Are you suspicious of threads like this?

This thread here is an old thread (not that old, maybe six months). It was just resurrected by someone who had just joined for the purpose of making a very specific recommendation. Whenever someone in this forum makes a recommendation that I might rely on, I check their posting history. The older and more diverse it is, the more confidence I have that they are sharing their experience rather than simply flogging their own (or someone else’s) product. If they just joined, their opinion is disregarded.

After writing it out, this seems rather obvious. Are you similarly suspicious? I suspect that more and more companies are hiring people to do this.

This case seems pretty obvious as the last activity of the account is two minutes after the single post. They probably have a google alert set up for “best bed” or similar.

It can be useful though. I remember a thread about ginger beer in Cafe Society, and a poster mentioned a UK brand that he was having trouble finding regularly in the US. Someone from the company popped up in the thread, identified himself as such, and gave details about a new distribution deal, and which stores would be carrying the product. They didn’t even try the SEO trick of dropping in the company URL. That’s just good PR.

<Checks ethelbert’s Join Date>

Yeah, in that thread, he’s probably just a shill. I’m surprised no-one reported it.

ETA: I don’t have a problem with someone from a company who identifies themselves, is on-topic, and isn’t starting the thread about their product. That’s pretty rare, though.

I’m very suspicious of threads with vague titles like “Are you suspicious of threads like this?”

How common is this type of “shilling”? This is the only message board I ever look at, so it’s the only place I’ve ever seen it happen.

Do a lot of businesses try to market in this manner?

It seems to be increasingly common here. Sometimes there’s a fine line between someone who is genuinely trying to help answer a question, even tho they may benefit from the answer, and a pure spam post. Robots are getting smarter, and there are a lot of stupid humans out there. Hard to distinguish sometimes; Turing was ahead of his time.

Yes, they are. My robot (the Wally 8050–at only $499.99, it’s an incredible value), can do anything–even post on message boards. Sweet. Check it out, you guys.

Loads of businesses use Google alerts (a service that sends you email every time a specific phrase is indexed) to monitor mentions of their business or product, or product type. It’s a form of free customer/competitor research and feedback.

It looks like the ginger beer company I mentioned upthread use it to be helpful. They responded to a customer query on a message board, gave useful information and were honest about it. This is good. (Incidentally, even very large companies now use Twitter search for this type of thing. It’s a bit more immediate, and I’ve noticed things like airlines and train companies being very quick off the mark to resolve problems)

The bed company (or an agent thereof) mentioned in the OP seem to be using the same alert service to do a different thing. It’s not so much that they expect anyone to buy that particular bed just because of one post on the SDMB, it’s that they want Google to index the link that they have included in the post. Dodgy SEO companies (and that’s the majority of them) tell their clients that links from other websites back to the client website improve their standing in search results. In the abstract, that is true, but links from message boards and the like have meant jack shit to Google for years.

I just reported it now. I get really annoyed by people who sign up just to plug a product.

This has, of course, become much more prevalent since the powers-that-be decided to allow the SDMB to be indexed by search engines. Now, the Boards are often in the top 10 hits for quite a lot of searches, and it makes us easy bait for spammers.

A while ago, a guy from B&H Photo in New York joined the boards and made some interesting posts about the store. He was responding to specific things that Dopers had said about B&H, and while his posts did constitute a nice piece of PR, they were on topic and he didn’t try to shill the business.

I still think that the SDMB should be careful to police this sort of thing, though, because even well-intentioned company reps can end up serving more as salespeople than as actual participants in the discussions.

Good reason to be suspicious. That pattern virtually always indicates a spammer. After seeing this, I deleted the post and banned the spammer.

Please report posts like this immediately so we can get rid of them promptly.


I was so suspicious of this thread that I didn’t even open it.

To elaborate a little more, if you see an old thread bumped by a brand new poster (join date in the current month), and it contains a link in either the body of the post or the signature, that post is almost certainly spam. Report it so the mods can deal with it.

(It’s also good to post “reported” in the thread so others know it’s already been reported. While we prefer getting multiple spam reports to not getting them, if only one person reports a spam post it helps keep our in-boxes clear.)

When I see a thread title like this, I am suspicious…but there is an underlying frisson of excitement.

It’s quite an industry now. Low-paid piece workers, typically in South-East Asia, are paid to do it. Generally they contract via micro-freelancing markets to unscrupulous “SEO” companies. The businesses being advertised don’t generally hire them directly (large-scale scammers being the exception).

The reason you often see it for small local businesses is that they commonly sign up for web design/hosting packages that come with a marketing component. The marketing part is farmed out to a SEO firm at a heavy markup. Neither the design firm nor the SEO firm cares that it doesn’t work, because that just means they can sell a deluxe marketing package later.

Yes I ignore shills. If they joined just to advertise a product or website I just close the thread and go somewhere else, probably reporting them for good measure.

Right after the Germans bought up Purolator, they announced they were going to do ‘‘internet marketing’’. Before long, several new people showed up on BITOG hyping Purolater. One of them even gave his location as in SC where the American peons assembled them. I basically was run off from there for pointing out the better design and engineering jobs likely would be done in Germany along with cashing dividend checks.

On most dog forums including YA Dog Section, every thread having anything to do with dog food, how much, how often, attracts people pushing more expensive dog food, homemade, and raw. Now I am sure many of them are snobs, true believer, and kooks. Not the sort that come to SD looking for hard, factual, evidence based decisions. Many of them don’t seem to understand objectivity or well designed, controlled testing.

However, I also know many of the higher end dog foods are distributed by small time, part time reps. Also, who is supplying the pet stores or mail order raw diets? I am sure whoever has the Purina account at Walmart has more to do than be friends at Dogster. Probability it is true in other areas too that I am less familiar with.

In many cases the OP may be honestly be looking for help. Then those with a agenda come out of the woodwork.

There are certain products I do suggest because they work for me.

It’s pretty rare for established companies to directly employ online shills. It does happen, but it tends to be an over-enthusiastic employee, not a deliberate policy. (I know of only one well-known business that appears to have its direct employees regularly shill online, and it’s my job to know about this stuff. I won’t identify them, but they have nothing to do with pet food).

It’s much more common for this to happen in an indirect way. Either the business hires a marketing firm that outsources to shills and spammers. Or they have an affiliate marketing business model that is open to abuse by people who spam. For the most part the businesses are genuinely unaware it’s happening.

There are other funny stories that go on around the Dope that make me more concerned than a spammer.

Interestingly, whenever I go to one of those sites asking for an inexpensive yet good quality dog food, everyone tells me to go to the nearest Seed ‘n’ Feed store, where supposedly you can get good stuff for cheap.

They also hate the “top name” brands like Iams (which they call Iamsodead) and Hill’s Science Diet (or Science Death according to them). At the dog park a guy approached and asked what I feed my dog out of nowhere. I feed him Pedigree. “Oh that’s horrible,” he replied, but did not shill another brand. He told me to go to the Seed ‘n’ Feed.

(Yeah I thought it was rude as hell.)

Most of the lower priced foods at stores like ‘‘Seed and Feed’’ are made by Diamond. When it comes to problems with kibbles, Diamond has one of the worst records QC records there is. I have fed Pro Plan kibble by Purina for over 15 years and it has never been recalled. Yes, Purina was caught in the big recall of canned dog food a few years ago like almost all the brands offering canned food.

Until some straight dope on dog food shows up in GQ suggesting otherwise, my opinion is stick to the Pedigree.