Two Companies That Said No To Social Media Scams

Feedback is rolling in on our Scamville post last night. Even more people are coming forward to talk about their experiences getting ripped off by Offerpal and SuperRewards, or how they were pitched by these companies to add offers to their apps.

We’ve got a lot more to say about this before we’re done. And we’re hoping that Facebook and MySpace make the right decisions for users and begin to enforce their own rules on subscription and other scams. Even if it means a huge drop in advertising revenue from the apps that rely on scams to make money.

But in this post we’re going to let two other people make their points. In a comment to the post yesterday HotOrNot founder James Hong talks about how his company tried, and quickly removed, scammy offers from their site. He says “In a nutshell, the offers that monetize the best are the ones that scam/trick users.”

And PlentyOfFish founder Markus Frind talks about being pitched by companies like Offerpal and SuperRewards. He also follows up with a post on his own blog.

James Hong:

We ran offers like this back in 2005 for a very short period of time at HOTorNOT, that is until we realized what was going on. In a nutshell, the offers that monetize the best are the ones that scam/trick users. Sure we had netflix ads show up, and clearly those do convert to some degree, but i’m pretty sure most of the money ended up getting our users hooked into auto-recurring SMS subscriptions for horoscopes and stuff. When I hear people defending their directory of deals by saying Netflix is in there, i am reminded of how hotel pay-per-view has non-pornographic movies. Sure it gives them good cover, but we all know where the money is made.

In the end, we decided to turn the offers off. Quite frankly, the offers made us feel dirty, and pretty much on the same level as spammers. For us, the money just wasn’t worth it. On top of that, we relied on our goodwill with users and focused on growing by having a product and company that our users liked. Our sense was that using scammy offers would make good money in the short run, but would destroy our userbase in the end. Perhaps apps on facebook don’t feel this pressure because facebook is so huge, and there are always new people to burn.

I’d like to point out that there are some game companies out there who are holding out on using offers to monetize their users. Personally, that makes me 10 times more likely to pull my credit card out for them.

PS. I don’t think the concept of letting people fulfill offers to get credits is structurally a bad one. I for one would like to see the offer networks work together to create some set of public agreement on what types of practices are banned from their network, and perhaps they can evan have some sort of certification logo. These practices will only stop when companies are not competitively crippled by NOT doing them. In effect, we need a nuclear non-proliferation treaty among the offer networks.

Markus Frind:

I’m surprised it took this many years to be reported by the “media”. These kind of scams have been going on for years and I get several emails a month from these vendors promising to make me millions of dollars a month. I’ve no doubt I could make millions a month off these scams, but they are scams and will eventually bring government regulations. Michael mentions tattoo media look up tatto media sued on google and you will see all the government agencies sueing them.

Michael, is just barely scratching the surface, these scams are extremely far reaching and deep. Some of these scams are charging users over $1 million dollars a day, and many of these middle men/networks are nothing more than smoke screens.

There are a number of comments from anonymous posters saying that there’s no fire here behind the smoke. The thing is, they’re lying.