It is a simple concept actually. Company “A” knows that there is a positive online newspaper article about them and they have also paid several blogers to write positive reviews about them or their product. Now they want people to actually see the articles. They pay a marketing company to get exposure.
The marketing company hires people to submit and vote for their client’s stories on social bookmarking sites, like Digg. People are willing to surf the net for pennies a site, there are people who will submit and vote for articles and blogs for money. It only takes 50 or so votes to make an article popular on Digg, so it is quite possible to manipulate the system to get articles popular. If you have a 100 people not connected in anyway submitting and voting on articles that they don’t have any connection to (i.e. don’t work for the company) then it would be hard to catch the manipulation.
The way it would work is that the marketing company would bulk email a list of clients stories URL’s a couple of times during the day. Each time an “employee” gets a list they start submitting the articles to Digg. If it has already been submitted they Digg it and move on to the next URL. Once a person has Dugg the list they email the marketing company that it has been completed. All the marketing company has to do is look at the persons recent Digg activity and they have proof the person did so. The “employee” could be paid 5 cents per Digg or Vote, 10 cents per story they submit and a $5.00 bonus for every article they submitted that goes popular.
It may not seem to be a lot, but if a person submits and votes for 50 stories in one day they would make at lest $2.50 for just voting. If they submitted 10 of the stores they would make at lest $3.00. Not much but if the 10 stories all became popular they would have made $53.00 just for a little bit of work. There are people who have the time and could use the money, even $2.50 with the possibility of $250.00 if they submitted all 50 stories and they became popular.
As people would be trying to be the first one to submit the story the order of submission and voting should be random again making it harder to catch. Also it you had a 1000 people willing to vote for money and you only gave each list to a 100 of them it would again make it harder to track or catch. This system would also motivate people to make stories popular, as they get a bonus out of it. This would be very cheep marketing. The cost to have a 100 people vote and make popular would be $10.05. So lets say the marketing company charges $25.00 per article, that would still be very cheep marketing for almost any company considering that when a story becomes popular on Digg it can receive 1000’s if not in the 10,000’s or more hits. This would be a winning situation for both company “A”, the marketing company and the people being paid to vote. Not so fare to anyone else though.
Please note that this is just a theory. I do not know of any one doing this, I just think that it is possible and would make people money. I used Digg as an example because it is one of the largest ones out there, but it could be done on any social bookmarking site. Would it be right, no but I think it would be an inexpensive marketing strategy that would appeal to many.