February 14, 2013

Where’s the Line between Spamming and Sharing?

Hand shoving with text: Can We Be Too Pushy when Sharing?

Anyone reading this post probably doesn’t intend to be a spammer, but it’s possible to cross the line and not realize it. If we’re lucky, a friend will let us know.

However, how we react to that observation is yet another minefield in the impression we leave behind in social media. A strange thing happens sometimes when spammy behavior is pointed out.

Types of Spammers

Some people are spammers and they know it. They drown the Akismet spam folder of my blog with advertising comments. Pointing out their behavior would just give them an email address to pester. “Ignore and delete” is the only option.

Some people are spammers and they don’t want to be. Rather than think about what behavior bothers them—and avoid that behavior—they follow the bad examples of others who have been spammy. With this group, once you point out their behavior, they apologize and change.

But some people…

Some people look like the ones who don’t want to be spammers, so you point out, “Hey, promo posts in this forum are spammy,” or “Hey, sending a G+ post to a specific person (even though the topic isn’t specific to them) is spammy.” But this group doesn’t apologize. No…

This group denies that they’re spammy.

This group doesn’t think to apologize.

This group claims, “I was just trying to share.”

Intentions Don’t Matter

Um, no. If someone tells us our behavior is spammy, our behavior is probably spammy. It’s very easy for us to think, “Oh no, I’m not spammy. I’m not intending to be spammy, so that label doesn’t apply to me.”

I have news for us. Every one of us can step over the line to spammy behavior. Our intentions aren’t the factor on which we’re judged. It doesn’t matter that we’re trying to be helpful or share. There are appropriate and inappropriate ways to share, and we have to learn them if we want to avoid leaving a spammy impression.

Two Examples of Inappropriate Sharing

  • Tagging someone on a social network for every single blog post we write? Inappropriate.

If they wanted to ensure they’d see every one of our blog posts, they’d sign up for our posts by email.

Note: There’s a difference between public updates to our followers, friends, and circles, and “tagged” updates where we call out people by name. A big difference. One can easily be ignored if they’re not online or in the mood, and one sticks around even if they’re offline and grabs their attention in a desperate bid to get them to look at us! as soon as they’re back online.

(G+ users who insist on “sharing” a post with specific people rather than just posting to a circle have been the biggest offenders lately, but I’ve seen this problem on Facebook with tagging and on Twitter with @ mentions and Direct Messages as well.)

  • Posting about our books or services in a non-promo forum? Inappropriate.

Many of these forums have a separate discussion thread where we’re welcome to blow our own horn. Use them instead.

Note: Not being involved enough in the community of the forum to know if promo posts are allowed is not an excuse. First of all, we have no business doing promo on forums we’re not involved in. Secondly, people hate most promo, so to be safe, we should assume it’s not allowed unless we know for a fact that it is.

What Makes Sharing Inappropriate?

What do those two (out of many) examples about inappropriate behavior have in common? Promo is appropriate when we’ve been invited to share. Promo is inappropriate when we force the information onto people who haven’t asked for it.

People invite us by signing up for our newsletters, asking questions, or starting discussions like “Tell us about your book” or “Can anyone recommend a book cover artist?” If we’ve been invited, by all means we can talk about ourselves, our work, our skills.

Simply being a member of a group, or a friend, or a follower, or a member of a circle does not equal being invited. Again, our goal should be to avoid forcing our promo onto people who haven’t asked for it.

A Real-World Example: Sharing Isn’t a Right

I’ve seen neighbors come to blows over this issue. One woman insisted that everyone in the neighborhood would want to know about her in-home-selling-something-or-other party. She posted notice after notice on the neighborhood’s Facebook group, even after being asked to stop. “I’m just trying to share,” she said.

Complaints about her behavior racked up, and she was finally kicked out of the group. She then harassed the family in charge of the group so much, to the point of property damage and police involvement, that the family is moving to get away from her.

Social media doesn’t come with the inalienable right to share with everyone. Our desire to share is not more important than others’ desire to avoid invasive promo.

The Easiest Way to Avoid “Share Spamming”

Go back to the Golden Rule. If we don’t want people to tag us for things that have nothing to do with us, we shouldn’t do it to others. If we don’t want our non-promo sanctuaries overrun with spam, we should make sure promo is welcome before posting it in any forum.

The writing community is wonderfully supportive. We have many ways to share and help each other. But there are appropriate and inappropriate places to toot our own horn.

Kristen Lamb has done a great job of creating places for writers to interact and support each other based around the WANA idea (We Are Not Alone). The #MyWANA hashtag on Twitter is a place for us converse, but we can also share our blog posts and news as long as we’re not all-promo-all-the-time. The WANATribe has groups for everyone, most with specific discussion areas where we can promote our skills or books.

Kristen has even gone so far as to organize a rocking collection of speakers for a worldwide online writing conference called WANACon. WANACon includes agents taking pitches, big name authors like Candace Havens (of Fast Drafting fame) and Allison Brennan (a bestselling author who’s ridiculously helpful to aspiring authors), and those all-important workshops like “Platform Building and Book Marketing” that can teach us how to do this right (not to mention workshops about contracts, ebooks, querying, etc.).

