Imagine you’ve worked hard on your home, and you’re really excited to start inviting people over for get-togethers.
You make the place look nice; you make it feel welcoming; you work hard to be a great host, so anyone that visits leaves feeling happily satisfied and can’t wait to come back.
Now, imagine if one of the guests was telling people afterward that, yes, they should totally visit your home – but only if they come to that guest’s house afterward.
And that guest’s “recommendation” can’t be forgotten, because the guest is always in your face while you’re visiting the house, reminding you that you have to visit their house too.
That’d suck, right?
So why do content marketing apps do the same thing by hijacking content being shared through them and directing web visitors elsewhere?
It’s Not Sharing, It’s Content Jacking
Recently, I saw a tweet from a social media consultant with a headline that sounded like something I’d be interested in. So I clicked through the link.
Instead of just seeing the blog post in question, I also saw a great big ad at the bottom of the post for the consultant that had shared it on Twitter.
As you can see, the blog post is on the V3B blog and is written by Kelly Loubet. However, the big yellow bar at the bottom is from the consultant who tweeted it.
When you click the “Learn More” button, it takes you to a Facebook group that is for the consultant’s upcoming membership program, launching this year.
Which, I assume, will be a paid membership course (the Facebook group description even mentions it’s a “freemium” model, so there is the expectation of some fee there).
Now, it could be said that the consultant has shared the V3B post, so is bringing extra eyeballs to the content which might not otherwise see it.
And that’s true, and is one of the benefits of a connected network.
But its not just a share, is it? It’s also taking advantage of the fact that anyone interested in the content will now also be directed to someone else’s premium content.
The fact that there’s no visible way to close that bottom bar (and believe me, I tried to find one!) is the icing on the cake – now the Learn More button is staring you in the face as you try and enjoy the V3B content.
The developer behind the app doesn’t seem to think having a close command is all that important.
@DannyBrown There is not. Is that a feature you would like to see added?
— MarketHub (@markethubio) January 8, 2016
I’m pretty sure that must be violating some form of online advertising law (certainly the FTC and the Canadian Competition Bureau don’t look favourably on this kind of invasive advertising).
Sadly, it seems to be on the grow.
If You Want Eyeballs on Your Own Content, Work For It
The yellow bar in the V3B example is powered by a solution called MarketHub, which describes itself as “a premium Twitter lead generation platform”.
So right away, it’s upfront about the software being used to generate you leads. One of those ways is to offer the content jacking option used on V3B:
When a follower clicks on the article link, They will see your custom call to action bar at the bottom of the post. You can configure it to go to any lead capture page you’d like.
Which, when you think about it, is kinda scammy.
Let’s say someone uses the software to tweet a post from a well-known business person, or media celebrity, or sports star, or similar.
Now, because these people have recognizable names, folks on Twitter will be more likely to click through to catch up on the shared wisdom, or story.
When they arrive, they see a big fat ad for someone else, increasing the potential for more eyeballs for the person who shared in the first place.Content jacking is a lazy way to grow an audience at the expense of someone else.Click To Tweet
Not only that. but what’s to stop smear campaigns being run against a competitor, for example? Or unethical and privacy-trap links being used?
To give the benefit of the doubt to Neal, the consultant highlighted in the V3B example, it’s something that he has concerns about too:
— Neal Schaffer (@NealSchaffer) January 8, 2016
Safeguards can be put in place, of course, but wording can always be circumnavigated to take advantage of an app’s legal loophole.
And all the hard work content creators have put into their own site is now fair game for others to promote their own stuff, which negates any social proof gained for the site being shared.
Push Back Against Content Jacking
MarketHub isn’t the first app to do this, nor will it be the last.
Recently, a lot of publishers have pushed back against a similar app named Sniply, that does the same thing.
PlagiarismToday has a great piece about the legal ramifications of using apps like these, while if you run a Google Search for any negative posts about Sniply, it’ll return a lot.
The good news is, while content jacking through “sharing” is becoming more popular, you can take steps to counter it.
Warfare Plugins, for example, has a WordPress plugin that stops Sniply frames from loading on a page that’s been shared.
You can also implement script that stops “clickjacking”, as well as check out a bunch of resources that prevents iFrames from loading on your page (note: this could affect legitimate iFrames too, so proceed with caution).
Of course, it’d be nice if we didn’t have to do this, and content sharing was exactly that – content sharing, with no agenda other than promoting someone else’s work that you admire.
It’s not too much to ask, is it?