The Social Media Snob and His Weapon: The Nofollow Tag

In our society, a snob uses his or her social, financial or educational status to be dismissive of others whom they perceive as inferior to them. Often, a snob will come across as an elitist or as a condescending expert to diminish another person’s value, contributions and good social standing. To further illustrate this point, think of the conflicting character roles played by fine actors Billy Zane and Leonardo DiCaprio in the blockbuster 1997 Academy Award-winning film “Titanic.”

Zane’s portrayal of DiCaprio’s rival; Caledon ‘Cal’ Hockley is a perfect example of snob behavior. Oh and – by the way – did I mention that snobs are not very nice people?

Social Media also has its own share of elitists and snobs. On Twitter, for example, there are some users with more than 50,000 followers, who only choose to follow-back 50 or so “blue blooded” tweeps. They simply write off the others as Social Media “commoners.” They may read, but are not privileged to share. In the opinion of most Social Media snobs these “regular” people can’t possibly have anything of value to communicate with them, so there is no opportunity for interpersonal exchange afforded to them.

Social Media snobs are usually folks who have written a book or two; cut a few records; acted in a movie or television series; played a professional sport; or have gotten themselves elected to higher office. They’ve done something to earn them significant attention; making them truly think that they are exempt from the masses. They are no longer “one of us.” Later on, some examples will be offered to show that not all famous people are Social Media snobs.

Perhaps one of the most tasteless Social Media “prevent” tools used by Social Media snobs – which also include some business entities – is the nofollow tag. The nofollow link attribute (rel=”nofollow”) was originally created to block search engines from following links in blog comments, due to the amount of blog comment spamming.

On January 18th 2005, those visiting the Google Blog saw a very public and high profile announcement about the no follow tag Official Google Blog: Preventing comment spam

Preventing comment spam

1/18/2005 04:28:00 PM

“If you’re a blogger (or a blog reader), you’re painfully familiar with people who try to raise their own websites’ search engine rankings by submitting linked blog comments like “Visit my discount pharmaceuticals site.” This is called comment spam, we don’t like it either, and we’ve been testing a new tag that blocks it. From now on, when Google sees the attribute (rel=”nofollow”) on hyperlinks, those links won’t get any credit when we rank websites in our search results. This isn’t a negative vote for the site where the comment was posted; it’s just a way to make sure that spammers get no benefit from abusing public areas like blog comments, trackbacks, and referrer lists.

We hope the web software community will quickly adopt this attribute and we’re pleased that a number of blog software makers have already signed on…”

Google’s defensive action had very honorable intentions, but not everyone who comments on a blog is a spammer. Commenting on a blog post is just like adding more relevance to that blog post.

If someone takes the time to help you build your website’s (or blog’s) content via posting comments, it is professional courtesy to give them some “link love.”

Use of the nofollow tag is in many ways mean-spirited – unintentional or not. First of all, if a blogger moderates comments, there is no need for a nofollow tag – none whatsoever. “Everyone who passes through comment moderation should get the link love.” This is the most democratic and fair way to encourage and reward good comments. It is also the best way to discourage and punish spammers from trying to override search engine protocols.

Here’s the reality, anyway. Adding a comment on a blog with nofollow attributes is not useless. If your comment goes onto a high traffic blog or website – even though it does not count for SEO, people might still click on your site link to check it out. As a result, you get more traffic.
That’s a good thing.

Linking to someone with a nofollow is also a sign of not trusting them. Someone once equated this to “reaching to shake someone’s hand, but stopping to put on a pair of latex gloves.” Social Media is supposed to be all about trust and welcoming, not mistrust and cold-shouldering.

Not everyone who has attained a higher level of success in an aspect of their lives aspires to be a Social Media snob; just the ones who view themselves as self-important. Pop singer Britney Spears and the rapper MC Hammer both follow back a large number of fans. Hammer has been known to personally engage his fans on Twitter.

Britney Spears and MC Hammer are accomplished performers and worthy of applause for respecting their fans even if they don’t follow-back every one of them. Yet, there are many other people with much less notoriety than these two, who consider themselves better than the people who follow and respect them.

Social Media snobs and nofollow tags really have no place in a communication medium like Social Media, which was created to encourage interpersonal engagement among all good people rather than to inhibit it in any way.
No one is too important to exclude others in Social Media and the best filtering system for what is appropriate and what may not be is not an algorithm. It is the human intellect.

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