So by now many of you have accounts on various social networks like Facebook and Twitter and you have even started your own social community using software like Ning.
Social networks are all around us providing new ways to communicate and share. But it also provides new ways for the more shady folks of the Internet marketing world to do their form of web marketing, a.k.a. spamming.
I recently created a community on Ning for higher education professional in online marketing and recruiting. Today I had someone with the ‘name’ Mariette Burris join. My first clue of suspicion should have been in her answer as to which higher education school she works at. She said ‘I’ll tell you later.’ Shortly after I noticed she signed up, I got a comment on my personal page in the community promoting ringtones and then giving a URL. Within in minutes, I had several of these messages, as did many of the other members. I promptly deleted her account and sent out an apology broadcast.
I know social media spam or spam 2.0 has been around for a while now, but I’ve never been subject to it. I get tonnes of e-mail spam but this is the first spam 2.0 for me. Actually that’s not completely true. I get a lot of comment spam, but I don’t even see it because I use a wonderful plugin called WP-SpamFree. As of this post it has blocked 820 spam comments.
Caroline Middlebrook has a post about protecting yourself against social media spam. Here are some excerpts from her post:
However, no matter where these mails come from, there is a very easy way to prevent it from happening again and that is to block the user. After you have logged in, mouse over the ‘Settings’ link and click on ‘Privacy Settings’. There’s a section called Block List and a search box, search for the name of the spammer and that will do the usual Facebook search but give you a ‘Block person’ option against each one. You can also unblock them from this screen.
If somebody sends you something via the toolbar, a box with their profile name and a message (if they left one) drops down. Click on their name to be taken to their profile. From here it will show you are friends and you can simply click the ‘Remove’ link underneath it. If you want to go one step further, you can block a user on StumbleUpon too. Scroll down to the bottom of their profile and click the link ‘Flag User’, in here you can flag them for something or you can just block them.
Now in order to be able to send somebody a direct message in Twitter there must be a mutual following so you can see why I don’t get many of them – I only follow around 70 people, so the other 1900+ that follow me can’t use this mechanism. But as I said, most people will follow back anybody who follows them (how do you guys keep up??) and thus are subjecting themselves to such spam.
The solution is obvious of course – remove the follow status. Click on their profile and click on the ‘Following’ link and then click on ‘Remove’. You can also block a user in Twitter – there is a link in the right sidebar of their profile.
With Ning and other social networks that allow to create communities, one suggestion to reduce the amount of spam that your members receive is to moderate memberships. I may consider moderating my Ning community to respond to this social media spam issue.
Advice to Marketers
It is possible to effectively market on social media without it be viewed as spam. I wrote a blog post a few days called Social Media Marketing and in it I said:
No matter what use a social network has for an individual, marketing efforts should be ’soft’ and not blatant marketing. How do you feel when a telemarketer intrudes on your dinner hour, which is a social time for your family, trying to sell you insurance or some other product you don’t need? The same goes for blatent marketing in social media.