I was recently at sxsw, where some of the best, brightest and most interesting people come together for 5 days of panels, networking, parties and discussions.
On the last evening an interesting debate ensued about what constitutes “spam”. It is such a nasty word. Nobody wants to be a spammer. Yet a growing number of social networkers are increasingly spamming their “friends” or “followers” with shameless unsolicited plugs for their blog, book, business or whatever.
This is the surest way to degrade both your network and the value of the network overall.
What is social spam?
Sending unsolicited mass messages directly to your social network to promote your own interest.
Twitter Direct Message Spam – The “auto direct-message to new followers” is annoying. I wish twitter would disallow it. “Krista – thanks for following me. You might be interested in thislink – let me know what you think..”. The link is a random link to their blog or some site promoting their interest. Just because I follow you doesn’t mean you can spam me.
LinkedIn Message Spam – Sending messages to your linkedin network that only promote yourself.
If you can’t take the 30 seconds to write me a genuine message, you should not be so bold as to ask me to spend 5 minutes reading your blog.
Why does it create a problem?
It becomes difficult to differentiate between genuine and authentic communications and social spam. I now disregard many Direct Messages as spam, when I’m sure that some of them are legitimate messages.
Social spam sucks because:
It degrades your social capital – When you are not genuine or transparent you are degrading your social capital – nobody likes the guy who is always promoting himself or asking for something.
It degrades the value of the network for everyone – I used to like myspace (yes, I admit it). But when my inbox became 75% spam it became less useful to me. I had to invest time in checking which messages were real and which were spam. Facebook is beginning to have the same problem. Once our inboxes are clogged with irrelevant messages the medium becomes less useful for everyone.
It is a misuse of the vehicle – Social networks have places for broadcasting messages. Use them. Not my inbox.
The Golden Rule – do unto others…. When you are tempted to do something that is “spam-like” imagine the implication if everyone in your social network did it. If it would annoy you if everyone in your network did it, then don’t do it.
Why do you do it?
Most of the social spammers that I talk to are really great people. They don’t think that they are spammers. They think that they are telling people about something that they might really be interested in.
Newsflash – all marketers think that people are interested in their products. They all think that they are offering something of value.
You might be offering something of value and I might be interested, but spamming me isn’t the way to get my attention.
5 Ways Not to Be a Social Spammer
1. Use Appropriate Channels. There are channels for mass communication – group discussion sections on linkedin, posting links on facebook groups or the public timeline of twitter. Most social networks have a place to “broadcast” messages to large groups. Don’t disguise your broadcast as a 1:1 communication.
2. Be Transparent. Be transparent about what you want; if you trick people you will lose social capital over time. Clearly label requests for help, or a Digg or whatever. If you have social capital a lot of people will be willing to help.
3. Be Choiceful. Be choiceful about when you choose to ask for things and use your social capital wisely. A
4. Ask Permission. Ask permission to send messages directly to people who are interested. The CANSPAM act requires companies to do this, and people should do it to. Let those who are interested opt in to your email list or newsletter. Simply because they are your friend or gave you their business card doesn’t mean they want mass messages of you promoting your stuff.
5. What if Everyone Did It? Take your behavior and imagine if everyone in your network did it. If you have 200 LinkedIn friends imagine if they all sent you messages promoting their stuff every month. That would be 6 messages a day. How would that limit your use of the platform?