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PLEASE!!!!! Stop the Social Spam; 5 Ways NOT to be a Social Spammer.

Submitted by on Wednesday, 1 April 200923 Comments

I was recently at sxsw, where some of the best, brightest and most interesting people come together for 5 days of panels, networking, parties and discussions.


On the last evening an interesting debate ensued about what constitutes “spam”. It is such a nasty word. Nobody wants to be a spammer. Yet a growing number of social networkers are increasingly spamming their “friends” or “followers” with shameless unsolicited plugs for their blog, book, business or whatever.

This is the surest way to degrade both your network and the value of the network overall.

What is social spam?

Sending unsolicited mass messages directly to your social network to promote your own interest.



Twitter Direct Message Spam – The “auto direct-message to new followers” is annoying. I wish twitter would disallow it. “Krista – thanks for following me. You might be interested in thislink – let me know what you think..”. The link is a random link to their blog or some site promoting their interest. Just because I follow you doesn’t mean you can spam me.

LinkedIn Message Spam – Sending messages to your linkedin network that only promote yourself.

If you can’t take the 30 seconds to write me a genuine message, you should not be so bold as to ask me to spend 5 minutes reading your blog.

Why does it create a problem?

It becomes difficult to differentiate between genuine and authentic communications and social spam. I now disregard many Direct Messages as spam, when I’m sure that some of them are legitimate messages.

Social spam sucks because:

  1. It degrades your social capital – When you are not genuine or transparent you are degrading your social capital – nobody likes the guy who is always promoting himself or asking for something.

  2. It degrades the value of the network for everyone – I used to like myspace (yes, I admit it). But when my inbox became 75% spam it became less useful to me. I had to invest time in checking which messages were real and which were spam. Facebook is beginning to have the same problem. Once our inboxes are clogged with irrelevant messages the medium becomes less useful for everyone.

  3. It is a misuse of the vehicle – Social networks have places for broadcasting messages. Use them. Not my inbox.

  4. The Golden Rule – do unto others…. When you are tempted to do something that is “spam-like” imagine the implication if everyone in your social network did it. If it would annoy you if everyone in your network did it, then don’t do it.

Why do you do it?

Most of the social spammers that I talk to are really great people. They don’t think that they are spammers. They think that they are telling people about something that they might really be interested in.

Newsflash – all marketers think that people are interested in their products. They all think that they are offering something of value.

You might be offering something of value and I might be interested, but spamming me isn’t the way to get my attention.

5 Ways Not to Be a Social Spammer

1. Use Appropriate Channels. There are channels for mass communication – group discussion sections on linkedin, posting links on facebook groups or the public timeline of twitter. Most social networks have a place to “broadcast” messages to large groups. Don’t disguise your broadcast as a 1:1 communication.

2. Be Transparent. Be transparent about what you want; if you trick people you will lose social capital over time. Clearly label requests for help, or a Digg or whatever. If you have social capital a lot of people will be willing to help.

3. Be Choiceful. Be choiceful about when you choose to ask for things and use your social capital wisely. A

4. Ask Permission. Ask permission to send messages directly to people who are interested. The CANSPAM act requires companies to do this, and people should do it to. Let those who are interested opt in to your email list or newsletter. Simply because they are your friend or gave you their business card doesn’t mean they want mass messages of you promoting your stuff.

5. What if Everyone Did It? Take your behavior and imagine if everyone in your network did it. If you have 200 LinkedIn friends imagine if they all sent you messages promoting their stuff every month. That would be 6 messages a day. How would that limit your use of the platform?

What do you think?



  • 5chw4r7z said:

    This is twitter specific, what do you think of retweets?
    A little goes a long way with me, after twenty or so people have rt’d guykawasaki it gets old.
    Most of the blog posts about this say you add value to your followers by retweeting, but I disagree.

  • Bev said:

    Girl you are so spot on!!

  • Krista Neher (author) said:

    Hi Bob 🙂

    Retweets are an interesting topic – I know a few people who complain about them…. (I usually retweet their complaints).

    What I like about twitter is discovery of cool stuff, and retweets are a part of that.

    I wouldn’t classify it as spam since it is in the appropriate forum (ie. the public timeline) vs. sending a direct message….

    Just my two cents – what do other people think?

    PS – Please RT this post. 😉

  • Ryan Miller said:


    This post really hit home with me. A must read for many many Tweeps as well as people that are just getting started with Social Media Channels.

    I know we’re probably all guilty of some degree of Social Spam at some point, and you’re right, most people think that what they’re putting out is genuinely good. (Hell, I’m guilty of sending out a Tweet or FB update when I’ve got a blog post that may help people – but I think the Twitter Public Timeline and FB update hopefully qualifies as an ‘appropriate channel.’

