Kim Kardashian and her massive growth on FriendFeed: abusing the system or FriendFeed looking the other way?

@Kevin | Social, Strategy

Yesterday afternoon I received a message via e-mail with the following subject:

Kim Kardashian has subscribed to your FriendFeed

Since the FriendFeed redesign I have seen my follower numbers increase rapidly. To be honest though I am not a big FriendFeed guy; it isn’t that I don’t like the service I just have a limitation on how much information I can ingest and a routine down on how to get that information at this point. So while I have a profile I don’t really use the site or even have it running through Twhirl.  But when a celebrity follows you that gives you a reason to sniff out what is going on over at old FriendFeed and I logged in for the first time in awhile.

So Kim added me. I know that I am important (to my mom) but I didn’t know I was that important. Visions of celluloid ridden thighs, a low-grade porn tape, and Thanksgiving dinners with Brody Jenner began to race through my head. Then when I checked her profile I noticed that she had followed over 18,000 people to that point with a whopping 8 following her back.

I tweeted about it because I thought it was funny and then checked back and noticed that she had added another 17,000 people since the last time I had checked a few hours ago. Kim’s “team” was using a bot program. (Or an intern incredibly jacked up on Red Bull.)

This kind of annoyed me on a few levels. First of all it is desperate and really not the way you want to go to gain an audience. (Less than 1% of the people she is following are following her back.) Second of all it is a blatant abuse of the system that most people would get their profile deleted for on most social networks but because she is a celebrity it is ok. This is something I have seen on a few social media sites where celebrities or “site created” celebrities have used programs to grow their accounts when it is clearly against the sites Terms of Service. This really gets to me because I think social media is a playing field where if you create good content, know how to promote yourself, and work hard you can build a fan base away from the typical systems. When celebrities are allowed to have their own set of rules within social media it makes this technology no different than the mainstream.

However when looking at the FriendFeed terms of service they do not have anything written about using bot programs or automating processes much like Myspace, Twitter, and other social media sites do. So technically her team did nothing wrong according to the FriendFeed terms of service. Much like Twitter used to be, there is uncapped adding on the system. FriendFeed, as presently constructed, is allowing this to happen.

Is this move intentional by FriendFeed? Or a something just not thought out? A lot of social media sites have had pure open access to adding people in the past and as the sites grew in popularity they clamped down on this practice. Some sites place caps on the amount of people you can add in a day (MySpace 300 and Twitter 1,000 for example) while others check to see the speed you are doing it (Facebook and MySpace) or drop CAPTCHA codes in.

FriendFeed wants to grow, they need to grow, and they have a good product but not enough users. But in order for it to go mainstream or even build to a respectable size are they willing to let people come in and abuse the system in order to obtain some growth? If yesterday is an indication yes they are.