The following short twitter discussion between myself, @damphoux, and @siriusdecisions brought up a topic worth blogging an opinion on. First the tweets, and I reordered them so no need to read bottom up, which tweeps tend to do by default. And, for those of you that aren't on twitter yet, where have you been? Join twitter. I was one of you too, and not long ago, so for the newbies the following is an example of 140 character twitterese:
So what is spamming in the world of social media? Off the top of my head I can think of 6 forms of what some would call Social Spamming:
Volume Tweets: I see thousands of tweets per day, and although I don't have time to read them all, by using Tweetdeck, Google Reader, Twitter Search and even #hashtags, I am able to filter the good stuff to the top. Some of the tweeps I follow can post as many as 40 or 50 tweets a day just by themselves (or autoposters such as twitterfeed). So @scobleizer has 16,000+ updates and growing, is that spam? I find a great deal of his posts to be worth the read. Do I ever look over to the group he's in (aptly named "lots of posts") and see 20 new updates apiece from those in that group (we all know who they are) and think, "rrrg, just can't spend the time on this right now". Of course I do, but we either get to it or we don't and if we do, we may find something worth a retweet or a clickthrough or a reply. The law of large numbers means that there will be something of value in the volume. I don't consider Volume Tweets to be Spam.
Spam Tweets: We all see these too. I usually see them in my keyword filtered RSS feeds, I have one that searches for the words "appointment setting" OR "lead gen" OR "demand gen" and relentlessly there are a handful of job postings from @wahm_job_leads and "internet geniuses" willing to share their lead gen expertise for just $49.95. LOL. Granted, the gems in these posts are few and far between, but they surface. If we can mine the gems, is it considered spam? Not really, it's the nature of social media. Throw stuff out there and see what sticks. In my case I look for the stuff that's sticking. I designate Spam Tweets as "not Spam", but close.
Spam Followers I (on Twitter, Facebook, etc.): These are funny in my opinion. How many times have you seen your follower count increase only to check out the new followers and see that their account has been disabled? Relentless as they are, I'm sure there may be some value in the network effect of just anyone following you. Maybe they have some groupie followings that click your follow button, within minutes, before the initial follower is disabled. Or maybe they aggregate addresses before they are disabled, not sure. We don't have to reciprocate with a follow. I find that practice of auto-following a bit cumbersome. I always take a peak at a bio and the most recent top 5 or 10 posts to see if I'll find the person interesting, and only then do I follow. Twitter could do a better job cleaning these disabled accounts off the system though, we probably all have a percentage of our followers that just don't exist anymore. Misleading, but it could be factored out. So, Spam Followers I, not much of a pain, just ignore them, might be some value. In the world of network/social media, no damage done.
Spam Followers II (on Twitter, Facebook, etc.): These are the followers that have absolutely nothing in common with you. They are selling something. They are just collecting following/follower numbers. Personally, I see no value in what they are doing (to them), but there is that network effect that someone might find me through them. So do I consider Spam Followers II to be spam? No, just pointless. Can't imagine the insomniacs clicking profiles and "follow" all night long.
LinkedIn LION Linkers: This is different (Linked In Open Networkers). I frankly put this in the same category as Spam Followers II, with a twist. It's more of an open kimono on LinkedIn. It is not just just following, it is a collection of resumes, expertise, and contact information once you link. I don't see LinkedIn as having the same social networking value to the masses of twitter. I consider it exclusive social networking. Other than reading the daily updates of who's connecting with who, and what your buddies are working on (similar to a twitter update), LinkedIn, is in my opinion, a selective way to stay in touch with your real network, and a selective way to gain value from your trusted network. The key words are "real" and "trusted". Am I going to introduce someone that wants an introduction to my trusted colleague because I'm connected with them through some LION user that has 30,000 connections? No freakin way. Same answer I would give a used car salesman asking me for all my friend's names and numbers. So do I consider LinedIn LION Linkers spammers? Sort of, yes. It might excite them to show how big their (ahem) network is, but gimme a break. Whats the value on LinkedIn?
LinkedIn Group/Answer Spam: This is the topic that got @siriusdecisions and I tweeting in the first place. I see tremendous value in bringing value to others, and receiving value from others. I'm a member of two great groups on LinkedIn, Demand Gen Specialists and Craig Rosenberg's Friends of the Funnel, and I use LinkedIn Answers on a regular basis and am actually listed as the top expert in Lead Generation. I work hard to post valuable answers and bring some value to the users. But with every group discussion, and every answer comes a handful of "contact me I can help you" posts that in this environment are unwarranted. I've had people email me and say they are afraid to post a real question in fear that they will get bombarded with unsolicited garbage. Then there is the group members list and the ability to harvest everyone from the list and even join the group and broadcast something (various ways to do this). Again, in a community where you hope to gain value from trusted sources, not the general public, and where you don't take the responsibility of filtering the messages (LinkedIn has little to do this), I do consider LinkedIn Group/Answers to be susceptible to Spam. That said, LinkedIn does provide some level of moderation in this area. Group owners can remove members. They can prevent members from Joining. You can report an Answer as abuse (advertising, self promotion, etc.), although I've never seen LinkedIn take action on these reports. There can be some level of control, but it is control, and in the world of network/social media, control is supposed to be up to the user. There must be a gray area where members/contributors/lurkers are allowed to participate, but once they abuse it, they are removed from the community. It's a big question though. Is it LinkedIn's responsibility or the hosts of the groups, or those that post questions? I find this category to be the most debatable. It goes against social networking, but without the proper tools and controls it is a social mess. I do consider LinkedIn Group/Answer Spam to be Spam.
So, my original question "what is spam to one might be a gem to another" is still open. In twitter or facebook, bring it on. In trusted member sites, such as LinkedIn, it could use some tools to help it work. That said, I still find the gems on LinkedIn, I still find the connections worth making among the unsolicited. So maybe I'm completely off base by thinking LinkedIn should remain a bit restrictive. I've been wrong before. Should @siriusdecisions restrict me because I'm not a seat holder (paying analyst client)? Their decision, a serious one, no pun intended (well ok, it was an intended pun), is their choice. I will say though, I try to add value to those communities in which I participate, so in some respect their community is not gaining my contributions. I still love their research and love their contributions to the marketing/sales world, and know that some day I will be a seat holder.
Next topic: Twitter Groups