    I was at the Marketing Profs Virtual Conf yesterday (tremendous stuff by the way, if you haven’t checked it out you should) and in the ‘lounge’ it was amazing to me how quickly it turned into just a channel for self promotion, once the first session was over and lots of people showed up. The conversation value went way down unless you could find someone for a private chat. Just goes to show it happens everywhere, and we haven’t really established universal rules as to what’s acceptable and not. But your post is a great start. Many thanks. In fact, I think I feel my own post coming on spinning off of this.


  • Sid Prince said:

    Hi Krista. This is the first time I’ve read your blog. Great topic!

    I’m a rather unapologetic FriendSpammer. I usually call myself out for it as I do it, but do it I do.

    Thing is, my friendspam usually consists of some article covering an idea or topic we’ve recently discussed or that I know the audience is interested in. I try to keep it to one or two a week, but sometimes find myself running over.

    I’ve made sure to always let friends know my feelings won’t be hurt if they tell me to stop emailing them this stuff, or if they don’t read it and show the delete key some love. To a person, they’ve all said it’s interesting content and would like me to continue (and if you knew my friends, you’d know they weren’t just being nice).

    In any case, I think it has just as much to do with content as it does with “unrequested” or unexpected messages. If you know your audience well, you’re probably going to hit on the right stuff. If not, you may cost yourself as outlined in your post.

    At the end of the day, it’s all about how the content is geared toward them, the recipient. If your modus operandi is to wallow in a world of “what do I like and let me send it to everyone” well, that’s just annoying.

    Take this post for example. On its way to my buddy @DJWaldow in 3….2…..1….gone!


  • DJ Waldow said:

    @David (errr…Sid): Thanks for the comment (above), twitter call/shout out…and even for your IM informing me that you called me out in these comments (3:12 @djwaldow – called you out in comments – love the FriendSpam!! http://tinyurl.com/csg4cy)

    Anyone still following this?

    @Krista: What a great topic to start up. I work at Bronto (an Email Marketing Company). As you can imagine, we think a lot about spam – advising clients on how to avoid sending “spammy” content, working with ISPs to prevent blocks due to spam, etc.

    (Speaking of Spam: Here’s a great video from Gmail on spam )

    You nailed it with your discussion on Social Media Spam. I agree with all you said, but think that Retweeting is one of the most powerful aspects of Twitter. It “spreads the love” and hopefully spreads valuable content.

    I have a ton more to say, but I’m so used to saying it in 140 characters now, I’m a bit out of my element.

    Peace out, dude.


  • Ryan C. Miller.com - Social Media, Design, Tech, Commentary - broadcasting from Utica, NY » 10 Ways to Be Useful On Twitter said:

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  • Jesy Herron said:


    First time reading your blog (just met you this afternoon) but I thought this was a great topic. Couple of weeks ago at Bold Fusion the emcee, Ryan Rybolt, asked everyone to NOT put their mobile away but encouraged all to tweet about #boldfusion – and we did (actually he said to “tweet your twats” but that is another subject). Later on that evening/next day I saw a few complaints saying that it was just spam from those tweeting from the event. What would you say about this particular incident? Personally, I received a direct message from a follower friend of mine saying that she was appreciative of the twit pics and tweets because she was unable to be at the event and was able to sort of follow along.

    Just curious at what you thought.



  • Krista Neher (author) said:

    @Ryan – First, you always leave the best comments 😉 Second, I agree…. I was in the lounge of the Virtual Seminar and found the same thing – tons of shameless self-promotion and no real discussion of any sort. If people acted like that in the real world they would have no friends.

    @Sid – Thanks for joining in…. I agree – the key difference is relevance. You may “friend spam” but you know your audience and they can opt out (ie. ask you to stop sending). I wouldn’t really consider that spam…. however, if you started DMing all of your followers a few times a week or sending messages to your linkedin contacts it might be a different story…

    @Waldo – LOL. I agree on RTs – I like them and think they are a great way to share the love… but it is annoying when 20 people retweet Guy Kawasaki 😉

    @Jesy – YAY – it was great meeting you and THANK YOU for visiting my blog and commenting!!!! A lot of conferences are encouraging people to tweet…. and I go to a ton of conferences and sometimes tweet… my two cents:

    1) Asking people to tweet something just for the sake of it doesn’t really add value to anyone. If the content is interesting people will talk about it. You can remind people, but if you have to ask you are missing the point.
    2) Having everyone at a live event twittering can actually detract from the event – people are less engaged with what is going on and focused on following the twitter stream.

    Dunno, just my thoughts.

    – Krista

  • Joseph Manna, Infusionsoft said:

    You nailed it! It’s about providing value to your audience. I just wanted to mention that not every auto-DM message on Twitter is always bad, just 99% of them are. We use our auto-DM to thank people for following and encourage them to DM questions to us anytime. It’s a great customer support opportunity and we love to hear what customers (and prospects) say about us. 🙂

    Infusionsoft makes marketing automation software for small businesses and using DMs are a great alternative to email for many folks and it allows us to maintain quick, private and relevant communications. 🙂


  • Michael said:

    I would have to agree with Joseph that not every auto-DM is spam. I skim everyone we get and have actually found a few that led to interesting sites.

