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