(If you haven’t signed up for WANACon yet, sign up soon. It’s coming up fast, February 22-23. I’ll be there! And check out Kristen’s post from yesterday with all the cool prizes she’s giving away at the conference.)

The point is that our desire to share, be helpful, or get our message out there isn’t a reason to behave badly. Our social networks aren’t captive audiences that we get to exploit. There are plenty of places and methods for sharing, where our message will be welcomed and heard, rather than spit upon and ignored.

Don’t be like that pushy neighbor. After all, isn’t being heard what we really want? *smile*

Have you witnessed “share spamming” before? What did they do that fit that description? Have you confronted anyone about their behavior? How did they react? Have you ever been guilty of “share spamming”? Do you have other suggestions for how to tell if we’re being too pushy? Are you going to WANACon?

Pin It

Comments — What do you think?

Click to grab Treasured Claim now!
  Subscribe to emails for Comments/Replies on this post  
newest oldest most voted
Notify of
Serena Yung
Serena Yung

Wow what scary people these spammers are. O_O I’m glad I’ve never been a victim of this–unless you count the junkmail; but that was my fault because I signed up for their newsletters, lol. I don’t think I’ve done any spamming before…at least not that I’m aware of. Hmm, I only tag specific people in posts if it’s relevant to them AND I believe they’ll be genuinely interested–and even then, it’s almost always only for my closest friends. As for posting status updates on Facebook, I don’t recall really promoting anything; but if I do post something constantly, then I’d limit it. Like there was a time when I updated very frequently on my random philosophical thoughts, then I thought that would be very annoying to people (even though they are only FB status updates), so I limited it to only a few FB posts max per day. Another time I was updating with shared jokes or funny memes I found online very regularly–again I made myself share only a few posts max per day. And finally, remember my daily posts on my Nanowrimo wordcount? After a while, I thought that some people might be irritated seeing that same kind of post everyday, AND it might look like bragging. So I messaged a bunch of people who I believed would understand that I’m not bragging, just giving myself social pressure to finish the novel; and put them in a “Nanowrimo group”—I love these private lists on FB :)—so that only…  — Read More »


Well, I’ve probably come across differently then I intend, sometimes—even on your blog, Jami.

A post will make me start thinking about how it applies to my stories, and I’ll start typing that out as I think it through (and I like hearing that kind of thing, myself)…and then I don’t realize until later that I never put the transition: “Hey, neat post! It got me thinking about how it applies to some of my own writing. For example…”

I don’t think with such transitions, see. I usually don’t even think the “Ooo, that was a good post!” unless I notice myself thinking “Oh, X, Y, and Z would love this link!” Or unless I think to ask myself, “Okay, how was this post? Good, bad, middling, rambling?”

Perhaps it’s because I tend to think of “good” and “bad” in terms of food. 🙂

Melinda S. Collins

Hi Jami, Ooo, spammers. Yikes! I really, really hope I’ve never come across like this. And if I ever do, you totally have my permission to set me straight. Seriously. LOL! Gosh, I can’t believe that happened in your neighborhood! I’ve had something similar happen, but they weren’t my neighbor. She was actually one of my close friends from high school, and I literally got a text from her every other day asking that I come to her weekly jewelry parties/events, or that I look at her catalogue and support her by buying something all the time. I finally had enough last week and let her know what I thought of those texts. 😉 It was straight spamming, only with personal phones/texts. The Golden Rule should definitely be the rule of thumb for everyone when it comes to social media. And for me, personally, I will continue to do my best to never appear as a spammer in any way, shape or form. And yes! I’m actually signing up today for WANACon. At first I wasn’t going to because of the funds and whatnot (*shakes fist* this darn economy!), but the fabulous agenda keeps calling my name, whispering in my ear, and taunting me with fears that I’ll regret not attending. And then last night I read Kristin’s Pajamacon post and it was like handing me a large bag of peanut butter cups. LOL! So I’m going work on a few things and make it work so I can attend…  — Read More »

Taurean Watkins

While I don’t brag about things specific to me, I try to watch my endorsements and opinions when I express them on channels outside my own. A good recent example is my news of selling my first book to a publisher. I wanted to share that milestone, but I made sure I only told people who I knew would want to know because they said so themselves. They in turn tell me of their successes, and I’m glad to know, since the joy of seeing others succeed when you know it was hard earned is so universal, even if what we write is inherently different. While I got burnt out of paranormal fiction in general (Not just the lusty romance kind), I still try to support my writer friends who are publishing paranormal because I know to sell it now (In the post-Twilight/Dark Hunter era) it’s REALLY got to be exceptional. I know how hard they worked to achieve that freshness. I once read and critiqued an excerpt post-apocalyptic christian book for a writer I know, and as someone who cannot yet bring himself to read “The Giver” by Lois Lowry for all the weighty stuff in it, or the Hunger Games for similar reasons, I read this excerpt as part of my slowly opening myself to new stories. Plus, while I was raised in a Christian home, I have mixed feelings about religion in general, though I don’t consider myself an agnostic at all. All that said, I enjoyed…  — Read More »

Marcy Kennedy

I really appreciate the kind of threads where someone will say something like “Can anyone recommend a website designer?” and the website designers in the group will pipe up and let us know that they do offer those services. I appreciate threads like that because I personally prefer to work with someone I’m already familiar with, and I might not have realized that someone I knew could help me if they hadn’t spoken up. And as you said, that’s appropriate sharing. I don’t like when someone comes into a group where a question like that hasn’t been posed and starts advertising the services they offer.