    There is so much to do in a day that it is hard to reply to every person who follows you, so I don’t see why a simple thanks for following blurb is a bad thing.

  • @Stacy Richter said:

    @5chw4r7z – I think that Retweets are a way to give credit to someone who has posted interesting material. It’s also a way to promote someone who you think is valuable and contributes to discussions or understanding.

    Keith Ferazzi (author of Never Eat Alone) is a well established networker who explains that the best way to self promote is to help others without an expectation of return. Retweeting is a good way to build your own credibility by pumping up someone else’s.

    – Stacy

  • 5chw4r7z said:

    LOL, I had a couple incoming links from this and got paranoid, forgot I was the first one to comment.
    I’ve amended my negative opinion on retweets and can see how they expand the audience of a tweet exponentially.
    They still get annoying when abused however.

    As to Jesy,
    If I’m not at an event, I love the tweets, the next best thing to being there. That said it would probably be better if like Krista stated the participants were fully engaged in the meeting.

  • Terri Zwierzynski said:

    Krista, your comments about Facebook spam really struck a chord with me.

    A few weeks ago I held several teleclass events; one of them was with a respected marketer who recommended creating a Facebook event for the class(es) and then inviting all my Facebook friends. Did it work? Yes (most spam does). Would I do it again? No. Because a) another prominent marketer requested I remove them as a friend because they didn’t want to get my unsolicited event invitations, and b) I myself now totally ignore invitations to events, pages, etc. because most of them are completely irrelevant to me. Definitely a lesson learned.

  • Matthew Bibby said:

    Thanks for the great post – Sadly I think I am guilty of doing exactly this! Appreciate the tips. Matt.

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  • Kelley Long said:


    I agree, and as a newbie to Twitter, I’m still figuring out all the etiquette and really trying to determine what its use is… had to stop device updates on a couple people because their 9 Tweets per minute were driving me CRAZY. But what spoke the most to me is the new overuse of Facebook for self-promotion. I no longer receive personal messages or that many friend requests, just tons of messages promoting events that I’m not interested in… I can usually tell when there has been a free social networking seminar in Cincy because within 48 hours I am spammed at least 6 times for random events…

    Anyway, thanks for your thoughts, love your blog. Hope to SEE you soon… 😉

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  • Kyle said:

    I usually check whether or not I want to follow someone based on the content of their tweets. Yes, dm spam is bad, but I don’t want to follow someone who injects nothing but shameless self-promotion or ads that they tweet to make money into the public timeline either. If they tweet ads or self-promotion or pay-per-click tweets,but in addition tweet more meaningful things, I will usually follow, and *occasionally* even click their links. I do also call out the same ad tweeted and tweeted by about a quarter or more of the people I’m following. For example, I keep seeing the same ad refering to some kind of teeth whitening secret that dentists don’t want me to know about. About a quarter of the people I’m following tweet this ad about once a day, and they’re not retweeting. I think it’s one of those pay-per-click ad tweeting sites. I don’t at all begrudge people’s desire to earn a little extra income, heck, I could use some of that myself, 😛 but the ad sure could use a little editing. So I tweeted my own comment about the ad, asking why such a big secret is all over the Twitter public timeline. Right now, I’m only following about 200 people, but how many more of these silly looking ads about big secrets I’m not supposed to know about will I see flooding the public timeline?

    My own little tip, definitely use the public timeline for promoting yourself on Twitter, and even to make a little extra money aside from your regular job. Just seriously limit the number of tweets you send out that are nothing but self-promotion and ads, and in addition, tweet and retweet meaningful things that don’t necessarily require clicking on links unless it’s an interesting artical you are sharing that doesn’t necesarily advertise a product. I personally have sent out probably over 2000 tweets since I have had my Twitter account, and I promise that only about 10 to 20 of those have been ads. Of course, I’m not currently a member of a pay-per-click site, but once I’m ellegable, I will try to keep it very minimal in proportion to the number of meaningful tweets I send out. Actually, I usually tweet mostly verses from the Bible, Christian haiku, retweets that I found interesting enough to retweet and my own original interesting content, usually commenting on something interesting, asking thought-provoking questions or my own original blog posts, which I also try to keep to only the most interesting stuff.

    Take a chance, follow @kyle4jesus. There. I had to do it, didn’t I? 😛

  • mohdisa said:

    yes agree, sometimes spammer will follow your twitter to get the follower. then make annoying. especially in twitter. now we can see many tweet like a spam. like a frog. jump and jump. huh!

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  • Judy Murdoch said:

    Actions speak louder than words.

    Just click Unfollow.