If you’ve had email for a while, you’re familiar with email spam. Spammers often try to make their emails seem relevant, with fake warnings about our PayPal or eBay account, etc., but their messages have nothing to do with us (um, yeah, Viagra doesn’t apply to me). We’re just an email address to them.
I wonder if this perspective of spam—messages from a random sender to a random receiver—explains why some people insist on using social media to spam others. Do some people think, “Hey, they followed me back, so they must want to hear all about my latest book release/webinar/product”?
To anyone who thinks that way, here’s a clue: They don’t.
A “friend” or “follow” doesn’t automatically flip the switch to change the sender from a random person to a connected person. So unless we’ve built up a relationship with someone through social media, by being, you know, social, unasked for messages are spam.
I see people who should know better do spammy things all the time. I often give people the benefit of the doubt when it comes to these “no-no”s, but others won’t. So to help those social media users—who are real people, but simply haven’t figured out the “rules” yet—I offer this list.
You’ll Look Like a Spammer If…
You’re Pushy with Links
Every social media platform has types of messages that can trigger an email notification. We should use those communication methods with caution. There’s a big difference between posting something to the general update section and grabbing people by their collars and insisting they pay attention.
Sometimes we have good reasons for making sure people see a link. If we mention them in a blog post or we know they’re interested in a subject, we should point out the link to them. Otherwise, use the general update stream. This means:
- On Twitter, don’t…
- Direct message new followers with any type of link. Ever.
- Direct message links to followers without a reason.
- @ mention links to people without a reason.
- On Facebook, don’t…
- Message links to friends without a reason.
- On Google+, don’t…
- Share a post directly with people without a reason.
- On Goodreads, don’t…
- Message friends about every blog post or giveaway you have. (If we were that interested, we’d sign up for your blog and/or newsletter.)
I know those seem basic, but I get “so-and-so shared a post with you” notifications on Google+ at least once a week, and the posts have nothing to do with me or my interests. There are several authors (one of whom claims to be a social media queen) who send out Goodreads events or links every week. On Twitter, I’ve gotten DMs from people asking me to check out their random blog post and tweet about it.
I don’t want to turn off email notifications for those messaging options. I like getting email notifications for things I’m interested in. But people who abuse those communication methods make it harder for me to find the notifications for the things I want.
Before sending an update outside of or beyond the public stream, ask yourself if you’d want to get an email about a similar update. If it’s not worth an email, leave it in the general stream.
You’re Making It All about You
Social media should be social. That means making sure you’re having a conversation and not just acting like one person with a megaphone, shouting, “Look at me! Buy my book! Read my blog!”
Before I follow someone or confirm a friend request, I check out their stream of updates. If all I see is the same blog link or purchase link over and over, I have no reason to connect with them.
Similarly, I look for whether someone has conversations, especially on Twitter. People whose streams are all links and no conversation (even if those links are for other people and not just themselves) won’t get my follow unless they retweet links for a subject I’m interested in.
@elizabethscraig and her writing links? I’m all over that. Someone else with their marketing-only links? No—unless they also have conversations.
Going along with that issue, share why a link is interesting. I don’t click links without details of what I’ll find there and why I might be interested.
You Haven’t Created an Appropriate Profile
We don’t want to follow or friend someone if we have no idea who they are. The “bio” or “about” section of our social media profiles is there for a reason. Don’t leave them blank and/or worthless (“A dude.”).
Also, think hard before setting social media accounts to private. On some platforms, the basic profile/bio/about information can’t be seen if the account is private. That means that I have to connect to you before I can tell if I want to connect to you. That’s a problem.
Creating an appropriate profile also includes:
- On Twitter, don’t…
- Leave the default egg avatar.
- Follow people you don’t know until you’ve started tweeting. (People who have no tweets look like zombie accounts.)
- Use an inappropriately sexy picture as your avatar unless you want everyone to assume that’s what you’re selling.
- On Goodreads, don’t…
- Request friendships until you’ve rated several books. (People who haven’t rated a single book—or have only rated their own with 5 stars—look like they’re not interested in sharing their thoughts about books, which misses the whole point of Goodreads.)
You Do Other Annoying Things Like…
- You follow people and then unfollow them as soon as they follow back. (We’re on to those who run up their follower numbers to make them look popular.)
- You follow and unfollow and follow again repeatedly, hoping that we’ll eventually pay attention and follow you back. (I keep every “so-and-so is now following you on Twitter” message, so I know who these people are.)
- You send people requests for apps in Facebook—over and over again.
When we know we’re a “real” person, we might assume that we can’t possibly be a spammer. Spammers are those messages that are automated, or stealing email lists, or trying to get people to click on virus links. Not us.
But whether a message is sent by email or social media, the difference between spam and not-spam is whether the sender is selective with their audience. “Because I have the ability to contact you” is not a reason to think everyone wants to know the information.
Facebook friends lists are not a gathering of playmates for apps. Be selective. If you know one of your friends uses that app, sure, message them—not everyone you know.
Google+ followers or Goodreads friends lists are not a replacement for a newsletter. Go ahead and send one mass-mailing every six months or so, and use it to announce some big news and remind people to sign up for your newsletter if they want to hear every update.
Mass mailings through social media are just as spammy as mass mailings through email, so we need to use them sparingly. If we make our messages specific and relevant to a selected target audience narrowed down from just everyone who’s following us, they’ll be more interested in what we have to say.
We have to be careful with how we present ourselves. It doesn’t matter how real we are; if we act like a spammer, people will think we’re a spammer. And losing followers and friends over that misunderstanding defeats the purpose of being on social media.
Do you disagree with any of these tips? What else can make a real person look like a spammer? Have you been guilty of any of these? Which ones drive you the most crazy? Do you have any tips for other social media platforms that I didn’t cover here?
*** P.S. I had some people ask for a deadline extension for the Win-Win Giveaway because they wanted more time to get their Random Act Of Kindness (RAOK) together. As my whole goal with the giveaway was to encourage acts of kindness for writers who have helped us, I’m happy to give people more time to be kind. *smile* Leave a comment about your RAOK to inspire others and be entered into the giveaway. ***Pin It