I just got this message from a certain virtual world-focused social network. Is this a clever means of boosting your membership numbers or fake engagement?
Welcome to our first [redacted] Membership Drive. To enter simply invite friends and colleagues you know and who might be interested, to join the [redacted] through your [redacted] 'invite a friend' feature on our [redacted] NING-based Business and Social Network. To show our appreciation the member with the most friends who sign up and become AVW members will receive a cash gift card valued at $200 US. Hurry, because the drive ends on Sept 15, 2009 at midnight EST!
It seems to me like a good way to annoy your friends and create fake members who aren't really interested in your online community. For the sponsor, it probably is great PR since they can show their thousands of new members to the world. But for those of us who work hard at carefully cultivating, welcoming and integrating new members into our online communities it just seems a bit crass and superficial.
Maybe this is just how viral marketing is done nowadays and I'm an old fogey.