[Marty Edit: An original version of this avatar theory post created a different kind of buzz than intended when published on the homepage of SEOmoz/blog earlier this week. In it I quoted Matt Cutts from, what he perceived to be, a private conversation.

I apologized to Matt after he publicly unsubscribed to SEOmoz as a result. For those who don’t know, he’s Google’s highly visible ambassador of spam reduction and when someone (in this case me) quotes something he said said about spam– it can cause a fracas.

It’s also true that I levied a sarcastic poke at 3 SEOs I respect a lot, by linking out to them on the anchor text “tree hugger SEOs.”  My bad. Honestly the phrase didn’t seem all that rough and tumble to us and I meant no offense.  At least one of the outbound links was to someone who’s called me worse. 🙂 Still I understand why the reference could hurt someone’s feelings (if they did not see the smile on my face and voice inflection) and for that I’m truly sorry. I will say I am a proud tree-hugger myself, usually whilst tapping a Vermont Maple for syrup.]

Avatar Theory
As social media opportunities and disasters force corporate engagement more & more, marketing departments will send avatars into communities with varying tiers of transparency ranging from full disclosure press secretaries to covert “interested-friends.”

Early adopters have already arrived with incredible organization and detail to place thoughtful “boots on the ground” in various social channels. Today we have the privilege of publishing a guest post on SEOmoz Blog discussing this important matter in detail.

Such reputation management and marketing forays should be undertaken with the greatest respect for the communities in which participation is undertaken, risk assessment and intentional care.

Where does one draw the line in building “real,” fictional and hybrid social profiles? How much should be man…how much machine? What does “authentic” really mean? What are the ground rules? What are the golden rules?

What percentage of disclosure and transparency are appropriate as avatars server 2 masters: the integrity of communities and an interested-corporation that commissioned the avatar. At what point does any given methodology in creating corporate brand ambassadors cross over to unacceptable, immoral or unethical-and by who’s standard.

Thanks to our friends Rand &  Rebecca over @ SEOmoz for publishing my guest post regarding social media avatar ethics, continuing a conversation which has been quietly bubbling under in SMO trade blogs since the “Give It Up” session at SMX Advanced.

  • David Temple

    I don’t agree with the idea of sending armies of avatars out to do our bdding. Eventually it will be a bunch of avatars engaging with each other. But then again I may not understand this whole thing enough to have a good take on it.

    What I do understand is that your sarcastic links, were it another time, may have been taken differently. I only saw it as “stirring the pot” and did not, in my mind, add any value to your post.

  • Marty Weintraub

    @David: I agree and that’s why I asked to republish. Everyone makes mistakes and what’s important is to recognize them as such and grow. Thanks for the comment.

  • Will Scott


    It was a great pleasure to meet you at SMX.

    As a fellow native of that great city so lacking in tact I think, pot-stirring or not, anything in text needs to be read as though it was written with the best intentions.

    You know what the biggest problem with political correctness is? It’s BORING.

    Can’t wait to see you next!

    Don’t let the tree huggers get you down,