Techcrunch has an interesting guest post about a company that guarantees viral videos, or you don't pay. The shocking thing to me is that in the comments section, some people are surprised and disgusted that this goes on. Look, let's be honest, social media is a game. It works when you form allegiances with other people and can all cross promote each other's stuff. It's no different than what the blogosphere did in the early days. That's the ironic thing about all this democratic "will of the people" crap. It doesn't work online, it doesn't work in American politics, it doesn't work anywhere. The winners are the people who can game the system and get their witty soundbytes out to the masses.
I know this is true because I've done it all. In the early days of reddit you could easily register multiple accounts and get as many votes as you wanted. To this day I still receive plenty of "digg this" emails, and even send a few myself. I've experimented with services like Subvert and Profit that game the system for you, and I've traded diggs, stumbles, and other votes in the Digitalpoint Forums. To believe the web is a meritocracy is naive. It's not that the popular sites aren't good – they usually are, but there are plenty of other sites just as good that don't make it.
This is in part why I wanted to get out of blogging as an income stream. I don't like the way the system works. In some ways, it isn't bad because people with good content are just trying to get that content out to people, but in other ways, it's really against the spirit of the system. Although, one could argue that in just about any field, this same dynamic exists. Some would say it's just the way of the world. That's why networking and connecting to the right people is so important.
Go read the post, and learn the dirty secrets. Now that they are out in the open (most people in online video probably knew most of this already), these techniques will become less effective and new ideas will have to be developed. But if you want to promote yourself online, you have to stay on top of the latest and greatest marketing techniques.
Side note: I'm skeptical of Michael Arrington's comments on his own blog about how much he dislikes the idea. When I see stuff like that, I assume he's just playing the game too, as a way to build controversy and keep engaging traffic. And of course it's working. I'm writing about it, along with tons of other bloggers.