Thou Shalt Not Fear Spam

by Ken Mueller on May 1, 2012 · 25 comments

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A few recent conversations on Twitter, Facebook, and in blogs have me thinking about spam. No, not the food. The bad kind. Though I guess for some of you that might be a bit confusing.

But I’ve seen a bit of hand wringing over the presence of spam on various social networks, to the point where some are questioning the use of those platforms.

One friend recently proclaimed that she was thinking about telling her clients to stay away from Twitter because of the spam. Really? Just because they receive spam tweets doesn’t mean their customers see them. It has no effect on those who follow them, unless they are the ones doing the spamming. If your client is a “newbie” and might be overwhelmed by spam, then perhaps they shouldn’t be online at all.

Then my friend Margie Clayman was talking on Facebook about the spam problem on Pinterest, which resulted in a blog post on why she deleted her Pinterest account. (I don’t say this to call her out, but I told her I would be using her as an example in this post. She’s a big girl, she can handle it.) One of her four reasons for closing her account, is the presence of spam on this burgeoning platform.

In my mind, spam should never really be a reason for avoiding a platform, unless of course it’s nothing but spam. I have yet to experience any of the spam on Pinterest, but plenty of my friends have mentioned it. Twitter has it’s fair share of spam and phishing scams, but trust me, no one is “saying horrible things about you”.

Well, maybe they are, but no one is going to tell you about it via a DM.

Facebook has a problem with phishing links, but it’s a relatively small problem, and like Twitter, it comes in waves. I’ve noticed that LinkedIn has a real problem with spam, particularly within groups. A lot of the comments I get on my posts on LinkedIn involve the sale of Louis Vuitton handbags. I’m also getting spam on Google +, at an alarmingly increasing rate.

And of course on my blog there are plenty of spam comments, usually involving Ugg boots and Canadian pharmaceuticals, not to mention the spam email I get, much of which also seems to be related to Canada and prescription drugs. Go figure.

Along with every good, new thing on the web, the spammers are sure to follow.

Do we opt out of having an email account because of spam?

Do we opt out of getting mail delivered to our home because there is junk mail?

No, we have filters. We learn. We get smart. It’s a constant battle of learning curves on both sides. Sure it’s annoying, but we learn to both live with it, and deal with it. We learn which links not to click. In fact, on most platforms there is a mechanism for flagging or reporting spammers.

The presence of spam shouldn’t scare you away from using social sites. It exists. Any new platform that is created will eventually be the target of spammers. It’s a fact of life.

As are weeds. Sure, there are some of us who will avoid gardening so as to avoid weeds, but serious gardeners will tell you, dealing with the weeds is a small price to pay for having a beautiful, productive garden. Plus, there are ways to deal with the weeds to minimize their impact.

When deciding which online platforms to use for your business, there are plenty of criteria you should use to make your decision. Spam shouldn’t be one of them.

How does spam affect your view of various social platforms? How are you dealing with the problem of spam?

 

 Thou Shalt Not Fear Spam
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25 comments
RCONNORIII
RCONNORIII

Everyone have a great day on purpose! Is this spam? Thanks for the post Ken...

margieclayman
margieclayman

you make some really great points here, Ken. Here is where I come out on the spam in Pinterest world thing. 

 

On Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and blogs, it's pretty darned easy to spot spam. If someone on Twitter sends you a DM saying, "OMG I just saw your underpants, click here," you pretty much can bet that you should NOT click that link. Same with Facebook, although it can be a bit trickier to spot. Blog spam is also pretty easy to spot, like if someone posted here, "Your post is good like chicken," it would be relatively easy to ID that as spam and then delete it.

 

Pinterest is kind of different though in that it's super easy to share content without clicking on the image you're sharing. My final straw spam was a collection of recipes that looked really interesting. I could have just shared the image by pinning it to my board, but I clicked on the link because I wanted to actually read the recipe, and that's when I was taken to a Visa card site. I didn't like that I was taken there, but I was even more put on edge by the fact that I might have been sharing bad links all over the place, totally unaware. If Pinterest showcased the URL more readily, I probably would have stuck with it.

 

Does that make sense?

kmueller62
kmueller62

@skypulsemedia @Soulati i love Corned beef hash!

debsanswers
debsanswers

Or maybe the problem is that people have become so dependent on the email spam filters that they don't know to just ignore spam when they encounter it on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. 

cloudspark
cloudspark

@shonali @kmueller62 but why is it, with the proliferation of spam, i have yet to meet one person who admits to being the spammer?

Mjoshua
Mjoshua

Arguably, spam has been something we've navigated since we were infants; at least for young adults like myself, who grew up on TV. We've survived through having over 5,000 ads a day in our face and lived to tell about it. Not that we care, of course. It's all about building up a tolerance and/or a filter. 

 

Truth be told, when I watch standard TV anymore, all I see are Ads because I've acclimated to watching shows on Netflix.

