Following up on yesterday’s post about social network marketing is just like spam, I’d like to expand on that discussion. BTW, this topic has generated a lot of discussion in several of my LinkedIn groups, so I think I’ve hit a nerve.
What is SPAM?
According to Wikipedia,
Spam is the use of electronic messaging systems (including most broadcast media, digital delivery systems) to send unsolicited bulk messages indiscriminately. While the most widely recognized form of spam is e-mail spam, the term is applied to similar abuses in other media: instant messaging spam, Usenet newsgroup spam, Web search engine spam, spam in blogs, wiki spam, online classified ads spam, mobile phone messaging spam, Internet forum spam, junk fax transmissions, social networking spam, television advertising and file sharing network spam.
Although not directly stated here, I think the key aspect that makes something spam is its lack of value to any constituency that receives the messages.
SPAM on Social Networks
This seems to be an increasing problem across networks. Consider the following from Twitter:
Finally – A Top Secret Way You Can Get Google� AdWords Pay-Per-Clicks FREE http://is.gd/dFlum
Century 21 Real Estate Corporation: Agency with franchised offices throughout the United States, Canada, Europe, L… http://bit.ly/9ZeWGx
-This is a system created for one reason and one reason only….To make YOU money as an affiliate marketer. http://bit.ly/IMD-emons
And these from LinkedIn groups
Very Low Interest funding program with 100% LTC from 10MM Real Estate Projects (Principal Only Please)
Do these posts constitute SPAM? I’m not sure everyone would agree, but IMHO, these seem to reflect spam. They appear to be unabashed efforts to make money without any regard for giving back to members of the social network. This tactic appears to evade any sense of community, that tit-for-tat which is the backbone of social networks.
Of course, not all spammers are so overt. Many posts and Tweets appear helpful and informative on the surface, but once you click on the link you’re overwhelmed with marketing efforts and little real information. I’m even starting to get direct messages on Twitter stating I’ve won an iPod and sending me to a link to retrieve my device.
Spammers have even invaded second life and other social networks with their billboards and other elements that don’t contribute to the community.
The Implications of SPAM on Social Networks
As a member of the Social Media Marketing group commented, the level of spam makes it harder for legitimate social media marketers to stand out. Their messages get drowned by hundreds and thousands of SPAM messages. This not only dilutes efforts by legitimate social network marketers, it reduces the number of people in these networks, as people leave in disgust over the level of spam.
Possibly as a result of the SPAM issue, Google Adwords has seen a significant decline in revenue as advertisers reduce spending in response to low consumer click-through rates.
As I mentioned yesterday, I truly think social network marketing is headed for a shake-out similar to the one faced by dot.coms in the late 1990s (BTW, I also predicted the dot.com shake-out 12 months before it happened). There are simply too many spammers and others who lack an understanding of social media and/ or marketing and don’t have a strategy for success, just as happened to precipitate the dot.com failures. There’s a basic lack of understanding of how to “do” social network marketing. Hopefully, just as happened to the dot.coms, the crisis will get rid of those weak elements and provide direction for those who are attempting to master the art of social network marketing. I think social media is a viable means to market to your customers and, like the internet as a whole, will return stronger than ever after the shake-up.
Solution to the SPAM Problem
First, get spammers off the networks. Network owners like Twitter and LinkedIn need to be more vigilant in getting rid of spammers. Social network members need to be proactive in reporting abuse of the network by spammers.
Second, make sure you’re not creating spam. If we accept my definition of spam as lacking value, then the key here is to develop a marketing strategy strong in creating value for customers, visitors, and prospects. Trying to push product sales, multi-level marketing, affiliate programs and other types of transactions should only be a minor part of marketing strategy. Marketing strategy should focus on understanding members of the social network, taking steps to gather and disseminate information they will find valuable, engaging with members of the social network to offer advice and support, and other community building activities. The information should be unbiased, honest, and not self-serving. No one wants to hear you brag about your accomplishments day after day. Give someone else some recognition. Only then, might you be granted permission to sell your network something.