There has been a lot of talk recently about social networking spam – inactive and bogus accounts on social platforms. While I agree inactive and spam accounts can raise unwanted questions for platforms, these claims should not discourage marketers away from the platforms themselves. Instead of admitting that this “social thing” is not as easy as all that, some are pointing fingers at the platforms, saying SPAM! SPAM! Bad ROI…Spam! Bad CTR…Spam!
The rhetoric above might make for a great headline, but for me it’s lazy sensationalism. Anyone who claims that Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn or Facebook do not have robust ecosystems, full of amazing insights and opportunities for brands as well as individuals alike, is simply delusional. That said, marketers who face pushback on social networking spam issues need to be prepared to respond head on.
The advice below comes from insights that I have gleaned from being neck deep in social audience measurement product development for the past year and a half.
Rule #1 – Don’t mix the water with the wine.
Instead of focusing on the spam or inactive accounts, marketers should just accept there is some “spam” mixed in with the “bacon” on every platform, channel or network. It’s about finding tools, best in class techniques and smart marketers that will allow you to get to the bacon, “smell” the bacon, get to know the bacon, and in the end, get the bacon to buy your product and then tell their friends to also buy your product. Mmm bacon!
Don’t skew your analysis with incomplete data. You are better off dealing with a quality subset of audience data to analyze rather than a much larger mess of incomplete and questionable data. Set yourself up with a “minimum cutoff” point that excludes accounts out that don’t have a certain amount of information you require to form a complete analysis. A Twitter account with nothing more than an @name, sharing dating site links every hour on the hour, provides little usable data and obviously stinks of spam. Analyze your audience with a tool that allows you to filter out incomplete and junk accounts.
Rule #2 – Seek out real people.
Go out of your way to engage with people who are transparent about their identity (I personally think Google+ has this right). Someone who unites their online and offline identity is much more likely to not only engage with people they have met offline (e.g. building stronger relationships), but will also generate a more trusted and larger network online than people using only fake identities and/or usernames. In very few cases do I trust a person or content when that is hiding behind a fake name with no digital footprint or identity. Unfortunately, many marketers have been duped and lured into buying followers from sketchy sites. Trust me: this is not the way to social media success and will only create a false economy by skewing your ROI metrics to unattainable levels.
Rule #3 – Engage with others as you would like to be engaged with.
Remember that a quality audience will always trump quantity. There are many theories that all you need on social media is “100 true fans” to get a message started. The definition of a true fan can be debated, but in reality, for the viral effect to happen, all you need is good content and a few raving fans who have trusted networks of their own for a message to go far and wide. Therefore, focus on building a community of people who will support you as you support them.
Rule #4 – Be humble and honest with yourself!
Take a realistic view of your audience. If you have 10,000 followers, don’t use 10,000 in your click through percentage calculations. Understand that some accounts are inactive, some are social networking spam, very few people sit on Twitter all day waiting for you to tweet. Use tools that try and measure the true size of your audience at any one time and tweet during hours that your audience is potentially awake, engaged, etc
Rule #5 – Remember and respect the meek! For the meek shall…also buy your products.
Every fan matters! 40% of active users don’t tweet! Find a tool that can measure your entire social audience and don’t just focus on the active (talking) audience. You have customers who have chosen to follow you (which may be the only action you see from them on Twitter) but they still have the ability to purchase your products after they read about a sale at the local store from your tweets!
Who doesn’t remember naysayers who claimed: “spam will kill email,” “IM is killing email,” “Social will kill email,” etc? Guess what: Just like the humble text message, email is fine; the value that it delivers for users and marketers remains because it is a powerful and imminently affordable communication platform. Twitter, Facebook, Google+ all have spam issues, no different than every other valuable communication platform that ever existed. Each platform is currently taking unique and aggressive steps to ensure the average user experience is not marred by spam. Social networking spam filters are still in the relatively early days, but big progress is being made.
The value is there; you just need to know where to look and how to create value and a reason for consumers to care about your brand. Get over the “spam” siren call and focus on finding the bacon! If you can’t or refuse to, please feel free to build a platform that is user friendly, has millions of users and is spam free…we will all come join your platform and make you super rich! It will be awesome. Really.