 

With social media, it's about immersion. If you're fully invested in the content, spam is just something you naturally filter. If you're just dunking your feet in, it might be all you see.

kmueller62
kmueller62

@LisaMetheny thanks for sharing, Lisa!

debsanswers
debsanswers

Thanks for linking to my blog post. I definitely agree with you and don't understand why people worry so much about who follows them.  I do understand what your friend Margie is saying, though, if she doesn't have time or isn't willing to verify the links she's repinning, then she reallly shouldn't be repinning. Especially if she's using Pinterest for a business or brand. 

Shonali
Shonali

I use filters like crazy (when I realized you could set 'em up in Gmail, it was like someone had given me the keys to the Coach store). Spammers on Twitter get blocked & reported instantly. Facebook... I rarely click through links that are suspect, or allow apps like Branch Out, etc., so so far, at least, I've been lucky.

Latest blog post: A May Day Balancing Act

LizJostes
LizJostes

Spam drives me batty. Twitter is absolutely getting worse by the day, and I report each and every spam tweet I get. I will not leave Twitter, however for other platforms that are much less important to me (i.e. Pinterest)? I have thought about deleting my account.

XpressiveHandz
XpressiveHandz

I understand that part, Ken,  however, I discovered that they look up my followers on my profile, then they start sending spam to my followers. That's where I think we can make a difference.

XpressiveHandz
XpressiveHandz

Twitter has been where I find the most spam. I check the new followers immediately, and if they are inappropriate, I block and report right away. Usually they have few if no followers and the tweets are all the same, and not many of those as well. If I don't think they are a real person, I block them. This way, I am also protecting my own followers.

 

kmueller62
kmueller62

@skypulsemedia thanks, Howie, and for the comment!

Howie Goldfarb
Howie Goldfarb

Great post Ken! There are 3 forms of spam in my book. The virus/malaware kind which you mentioned about the Twitter DM's. Amazing how many gullible people click. The fishing ones posted manually in Facebook Brand Pages (usually porn links) and the twitter bots do come in waves. This actually brought down Myspace as a contributing factor. But every time a network blocks one entry a new one comes. In fact when I was looking for work on ELance I saw many offers to create 50,000 real Facebook accounts with real photos, friends, etc which I assume were being used by spammers or the likes of USocial.Net

But it is rare I get a ton of twitter bots and I am almost never on brand pages on Facebook except to see what brands and marketers are doing with them every so often. In fact seeing these project offers has me skeptical about the Social Network Numbers. Both Twitter and Facebook include these fake accounts in their total account base because it benefits their image. But I bet they are less than 10% of the total. I do wonder how much content activity though is from them. If 10% that is a lot. And could be btw that high sometimes since they are often automated.

 

The last type is the one we have to take personal responsibility for. if we accept a friendship or follow someone on twitter how just broadcasts links, and enough to fill our feed up. It is our fault and we need to sever the relationship.

 

KenMueller
KenMueller moderator

 @margieclayman Makes complete sense. (You think I'm stupid enough to call you crazy to your face??). 

 

For me though, I'm a fixer. I like to stick things out and make them work. So I don't give up easily. Also, it sounds like Pinterest is aware of the problem and is working on it. I guess I'm sort of a Pollyana type, but I like to give platforms the benefit of the doubt to fix things. As much as people complain about Facebook issues, I find that given time, they generally work their way to fixing things. I think Pinterest will get there. And like everywhere else, the spammers will find another way to try to ruin things. I don't wanna let the spammers win. Letting the spammers win would be like letting the Cleveland Indians win...

 

 

Wait...all those people telling me my post "is good like chicken" are spam??? I thought that was some great blogger insider lingo that meant I was pretty darn good!

kmueller62
kmueller62

@cloudspark @shonali haha. because they're afraid

KenMueller
KenMueller moderator

 @Mjoshua That's the thing, we need to build up that filter...

KenMueller
KenMueller moderator

 @Shonali Filters are key. And being smart. Some people just get overwhelmed too easily, I guess. 

KenMueller
KenMueller moderator

 @LizJostes So that's why you're batty! I think with Twitter it seems to come in cycles. We get hit a lot, then they learn how to stop it, then the spammers figure something else out. 

KenMueller
KenMueller moderator

 @JoyceEdmiston Well, they only get the spam if they choose to follow your followers. That's where we need to learn to be smart and selective.

KenMueller
KenMueller moderator

 @JoyceEdmiston It is good to block and report, but by doing so it really doesn't protect your followers. Your followers only see what YOU tweet, not what your other followers tweet. I think that's one of the misconceptions of Twitter and why some fear it because of the spam

KenMueller
KenMueller moderator

 @HowieSPM I've never seen them on brand pages on Facebook, at least not for months. The built in spam filter seems to work. I see it mostly from friends who click on stupid things, just like on Twitter. And certainly every social network has inflated numbers, which is why they need to differentiate and define the difference between "accounts" and "active users". Google+ is facing that same thing right now, as people were given accounts just for signing up on Google.

 

And yes, we have to be careful about who we choose to follow, and what type of content we put out. In many ways, spam is in the eyes of the beholder. 

LizJostes
LizJostes

 @KenMueller Definitely cycles - yes. Ipads, then the Boob Bots, but now there's a lot of very direct, intentional spamming where they include your handle and ask you to check out a link, or they pretend that you retweeted something they tweeted out. I find this more intentional spam to be the worst.

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