I am not one to shy away from debate. And when the subject is social media, or more specifically in this case, social media spam, I am somewhat self-righteous. I apologize in advance for my arrogance.
I have a problem with the way social media is headed. Certain things can legally be advertised using social media, but should they be pushed under the guise of helpfulness, and “social sharing” when behind the innocent looking messages and posts is a machine that is cranking out soulless ads to be shoved in Mark Zuckerberg’s inbox and the pedaled to you as if it is something other than an advertisement.
Somethings I don’t think should be advertised on Facebook. Ever.
Pharmaceutical companies marketing drugs as fixes for everything that bothers us.I’m a big fan of better health through chemistry, but the pharma porn on television and on all social media channels should be put to bed. The FCC has been examining social pharma for a long time. And for a short stint I even worked for a company that is at the forefront of using social media and social influencers to grow their market share. Things like Viagra and Liptor are fine to advertise, but don’t go down the path of creating fake social media accounts to hawk the benefits. And sure, setting up a social community on erectile dysfunction might be a good idea, but at least make it clear that it’s a marketing site. Too many pharma companies build communities to push their medications. And when they Tweet and Facebook and Pinterest on behalf of the Viagra-challenged, I think they have gone to far.
And while I’m not a huge fan of coupons, I know they have their place on Twitter and Facebook as well. I don’t have to like them.
But when leaders in our industry begin hawking coupons and promotional advertisements, even if the ad is for there very own book or webinar or business leadership mastermind group, they should behave like humans and not robots.
I have recently gotten into this discussion with Guy Kawasaki and Chris Brogan, when I asked them to stop robo-tweeting their duplicate messages hour after hour. (see: Please Stop) And after a bit of discussion they both BLOCKED ME on Twitter.
I mean the typical response, as was Guy’s response 5 years ago when we explored the same challenge, was UFM, UnFollowMe. But today something a bit more insidious is at play and I’d like to debate either or both of them to hear how their strategies are working for them. Let them tell us how scheduling a series of duplicate tweets over a two-week period for a running shoe coupon makes them any different from the coupon tweeters. I’d really like to have this discussion.
It’s unlikely that we will have a chance to debate the pros and cons of robo-tweeting, auto-tweeting, scheduled-duplicate-content, because neither of them are up to the scrutiny it would bring to their shameful practices.
Who the heck and I to call out two global leaders in social media? And Twitter is free and open, they should be able to use it as the please. And if they want to block me to silence my objections, that’s fine, it won’t stop the clamour of anti-spam advocates… (Where are they? Who’s with me?) Okay, so maybe I stand alone. And maybe my self-righteousness has gotten the best of me. Maybe I’m off my meds. But I don’t think so.
And actually, I don’t think Guy Kawasaki or Chris Brogan think so either. The only reason to block someone is if you think they are a troll, or if they are being abusive, or if… If they are spammers. And calling these two guys social spammers is not a very popular pastime either. Each time I bring it up I get a fan telling me what a jerk I am. I get a few new blocks from the fans of these two guys. And we move along with our own business. And they continue to spam Twitter with repetitive and robo-tweeted messages that they can queue up for weeks at a time. It’s a non-human practice. It’s very similar to the email spammers, except there are regulations against those practices now.
So let’s look at the impact this behavior has. Two leaders, who write books, evangelise trust, and non-salesmanish social selling, are doing the opposite in their own behaviors. Um, read my book, believe what I say, but don’t look behind the curtain at what I am doing. Yeah, that’s not all that transparent.
And let’s take their behavior to the extreme. Let’s say 20% of their followers become advocates of their methods, I mean, we’re watching what they are doing right. We want to emulate the best in the business. So let’s say 20% of Guy’s current Twitter followers (1.41 m * 0.2 = 282,ooo tweeters) and 20% of Chris Brogan’s followers (288k * 0.2 = 57,600 followers) started robo-tweeting 20% as much as Guy and Chris. Let’s say 10 robo-tweets a day. (This is more like 5% of their numbers, but I’m just trying to get a number.) That’s 339,600 tweeters, generating 3,396,000 tweets a day going to (average twitter user has 500 followers) 500 followers – 169,800,000 tweets received or arriving in Twitter streams all over the globe. And that’s EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.
Does that sound like spam to you?
Okay, but here is the problem. And it’s a problem for these guys as well, and may be part of why they have become uber-tweeters. The actual reach and engagement of tweets has fallen. See, a lot of people join Twitter, but about 60% of them never tweet after a few weeks. They get on to see what the fuss is all about and they are promptly rewarded with thousands of spammy messages and charlatans wanting to sell them teeth whiteners or 50,000 twitter followers for $29,95. So part of the problem with falling reach and effectiveness of Twitter is actually due to the spammers. And I would say Guy and Chris are part of this problem.
Fine. Tell me I’m an ass. Unfollow me if you think I’m just tooting my horn. But if you agree, start asking these guys, “Why all the robo-tweets, Chris?” Or “Hey Guy, I used to like your content but now your team of tweeters is just sending out random crap hour after hour. Why are you doing that?”
I’ve been advocating non-robo tweeting since the first year of Twitter. And I’ve been saying the same simple mantra.
- Be real.
- Be real-time.
- Be honest.
It’s that easy.
In order for us to have a conversation on Twitter you actually need to be on Twitter when you tweet. When I respond in real-time to something you are saying, it’s nice to strike up a conversation with an actual person. Of course it wouldn’t work in Guy’s case, since he rarely tweets for himself. But Chris writes most (maybe all) of his own tweets. I’d just count the “buy my book” tweet that comes out 10 times a day as a robo-tweet and not actual Chris Brogan content. Most people aren’t going to try and engage with that type of tweet anyway.
My comments are open. Let me have it. Tell me why I’m wrong and these two geniuses are actually doing it right. Certainly their number of followers and zeros behind their income from social marketing would point to their success and not mine. But I am here in the trenches, not a rock star of social media, and I think what they are doing is KILLING SOCIAL MEDIA and specifically KILLING TWITTER. Heck, maybe it’s already dead. It’s no secret that some very larger number of tweeters (estimates range from 30% – 60%) are bots and fake accounts. And if the fake accounts are spamming each other, well, they’ve got an odd conversation for sure. And that’s why people leave Twitter, they scratch their heads wondering what the rest of us see in the stream of bs and unbelievable offers of riches and followers and whiter teeth. And cheaper running shoes and best-seller blockbuster books for sale.
I’d love to open a dialogue with Guy and Chris again, but they’ve shut me out of their worlds. The only thing I can think of, that would cause this kind of behavior is that they are ashamed of this spammy social behavior and they’d rather not hear about it. Fine. Our loss, all of our loss.
Tell them or me what you think:
- How Twitter Bots Fool You Into Thinking They’re Human – Fast Company
- The State of Twitter Spam – Twitter.com
- What to do when you Spam Twitter – Mashable
image: not yet a master splinter, surian soosay, creative commons usage