Dwelling On Online Squatters

Utter the word “squatting” and a couple of definitions come to mind.  In the gym, squats are a useful exercise for building/toning the legs and gluteus maximus. In a housing context a squatter takes up temporary residence in dwellings they do not own or have permission to utilize.  Enter the world of the web, and you’ll find a range of new meanings.

A recent online discussion that I came across offered additional definitions and possibilities.  When the Internet first emerged, scores of name-recognizable URLS (i.e. Starwars.com) were scooped up by enterprising, tech-savvy entrepreneurs who then sat on them knowing a future payday would come. The same happens with both Facebook and Twitter handles.

When Facebook arrived on the scene, the less scrupulous began posting promotional/sales messages on pages not their own. It’s one thing for a Facebook friend to promote an upcoming event or cause on the pages of their own Facebook friends.  It is quite another for a for-profit entity to post promotional messages to the Fan pages of other entities when those messages are not necessarily in the best interest of the Fan page host nor its fans. That is squatting and it is unethical.

By way of an example, a popular Detroit public institution and tourist destination, prior to exercising proper control of its Facebook Fan page, became the victim of scores of online squatters – from questionable mortgage lending sources to hair salons – all promoting their wares via posts to this page.  Do these posters not realize they are damaging their reputation while ensuring their messages are ignored?

Bottom line: Social media, when done right is supposed to be a two-way conversation. What it’s not? A trading post. Eviction notice, please.