Spam. Eww. Who wants it, right? Unfortunately spam isn’t confined to email inboxes. It’s rampant in the world of social media. These days spam comes in all shapes and sizes, from entire blogs that are spam to itty bitty tweet spam. If you’re serious about using social media marketing to promote your business, you can’t afford to be labeled a social media spammer.
That “spammer” label can be a hard thing to shake. The thing is, you might earn the title completely unintentionally. What you consider innocent might be viewed very differently by the people you’re trying to reach through your social media marketing efforts.
Types of Social Media Spam
The first step to avoid becoming a social media spammer is to understand the different types of social media spam. Here are five of the most common:
- Profile spam — Profile spam is usually a type of link spam. It’s when you set up many social media profiles on different services like social networks solely, or mostly, to add links to your site. You might think you’re adding value by helping people find your site. If you’re not actively engaging with community members though, you’re spamming the service and wasting visitors’ time.
- Comment spam — Comment spam is another common type of link spam. This is when you visit blogs, social networks, social bookmarking sites, Q&A sites, or any type of social media service that allows you to leave comments. You leave brief comments that don’t really add to the conversation, and you do it in order to leave a link. Saying “great post” is fine if you want to shoot someone a quick email with a pat on the back. But when you litter a comment thread with comments like that, with no additional value added, you’re going to piss off other readers. It’s more they have to scroll through just because you wanted to toss up an ad to your site through a link, and it’s behavior that deserves a slap on the wrist. Bad blogger. Bad!
- Follow spam — Follow spam is usually related to Twitter (and other microblogging services), but it could apply to social networks too. In fact, I’d say MySpace really kicked off follow spam through “friending.” Let’s look at it in terms of Twitter though. Follow spam is when you follow a massive number of people for the primary purpose of getting them to follow you back (as opposed to actually caring about what they have to say). It’s a matter of trying to artificially inflate your appearance of popularity. Rather than make you seem popular though it just makes you look skeezy, like that creepy guy who hits on every woman he meets just hoping that one will give him the time of day. You really don’t want to be that guy. Follow spam is twice as bad if you do get those follow-backs and then you proceed to spam them with links to your site (or affiliate links).
- Geolocation spam — Geolocation spam is often a result of an individual’s behavior rather than a company’s. There is nothing wrong with geolocation tools like Foursquare in general. The problem is when users of these tools (which tell friends and others where they are) are attached to larger social media tools such as Twitter. Most of your Twitter followers probably don’t care what restaurant you’re eating at. They might be halfway around the world. Leave the geolocation updates to their own sites or services rather than forcing them on a more general follower-base. The updates amount to free ads and endorsements of the places you visit, which can be almost as bad as tweeting your affiliate links left and right. It can be downright annoying, and since it’s highly unlikely that it’s the reason people started following you on Twitter, those “free ads” are partially unsolicited. Don’t make them choose between putting up with geolocation spam or blowing you off completely. While you might get away with it now, the more people that start doing it the more obnoxious it’s going to get and the less tolerance people are going to have for it (just like good old Myspace again where the cute little “bulletins” everyone liked to use became self-promotional, attention-whoring spam breeding grounds). Learn from past social media marketing mistakes; don’t add to the problem.
- Splogs – Splogs are like the super-sized version of social media spam. It’s not a link or a tweet or a message or a comment. It’s a whole site! A splog is a spam blog. They generally involve little to no original content. They just aggregate RSS feeds from other blogs so they stay regularly updated. Then they have large numbers of ads (often from contextual ad networks) to earn money. There are several problems with splogs. First, they rarely get permission to republish and monetize the content they use (meaning they’re often violating the copyright of the author). These spam blogs can also hurt the original author’s blog in some cases. For example, if a splog is indexed very frequently by search engines then its copy of an article might get indexed faster than the original author’s copy does (such as if the author’s site is new and not quick to update). While it doesn’t seem to happen often, this can result in the original content being outranked by the splog, so traffic goes to the spammer instead of the legitimate author of a post. Running a splog might make you some quick ad revenue or give you sitewide links to other sites, but they’re not an ethical option. Depending on how you got the content, they might not even be legal.
These are some of the most common types of social media spam I come across, and types of spam you might not even realize you’ve been guilty of. Even if you have innocent intentions, acting in a way that annoys your audience or abuses relationships with them can cause lasting damage to your company’s reputation. Is it really worth it for a few links or easy ad revenue? I guess that depends how long you plan to be in business.
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