Social Spam

Are You Social Selling or Social Spamming?

The Social Age has ushered in a new way of connecting, contributing and collaborating like we’ve never seen before.

We can now communicate with anyone at anytime, anywhere in the world over a variety of platforms. We can now begin to build mutually-beneficial relationships with a single tweet, post, or upload. We can share our stories, build awareness and right some wrongs from our kitchen table, the subway, and during work.

Social media, when used for good, is beyond powerful – it is unifying.

And then there’s the dark side. The trolls, drama queens, divas, fakers, takers, ask-holes – and especially the spammers – who pollute social media with their own brand of selfishness.

Lately, it’s the spammers that have caught my attention most. That’s probably because I can shut down the other malcontents easily enough, but those spammers… they won’t go away. The worst part? They don’t see themselves as spammers! They call what they do “social selling.”

I prefer to call it what it is: social spamming.

How do you tell the difference between social selling and social spamming? Well, you are a social spammer if you:

Send Auto DMs and Emails

Use of auto-DMs on Twitter, for any reason, is unacceptable. Yes, this includes those ridiculous “Thanks for following me, {Twitter_Handle}! Let’s also connect on Facebook {Facebook URL} and LinkedIn {LinkedIn URL}!” messages. It also includes ANY request to download a FREE ANYTHING by visiting your site.

Auto DMs suck. Period. And everyone knows that by now. Which means you’re either blissfully unaware… or you don’t care.

Abuse Linkedin Inmail

You connect with people on LinkedIn using “InMaul” (Steve Levy’s clever term) not to build a mutually-beneficial relationship, but to sell them something on your very next communication. And then there are the below-average recruiters, sourcers and HR types who target people, then send an InMail to promote their job posting or an open requisition… but that job doesn’t actually exist. And you knew that, but decided that increasing your network for future commission-based sales was more important than getting job seekers’ hopes up – and then dash them – for your personal gain.

This isn’t just the Social Age equivalent of telemarketing… it’s a violation of trust.

Treat LinkedIn Like Facebook

When you contribute to the rapid downfall of LinkedIn by posting a Donald Trump meme, a math game or a pretty picture of a pretty sunset – or anything else that doesn’t involve professional networking or career development, you are a spammer.

Social media is NOT all about you and your personal agendas – that is especially true, some of us still believe, of LinkedIn.

Add the Unwilling and Unknowing to Facebook Groups

When you add people to your Facebook group without their permission, you’re a spammer. I mostly blame Facebook for this one; why would they allow ANYONE else be able to add you to their Facebook groups without asking you first?!

And yet I can only be added by a “friend” so many times to the “Fans of Days of Our Lives” Facebook Group before I start to take it personally.

Exploit Facebook Tags

You tag people on your Facebook posts not because they are already involved in the discussion, or even because the discussion is relevant to them, but because you want them to read and share your latest post or join in your latest outrage. You know those tags mean YOUR stuff shows up in MY Facebook timeline, right? That your drama becomes my drama?

Why would you do that?

Seek Facebook Friends from Low Places

So, we have 138 friends in common on Facebook… but I’ve never heard of you. And yet you still send a “friend” request? We have a different definition of “friend.” As Jon Ferrara says, “How about following me on Twitter first, adding value to my conversation, then reach out on LinkedIn with a tailored invite demonstrating that you’ve taken time to understand who I am and why your connecting. Finally after you’ve earned some trust and intimacy, now let’s be friends on Facebook.”

Leverage Fake Twitter Followers

If you create, sell or buy fake Twitter followers you are deliberately contributing to the noise and everything that can be wrong with Social Media. You are a cheater. And a liar. Besides: you know that we all know how to discover how “real” your Twitter followers are, right?

Maybe not, because you are probably that unaware character who also sends all of those auto-friggin-DMs.

Scrape Email Addresses

You scrape websites, including LinkedIn, for email addresses. You then work around every aspect of the CAN-SPAM law to send an email you had no business sending. And now, even though it might tell you the email address really is me so you can sell it to some other spammer, we all have to hit that ‘Unsubscribe’ button you put in the bottom of each email as required by CAN-SPAM,

Which proves you knew better.

