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Social Media Spam in Business

September 19, 2009
Remember that guy that no one could stand? The one that, no matter where he was, couldn’t stop talking, thought he was an authority on everything and could only talk about himself? The one that you finally had to stop inviting to parties and would cross the street to NOT run into?
He’s back. And he has Twitter. And Facebook. He has all sorts of technology to make sure that no matter where you are or what you are doing, you will know where he is, what he is doing, how he thinks about it, feels about it and why you should be doing it too.
And he’s gonna get uninvited, blocked and deleted.
Back in the day, that would only mean that he didn’t get invited to all the cool parties. Now it means that his message will not be heard. If he’s trying to build a brand or a business reputation, that’s not a good thing. It means that his message will not be heard, and whatever brand-building he does will have the word “annoying” in the meta data of people’s minds.
Twitter and Facebook have their place for both business and personal uses. But to abuse either one is bad, and all you really have to do is ask yourself, “am I that guy?” If the –honest – answer is “yes,” then it’s time for you to step away from the feed, and no one will get hurt.
But how will you know? What will you do? Here’s a handy guide to not being that guy.
1. Overexposure Is Not Just For Nipples Anymore
I have blocked countless friends from my Facebook and Twitter feeds. Why?  Well, this one time (at band camp,) I logged into Facebook and my entire feed was taken up by a friend who was offering the world a blow-by-blow of a conference he was at. (He was doing it in Twitter, but it was linked to his Facebook status.) Another friend took up all but one spot on my Twitter feed, drowning out everyone else I follow. And so on.
Overexposure is not about what you show, it’s about how often you show it. The quickest way to get deleted from someones feed is to post too much information. And I don’t mean “I ate too much and now feel like a farting whale” or “that dude was so hot I think I got wet when he walked by.” I mean, “here’s what I’m doing now,” followed by “here’s what I’m doing now,” followed by “here’s what I’m doing now.”
2. Twitter and Facebook are Different, Embrace Diversity!
For the sake of all that is sacred, please unlink your Facebook and Twitter accounts. NOW! There is nothing more annoying then checking Facebook and Twitter and seeing the exact same content.
Regardless of what they would LIKE to be, Facebook is a much more personal and intimate space than Twitter. Use Facebook to express who you are, stay in touch with friends and colleagues, and express opinions in more than 140 characters. Even if you use it for work, Facebook is a great place to let your hair down. Facebook is the water cooler, not the boardroom. Twitter, on the other hand, is the PA system. If you say something on the PA, it damned well better be important.  And don’t use the PA to talk to the guy at the next desk – surely not EVERYTHING you say is PA-worthy. (Assuming you use it for work that is, and are not @shitmydadsays, which is easily the best Twitter feed on the planet.)
It’s easy, if your Facebook and Twitter lists are the same, they don’t want the same info twice. If they’re different it’s because they are different people using it for different reasons and in different ways – so don’t give them the same information. Don’t insult them either way.
3. Don’t Just Talk About Yourself
If you are using either Facebook or Twitter to promote your business, then you should be focusing on your entire industry, not just yourself. If you are only posting about why you are cool, how you are smart, what you can do for people, then you are little more than an annoying infomercial. (What that guy does when he grows up.)
You should be talking about news from your industry, trends in your market, and even the good things done by other people who do what you do. That’s what will show people that you are in touch, paying attention and likely able to use your understanding to help them.  (Unless, of course, you are @mrskutcher, and people really do want to know what you are doing every moment of the day, because you are that cool and your husband is that hot and you post pictures of him sometimes. But you are not.)
4. If You’re Advertising, Say So
If you are promoting a product, or live-tweeting from an event that asked you to do so, then be honest about it. Remember the old days, when blogging was just knee-high to a server stack? Bloggers and advertisers both got in tons of trouble with consumers when bloggers wrote about how much they loved a product without being clear that they had been paid to do so. It’s bad for all parties. You will lose credibility and become part of “the system” that all of this glorious user-generated content is supposed to counteract. And your opinion sure as hell won’t be trusted.
5. Don’t Be An Update Junkie
More than ten tweets a day is a sign of addiction. Or arrogance. Or both. And it’s annoying as all hell. I don’t care who you are, nothing you have to say is so important that people want all other voices in their universe drowned out. (Unless you are @themediaisdying, who is actually just posting links to other articles as a terrifically focused source on a single issue, and may be one of the BEST Twitter users our there – and he NEVER talks about himself.)
We all just get so excited about the technology and how we can use it that we forget to think about the people who are receiving it. They are your customers, your potential market. No matter how cool your tool is, if you use it to piss people off, they won’t want to use you for anything.
As a side-note, that’s an important thing to think about as everyone goes Twitter app crazy too. I’ve seen an awful lot of companies pop up that can harness all of this amazing technology to do incredible things that will defensibly shift paradigms using proprietary algorithms that can tie their own shoes. As impressive as they may seem, you need to follow the offering all the way through to it’s logical conclusion, and if that conclusion will annoy and alienate customers, then there will never be a paying market. Cool for you but bad for consumers will ALWAYS be bad business.
So, if you have – or are considering investing in – a startup that will link everyone’s everything account and spam everyone else wherever they are, well, step away now. Technology may change at the speed of light, but people don’t. And no one will ever voluntarily spend time with anyone or anything that annoys them all the time.
No matter who you are, it’s not the size of your feed that mattes, it’s how you use it.

Alyssa Royse is the founder of JUST CAUSE Magazine. She’s on Facebook, but only with people she actually knows because she tends to REALLY let loose there. JUST CAUSE Mag is on Facebook. She tweets sometimes, to anyone who wants to follow her, but not very often. She also thinks that Facebook should allow people to OPT IN to having their status updates pooled, made public and subscribed to like Twitter, which would probably kill Twitter and then there would be a little less noise.

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