Spam Is Spam

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Just because there are new channels with which you can communicate with a mass audience, it does not give you the right to spam them.

You don’t need to know the legalities regarding what is considered spam and what is not. It’s pretty simple: sending someone a commercial message when you do not have their permission to do so is spam. It’s a message they did not ask for or request. If we’re talking about individuals who are simply trying to connect to one another, there is nothing wrong with asking for permission (this is why Facebook allows you to decide if you would like to accept someone as a friend, and it is the same reason why individuals are able attach a message to their friend request).

We needed laws because Marketers screwed it up. 

Not all Marketers screwed it up. It was just a couple of rotten apples that spoiled the bunch. It’s also going to be a few new rotten apples that are going to spoil the newer channels as we all try to make heads or tails of what is fair, acceptable and respectable in these many new ways to connect. The truth is you don’t need someone to make rules (or laws) if everyone is always treating one another with mutual respect (be it their information or permission to connect).

The problem is spamming is easy. 

Spam exists because for the millions of people it annoys, it does convert – at some level – to make it a cost effective way to make money and market (as scary as that sounds). It’s even easier for those who are pushing it close to the limits of spam to say, "well, there are no rules or laws yet, so let the people decide." Fair enough. No one can argue with that logic, but isn’t it easier to ask, "is this the way I would like people to communicate with me?"

The good news is that as some of these newer channels are gaining mass attention and popularity (see Twitter), individuals can decide whose messages they want to receive and can even unsubscribe from those who are teetering on the brink of spam.

The lesson is simple:

Use your personal power in these channels to unsubscribe to anyone and everyone who you feel is spamming you. If they’re not providing value and adding to you – and your community – remove them. No matter how popular they are and no matter how many people follow them, remove them.

A smart Marketer knows how to connect and build relationships in these online channels. Should you really be wasting your time and energy following those who are abusive to your time and attention (or bordering on it)? 


  1. A perfect example is Guy Kawasaki. I was following him at the beginning, and even stood up for his Alltop service (we’re i’m featured) but enough is enough.
    It’s been more than a month that o unfollowed him and i don’t miss a thing. Writing on authenticity and personality and then using Twitter as a spam-casting channel is not exactly walking the talk.

  2. I find it equally annoying that sales reps will reach out via Linked-In. The platform is such a great resource but these unsolicited emails will discourage users from engaging.

  3. Hi Mitch,
    I agree, spam has entered every conceivable area of social networking. You even see it in DMs on Twitter when you follow people at times (check out my book!, read my blog, get a free download here… you get the picture) and people need to be responsible and sensitive to the fact that social networks, although they provide an easier way to reach another person, are meant predominantly to facilitate relationships, not marketing activities, and unfortunately, spam.
    Not only do people on the receiving end need to decide what they will and will not tolerate, those in a position to market or promote their products or services need to reevaluate their purpose and if the end justifies the means.
    At the end of the day, it’s always about people 🙂

  4. I agree with you Joel. It seems that latest SPAM is through Twitter and LinkedIn groups but more so in Twitter because you don’t’ have to approve someone as a friend for them to add you and start spamming you as well as your network with msg all day long.
    I certainly hope that Twitter will add functionality that will allow you to approve friends before they can actually add you and start sending you as well as your network msg.
    it would also be great if you can report people on Twitter as spammers. That functionality would be nice as well but until then we have to deal with these people and block them one at a time which is annoying and time consuming.

  5. Lets not forget how spam is affecting search engines and our search results. Many have unraveled the ways to make their sites rank higher, and they don’t deserve it! Simply finding loopholes in order to make your product seem more desirable, does not necessarily make it so. Expert pages (i.e. a main page) can have other non-affiliated pages (or sub-pages) link back to them, thereby increasing the amount of exposure and making them more popular, resulting in a higher page rank. This is obviously an artificial (and can be seen as unethical) way of making sites more popular.
    Web spam is also everywhere. Not necessarily on our social networks, but in our every day browsing.

  6. Great article, Mitch. I was thinking a lot about this same topic over the past few weeks. I think social media has actually made it easier for people like us to market because unlike email, social media is much easier to turn off.
    On one hand you have the new medium of mobile SMS marketing, which is highly regulated by the carriers. In this case, one needs to seek permission to send mass messages and we rely on the carriers to police that. Sadly most people don’t know how to “stop” SMS feeds that become harassing (and costly).
    For social media sites, we as individuals hold the power. Someone spamming you? Take them off your buddy list. Someone looks fishy? Decline their buddy request. Someone stepping over the line? Click ignore.
    As marketers, if we use the tools wisely, our 1:1 efforts will be much more successful. If we provide value over annoyance (ie. quality of over-quantity), users will continue to opt-in. It’s a whole new game now! And exciting.

  7. Mitch:
    This is a very timely topic for me, so thank you.
    I think that too often marketers say to themselves, “I’m within the SPAM regulations and it gets through email spam filters, so it’s fine!”
    Just because something is delivered, doesn’t mean it’s not spam. It’s like the famous statement about pornography…”I can’t describe it, but I know it when I see it.”
    The problem is, as you say, that it’s just too easy to spam. And, it probably produces some initial results.
    The difficulty comes in trying to analyze and quantify the hit the brand’s reputation may take down the road. That’s the thing that too many people overlook when they approve a campaign in favor of a “quick hit.”
    Keep up the great work!

  8. I don’t suggest clicking “unsubscribe” because that just confirms your existence and can propagate more spam. Just label it as “junk” and let your spam filter take care of it.

  9. I must respectfully disagree with some of suppositions made here. First of all, I believe we do need to know what law says before abridging someone’s right to free speech. Secondly, criminalizing free speech is not the direction I believe we should be going.
    Software filters already do a decent job. No more laws against free speech . . . please.
    All the best.

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