Scrape Cell Numbers

You read in a blog somewhere that people always respond to a text, even if they don’t respond to email or social. So you went to the ‘Contact Info’ section of LinkedIn, or perhaps our website, and scraped a phone number. And now you text and text and text and text. Even when I don’t answer your feeble attempts to sell me your crap via text, you text. This, my spammy unfriend, is why we have ‘Block’ buttons on our phones. (Thanks to Nicole Virant for her contribution to this post… she brought this one home).

Fail to Follow-up

You make it through all the filters in place. Based on implied trust, you convince me you are interested in building a relationship. And then I never hear from you again. Or, perhaps even worse, we set up a time to talk and you either don’t show up or are ill-prepared?

From my perspective (and Jon Ferrara’s): this is one of the worst kinds of spam, because you got past the gatekeepers only to become a total time-suck.

Any Attempt to Sell Lead Generation Services

As Janet Fouts says, “You endorse me for several things on Linkedin over a series of days to get my attention, then ask to connect only to send an automated spam message asking me if I want to buy leads.”

I get this all the time, and my immediate thought is, “You got to me by spamming. If I use your system or service, is that how you want me to be thought of too?” Yeah, I’ll pass.

Expose Cleavage on KinkedIn – The UNProfessional Network

The newest trend on LinkedIn is also one of the most concerning – a likely carry-over from the Twitter wannbe-Kardashians who seem to show up in every trending topic on that platform. I’m talking about the profile pictures from young women who seem to attract a lot of attention from frat brothers, single young men and lonely old men.

Cover the girls up, ladies… your cleavage shots, duck lips and Vogue-poses are just contributing to the noise in Social Media. (Credit to Julie Albright for the term, “KinkedIn” – made coffee come out my nose when I first read it.)


So there you have it… 12 ways we know you’re using “social selling” as an excuse to use social and digital media as a personal spamming platform.

If you are doing any of these, either to promote your business or inject others into your personal life, drama or ambitions without their consent… you’re a social spammer.

Do us all a favor: Stop.

Help us get social media back to what it was intended to be…  social.






Mark Babbitt is a speaker, author and blogger who serves as CEO and Founder of YouTern, a social community for college students, recent graduates and young professionals that Mashable calls a "Top 5 Online Community for Starting Your Career." He is also President of ExchangeGain and CMO and co-founder of Mark is the father of five and a grandfather; he and the woman who tolerates him (barely) call Seattle, Washington home.

  • Raz Chorev

    Mark, although I agree with you on all 12 points of “socially unacceptable” behaviour, and certainly the opposite of “social selling”, I disagree with you on the terminology, as I don’t see the term “spam” applicable to all 12 sinners.
    Tagging people or adding them to FB groups, isn’t spam – just annoyance. On the other hand, tagging Instagram accounts in the hope of selling followers – that’s certainly spam!
    Failing to follow up – again – not spam, just unacceptable in a professional environment.

    Again – the list you’ve put together is certainly of unwanted behaviour on the various social networks, but not necessarily spammy behaviour.

    One more point I’d like to make – most of the readers of this post will agree with you. The spammers will agree too! I don’t believe the offenders are behaving the way they do in good intention, and just oblivious to the consequences of their actions. I believe they know exactly what they are doing, and don’t really care about us “labelling” them for it.
    That’s my experience, anyway…


    • Mark Babbitt

      I see your point, Raz… and still, I place these self-serving tricks (like adding me to your Facebook groups) as spam. Maybe not in the technical sense, but from the mindset of “you’ve deliberately interrupted me for your personal gain.”

      I agree 100 percent with your assessment of spammers and their self-awareness. Without a doubt, they know exactly what they’re doing.

  • Vatsala Shukla

    The last point about cleavage was covered recently in a discussion in a women professionals group back at LinkedIn and none of us approved of it. The difference of opinion if any was how we reacted with many saying that they removed connections who liked those images or commented on them. I can handle most of the alleged social spamming with a 1 click delete or a message to the sender that I am not interested but the one that irritates me is when Group Members scrape my email address and send me sales pitches. I have no qualms in unsubscribing and marking them as spam.

    • Mark Babbitt

      I feel the same way, Vatsala. If I can rid myself of your spam with one click, I’m good. But the relentless sales pitches sent to my inbox causes a much different reaction.

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