers and brands live in fear of their web site never being seen on the forum again.
Friggersly, however, caught some black hat social media marketers discussing how they use those rules to get competing brands banned. Basically, they pretend to be promoting a rival content on the site, and do it just cleverly enough so that it looks "real" -- i.e. like a marketer trying to game the system by using free wifi at Starbucks and upvoting similar content just a few times per day.
Here's a section of the conversation Friggersly saw on an internet relay chat (we've redacted the profanity a little bit):
[17:10] <Priya_PAYA_POPO> Personally I prefer just making a load of accounts off one IP then trying to make them look savvy.
[17:10] <Priya_PAYA_POPO> They're going to get caught at some point but that's the point.
[17:10] <Priya_PAYA_POPO> Post in all kinds of s--t subreddits but make sure you've got the target site being used on all of them.
[17:10] <Priya_PAYA_POPO> Make it look like you ALMOST know what you're doing.
[17:11] <Priya_PAYA_POPO> Then keep that up for a few weeks.
[17:11] <Priya_PAYA_POPO> Then BAM
[17:11] <Priya_PAYA_POPO> Banned.
[17:11] <AM_> Yeah that's how I do it.
[17:11] <AM_> Got one in progress today and another on the list for next month.
[17:11] <AM_> Takes f--k all time too. Just do it for an hour or so a day.
[17:11] <AM_> Then before you know it none of your competitors can use Reddit.
Black hat Reddit operations are not a secret. Reddit and its Redditor users have been battling them for years. There's a whole subreddit devoted to clumsy corporate promotion called "Hail Corporate." Sometimes companies try to pay influential redditors to upvote their material. And here's a video of a script that can be used to create hundreds of fake votes from a single computer.
But all these methods are about trying to create positive buzz for your own brand.
The twist that Friggersly identified is that if you create a small amount of positive buzz for someone else's brand, then Reddit (eventually) has no choice but to ban the brand and its domain name (i.e. Acme.com and all URLs that live on Acme.com) completely -- leaving the rival brand no way to get even honest, earned exposure on "the front page of the internet."
Here's Friggersly's summary:
- Reddit is a viable target for viral marketing and traffic driving.
- However as it is a competitive market some sites wish to get the upperhand by having their competitors banned from Reddit.
- To do this they make shill accounts and post their competitors links over a period of weeks.
- By acting like a normal Redditor but with a predictable schedule/upvote time/all made on the same I.P these accounts will eventually get caught.
- When caught these accounts look like they're trying to promote a website and then get banned because of this. Once the accounts are banned the domain that they all have been posting will also get banned.
- With your competitor now banned from Reddit you can move onto another until they are all banned allowing your links to do better.
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