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It’s almost impossible to SPAM in social media

May 11, 2009

We have e-mail to thank for the term SPAM. And I’ve always blamed direct marketing for SPAM (except for that time I blamed the Internet, but ignore that whole post). Indeed, e-mail is one of the only marketing tools comes with an irrelevant tag.

An irrelevant e-mail is called SPAM. (An irrelevant TV spot is ignored.)

The only other thing we dislike for being irrelevant is also a direct marketing tactic: irrelevant mail is called Junk Mail. But junk mail is often ignored and forgotten. In e-mail, the junk is actually hated.


It’s partly because early on, we paid for time to download e-mails. Thus, there was a real cost to getting the messages that marketers pushed our way. That’s part of it. But it’s also because e-mail was the first social network. E-mail chains are discussions, and while they are ignoring at work, they were sort of fun when they were personal. Marginally.

E-mail was the first Digg. Check out this hilarious video of a the “Star Wars Kid.” If you know anything about Digg, you’ll know this would have been page 1 material.

Marketers realized fast that e-mail wan an unbelievably inexpensive way to reach millions. Who cares if we piss off thousands? Two buyers out of 10 million pay for the campaign!

This is a picture my wife took. It's totally irrelevant to this post. Is it SPAM?

This is a picture my wife took. It's totally irrelevant to this post. Is it SPAM?

And so, SPAM.

Life streaming is updating people on what’s up in your life as it happens. Life streaming can be as continuous as a Jenny Cam, or as infrequent as a weekly blog post. Somewhere in between those two lies the chasm of most people. An update to Facebook status, a quick Twitter post, a Digg. The occasional blog post. This is the stream.

With it’s immediacy, Twitter has turned that into a rapid. Facebook didn’t become like Twitter in look, it became like Twitter in action. Facebook’s immediacy was inspired by Twitter.

So here’s the fundamental difference between e-mail marketing and social media marketing.

With e-mail marketing, it was possible to force one’s way into the stream easily. Just buy some lists, and you’re off to the races.

In social media, there isn’t a macro way to insert. Facebook sells profiles, but not lists. To grow on Twitter, one has to earn fans (or bribe them with free stuff at first). So brands can’t interrupt everyone’s Facebook news feed with this “important announcement.” Twitter spam, be it direct promotions or silly auto DM messages that purport to promise ways to “Increase your Twitflunce” aren’t macro enough to get our ire up.

In social media, SPAM doesn’t scale. Not like it did in e-mail.

And not only that, but social media isn’t just a test of current earning potential. It’s a test of past earned trust. Think about it: people fan Facebook pages of brands they know and trust. The word fan implies knowledge of the past. People are fans of brands based on performance, experience, and in some degree, the marketing that the brand has done. It stands to reason that people can’t be real fans of new products on Facebook.

So a message from a brand to a Fan, is by virtue of the relationship, relevant. If I sign up to a brand’s page, as a fan, I sort expect them to update me. It could turn to SPAM, but that would take time. It would take repeated irrelevance to get my ire up. But still, that would be a stretch. Right now, on Facebook, one of the pages I’m a fan of has found its way into my newsfeed. it’s an announcement of a sale at a local garden store. This is relevant information to me in this context because I’m a fan of the store. If I don’t care to know about the sale, then I’ll ignore it, but I won’t get mad at it.

We’ll see irrelevance in social media, if there’s marketing, someone is saying something irrelevant. But it will be like irrelevance on TV. Something we just ignore, not something we hate.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. May 11, 2009 10:57 pm

    Social media has really proven to one way to generate massive amount of traffic to your site, and it also helps me boost up your seach engine marketing campaign. And it wouldn’t be beneficial for your site if you spam because in social media your dealing with people and most of them wants to get relevant information and not just a bunch of spam.

  2. May 12, 2009 10:43 am

    Thanks for the comment Scott. I agree.

  3. May 12, 2009 4:34 pm

    While I agree with your comments, I think Spam still exists with Social Media. Check out this post – While it is more difficult to spam, it does happen. I think those that spam using social media tools don’t fully understand the environment or the implication of spamming in the social web.

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