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How to Spam

How to Spam

20080820-spam

    In my last post, I talked about how to get the most out of social media sites and services like Digg, LinkedIn, and Twitter. Entirely coincidentally, Thursday Bram write a post about marketing yourself shortly after.

    Unfortunately, any medium that makes itself so easy to use to promote yourself as today’s social media also makes it easy for idiots, jerks, and scam artists to promote themselves. As the cost of reaching out to thousands or millions of people goes down – to the point where today, it’s effectively free – the possibility to spam goes up.

    Spam is any communication that purports to offer a benefit but is unwanted. Of course that means come-ons for cheap prescription pills, penis enlargment and miracle fat-burner supplements, and mortgage refinancing, but it also includes too-frequent updates from companies you’ve done business with, useless “updates” from newsletters you’ve subscribed to, meaningless self-linking on social media, and so on. While the monetary cost of sending spam is small, the cost to the receiver in time, attention, and the disruption of beloved services is great.

    Let me give you an example. Today, a new wave of spam flooded Twitter. The modus operandi of Twitter spammers is to create dozens or hundreds of bogus accounts, post one tweet to each with a link to the spammer’s page, and follow thousands of people. The default setting on Twitter is to send you an email notifying you whenever you have a new follower, so all day I’ve been getting emails linking to Twitter profiles.

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    Now, I like to see who’s following me on Twitter. Most of the time I follow back. So I click through, and see a profile with that one tweet and close it and delete the email. Over, and over, and over. If I don’t click through, I run the risk of missing a real follower who might be worth following, so my choices are a) lose time and attention checking out every bogus follower, or b) lose value from the service by failing to connect with people who share my interests.

    Unfortunately, ruining my Twitter experience is a good business model. According to a recent study by Marshal, a global security consulancy, 29% of Internet users admit to having bought products advertised in spam. To paraphrase the old professor’s saw about graduation rates, look at the person to your left and the person to your right – if one of those people hasn’t bought anything from spam, then you have.

    So here’s a what-(hopefully-not)-to-do for potential spammers out there. If making yourself universally unloved – except by that 10 people in a million who just loves them some Internet Viagra (that’s the response rate for spam, according to the FBI) – is your goal, follow these steps to spamming Nirvana.

    1. Overstay your welcome.

    Volume counts in the spam world. What was useful information the first time becomes a real nuisance by the 10th time, and downright annoying by the 20th.

    A couple of years ago, I ordered some business cards from VistaPrint.com. Not the free ones – I paid good money for their premium cards. The cards were fine, but before they even arrived I ahd decided not to order from VistaPrint.com ever again. In the days following my order, I received dozens of “free” offers — “free” matching letterhead, “free” enveloped, “free” rubber stamps, and so on. (“Free” at VistaPrint.com means “shipping and handling only”, which tends to run into double digits per item ordered.) Then I achieved “VIP” status and started receiving even more offers for “great discounts”. Keep in mind, I still hadn’t received my order yet!

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    That’s spam, pure and simple. I didn’t mind a follow-up or two, but when I’m receiving offers every day, and I’m paying for each of them with my time and attention, they are no longer wanted information.

    2. Don’t ask permission.

    Of course, your stereotypical spammer just scrapes email addresses off the Internet or buys lists from other scam artists or even guesses, sending emails to every word in the dictionary at every common email domain. They clearly don’t have permission.

    But what about the companies like VistaPrint.com — who is hardly alone in this, though the sheer volume of email I got from them sets them apart — who take the “pre-existing relationship” of an order as permission to send whatever they want? Or what about the person you met at a conference and gave a business card to, who then added your email address to his company’s email list? Or the blog that adds commenters’ email lists to their mailing list?

    Having a relationship with someone, either now or in the past, is not the same thing as permission. Permission is when someone explicitly asks to hear from you — if you don’t have it, it’s spam.

    3. Be irrelevant.

    This morning, I got an email from BlogWorld Expo warning me that their early-bird registration was about to end, and I should act fast to get my discount! That might be important information — if I hadn’t already registered for the event.

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    Any piece of information that isn’t targeted to a specific recipient is potentially spam. Asking me to promote your new cheese brand on Lifehack is spam, no matter how personal and likeable the email, since Lifehack is not site devoted to cheesy comestibles. “Shouting” me for a digg on your story about how to pick up easy women or about how the blacks are ruining everything is spam — I teach race and gender studies, and there’s no way I’d digg up either of those stories (I might bury them, though).

    Taking the time to get to know your target isn’t in spammers’ interest, because then it becomes expensive — you pay for my attention and time with your own.