I also think that on your website, anything goes. It’s your site, and so if you want to talk non-stop about your books, that’s your right. People don’t have to come to your site if they don’t want to (and they probably won’t if you only try to sell them things). That;s very different from being tagged on social media by someone who wants me to read their post, etc.

In other words, I agree completely with what you’ve said 🙂 And if you ever see me accidentally committing a spam faux pas, please tell me. Friends don’t let friends spam the world 😀

Maggie Amada
Maggie Amada

Jami, interesting post.

I really hope I have good enough friends that they’d tell me if I started spamming. Of course, most of my friends just recently started using G+. It’s interesting that you mentioned the Google+. I find the whole interface for it slightly annoying. It’s clunky and the sharing options are weird.

As for WANACon, it’s an awesome opportunity. I really wish it wasn’t my husband’s birthday weekend. 🙁 Otherwise, we would both attend.

Renee Schuls-Jacobson

Jami: this is a really interesting subject to me right now as I have just gotten involved with Truberr. Many people shoot out my blog posts without personalizing them. It’s beginning to make me uncomfortable. I use Triberr as more of a reader. But I still send out personalized tweets. I read so many great posts each day, I tend to send out quite a few tweets. But they are all personalized. Is this over sharing or spamming? I’m not sure anymore, but I don’t love being caught in this stream where I feel I’m being auto-tweeted. I feel like a few great, personal tweets have a lot more power than a deluge of (maybe SPAMMY) tweets.

Great post.

As always.

And very smooth integration of WANACon. It is a great opportunity.

Stina Lindenblatt

I’ve only had one person do that to me on Google +. I no longer follow her. The ones from Facebook and Goodreads drives me nuts, too. I no longer read them.

Great post, Jami. 😀

And thanks for the WANA link.

Reetta Raitanen

Great post and something all writers need to consider. What drives me crazy right now is people launching their books on Facebook and sending event invites. Then they start posting like mad to the event wall and I get all the updates before I have a chance to say no thanks. Teaches me to accept as friends only people I really know and like 😛

When promoting your book, it’s always more effective when someone else does it for you.

Best plan is to get others to read your story, and love it so much they want to pass the word on. But before they crack the cover open, you first have to give something valuable to them, and have a relationship. Your blog has totally sold me on your future books, Jami 🙂 I love your voice.

Oh, and the neighbour story was really creepy. Reminds me of the time my little brother was a network marketer *shudders* He became like some weird cultist, eager to spread the gospel. Thankfully he got over it and realized he was being ripped off. But of course we still tease him about it 😀

Tamara LeBlanc
Tamara LeBlanc

Hmmm…I HOPE to God I’m not a spammer. I don’t think I’ve ever done anything spammy, but like another commentor said if I ever cross the line, you have my permission to set me straight. 🙂
I think, for the most part, I’m more of a toot someone else’s horn than my own. I like tweeting your posts (that’s not considered spam, is it?) and Kristen Lamb’s posts (isn’t her online conference idea awesome!!) and I tweet a bunch of other people’s posts and good news, but I’m very wary of using social media to give myself a shout out.
I think that chic in that neighborhood that made all that trouble is a nut job. I be
I believe in karm…she’ll get what she gives.
Thank you, thank you for this post, I thought it was so relevant.
Have a great evening, Jami,

Melissa Maygrove

I’m glad you mentioned Google+. I’m still at the base of the learning curve with that one. I didn’t even know you could ‘tag’ people. LOL

Melissa Sugar
Melissa Sugar

I really appreciate the information you shared. I am also at the base of the learning curve on Google Plus ( as Melissa Maygrove, mentioned), and I am glad you included it. As a lawyer, I often tell people that, “ignorance of the law, is never a defense). I need to swallow my own advice. I have not yet, fully grasped the ins and outs of G+. I was completely unaware that sharing a post with a specific user, was the equivalent of spamming. I don’t want to be spammy. I’m not sure if I have violated that spammy rule of G+ or not, but good to know, not to do it.

Thanks for the invaluable info.


[…] Gold: Where’s the Line between Spamming and Sharing? Excerpt: “Anyone reading this post probably doesn’t intend to be a spammer, but it’s […]

Jeremy Duley

Heeeeeeyyyyyyyyyyyyyy Jami!!!!!

Kristen’s books helped me avoid a lot of spammy type activity. Especially on Twitter, setting up a auto-response to thank someone for following you might seem like a good idea on paper, but not so much in the real world. It just comes across as spam. In fact I rarely even look at my direct messages on Twitter because 99.9% of it is spam.


[…] Where’s the Line Between Spamming and Sharing by Jami Gold […]


[…] Most social media sites provide a method to block users and/or report spam. […]

Click to grab Pure Sacrifice now!