Tuesday, March 20, 2012

What SPAM Means Today: From Email to RoboTweets

It’s interesting how the word “spam” has evolved in its usage over the last four or five years. It started out as a very literal definition and now is almost synonymous with the word “bugging”. Technologically speaking, it started referring to unwanted commercial email. Spam includes everything from Viagra emails, to robo-Tweets, to Facebook “Like” requests.

Today the word is being associated with any unsolicited message anywhere, although it’s mostly referring to digital communications. (You could say the people handing out postcards on the sidewalk in Las Vegas are “spamming” pedestrians.)

According to the Federal Communications Commission’s website: “In 2003, Congress enacted the Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing (CAN-SPAM) Act to curb spam.” And from then on, all marketers wanting to comply had to include a street or mailing address and an unsubscribe link in their emails. By now, most email distributions are complying. 

Unfortunately, this same tactic of forcing unsolicited messaging onto users has found its way into almost every other digital space: text messages, Tweets, Facebook posts, and message boards. Thankfully, Twitter and Facebook have already provided mechanisms for blocking future assaults from the same sender, much the way most email providers have.

However, there’s a clear difference between unwanted messages coming from scams or autobots and an off-target message coming from a communications professional. 

Scott Wendling wrote: “I’ve heard people referred to as spammers in social media when they send out an endless stream of status updates on autopilot.” 

If it’s unsolicited or if the recipient thinks it’s off-topic, it’s spam – a four-letter word to any marketer. Tech writer, Hillel Fuld uses this example in a “rant” posting about a company asking him to “Like” their brand on his Facebook page: “You want me to take this network, which I spent years building and spam them by promoting a cause, which is in no way connected to the reason they so loyally follow or read my content?”

Despite the difference in where the message originated, the recipient is going to have the same emotion about the unwanted message either way. And that is why the word spam is growing in its inclusiveness (as fast as social media is growing in the number of its participants).

Anyone wishing to avoid “bugging” potential friends or customers can easily find best practices articles online before hitting Send (if you can recommend one, post a link below). Those who don’t communicate with caution risk the punishment of ending up on one of these writers’ blogs.

No comments:

Post a Comment