    4. Add no value

    Every service you use — social media, telephone, blogging, email, whatever — was chosen by you for the value it offers you. Any use of that service that adds no value is spam — especially when they reach the point that they detract value from the service as a whole. I know I’m not alone in having disconnected my home phone because I received more value-less telemarketing calls than calls from people I wanted to talk to.

    5. Control the “off” button.

    If I have to jump through hoops to get you to stop bugging me — or if there isn’t any way at all to get you to stop — that’s spam. Forcing me to call or email someone — when all it took to sign up was a purchase or even a registration — is spam. In fact, as a general rule, any channel of communication that you control is most likely spam. Even on TV I can change the channel when I want!

    6. Don’t respect me

    This is the root of all the rest. If you want me as a customer, as a trading partner, show me respect. The Viagra and Cialis spammers are trying to take advantage of us, so of course they don’t respect us. If you don’t respect your audience, then you’re in the same league — you’re spam.

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    Maybe that seems harsh. But it’s a harsh reality we’re living. The number of ways we can communicate, and the reach of those communications, has vastly outstripped the social norms we have to regulate our interactions.

    We talk a lot at Lifehack about how to control the flow of information into your life, how to filter out the good from the bad, but ultimately working our way free of spam depends on people controlling the stuff they send out so the rest of us don’t have to worry about what’s coming in. If you’re doing any of the above, you’re part of the problem — whether you do it by emailing, Twitter tweeting, Digg shouting, or even face-to-face.

    Stop it.

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    Last Updated on September 20, 2018

    7 Powerful Questions To Find Out What You Want To Do With Your Life

    7 Powerful Questions To Find Out What You Want To Do With Your Life

    What do I want to do with my life? It’s a question all of us think about at one point or another.

    For some, the answer comes easily. For others, it takes a lifetime to figure out.

    It’s easy to just go through the motions and continue to do what’s comfortable and familiar. But for those of you who seek fulfillment, who want to do more, these questions will help you paint a clearer picture of what you want to do with your life.

    1. What are the things I’m most passionate about?

    The first step to living a more fulfilling life is to think about the things that you’re passionate about.

    What do you love? What fulfills you? What “work” do you do that doesn’t feel like work? Maybe you enjoy writing, maybe you love working with animals or maybe you have a knack for photography.

    The point is, figure out what you love doing, then do more of it.

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    2. What are my greatest accomplishments in life so far?

    Think about your past experiences and the things in your life you’re most proud of.

    How did those accomplishments make you feel? Pretty darn good, right? So why not try and emulate those experiences and feelings?

    If you ran a marathon once and loved the feeling you had afterwards, start training for another one. If your child grew up to be a star athlete or musician because of your teachings, then be a coach or mentor for other kids.

    Continue to do the things that have been most fulfilling for you.

    3. If my life had absolutely no limits, what would I choose to have and what would I choose to do?

    Here’s a cool exercise: Think about what you would do if you had no limits.

    If you had all the money and time in the world, where would you go? What would you do? Who would you spend time with?

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    These answers can help you figure out what you want to do with your life. It doesn’t mean you need millions of dollars to be happy though.

    What it does mean is answering these questions will help you set goals to reach certain milestones and create a path toward happiness and fulfillment. Which leads to our next question …

    4. What are my goals in life?

    Goals are a necessary component to set you up for a happy future. So answer these questions:

    Once you figure out the answers to each of these, you’ll have a much better idea of what you should do with your life.

    5. Whom do I admire most in the world?

    Following the path of successful people can set you up for success.

    Think about the people you respect and admire most. What are their best qualities? Why do you respect them? What can you learn from them?

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    You’re the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with.[1] So don’t waste your time with people who hold you back from achieving your dreams.

    Spend more time with happy, successful, optimistic people and you’ll become one of them.

    6. What do I not like to do?

    An important part of figuring out what you want to do with your life is honestly assessing what you don’t want to do.

    What are the things you despise? What bugs you the most about your current job?

    Maybe you hate meetings even though you sit through 6 hours of them every day. If that’s the case, find a job where you can work more independently.

    The point is, if you want something to change in your life, you need to take action. Which leads to our final question …

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    7. How hard am I willing to work to get what I want?

    Great accomplishments never come easy. If you want to do great things with your life, you’re going to have to make a great effort. That will probably mean putting in more hours the average person, getting outside your comfort zone and learning as much as you can to achieve as much as you can.

    But here’s the cool part: it’s often the journey that is the most fulfilling part. It’s during these seemingly small, insignificant moments that you’ll often find that “aha” moments that helps you answer the question,

    “What do I want to do with my life?”

    So take the first step toward improving your life. You won’t regret it.

    Featured photo credit: Andrew Ly via unsplash.com

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