Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Difference Between SPAM & Junk Mail...

So as you know, I used to work in the field of direct marketing - a niche of the marketing industry where living in grey areas is pretty much the norm. Direct marketing is the field where the general public doesn't know what you really do for a living, but once they do, you probably get as much grief as lawyers and IRS employees do at a dinner party. Incidentally, if you don't know, direct marketing is the use of physical or virtual mail, signage & advertising to promote commercial products and/or services to the general public. You know all those obnoxious flyers you get in the mail or "would you like to refinance your mortgage" emails you receive? Yup...those are all forms of direct marketing.

Anyway, my point in posting today wasn't to defend the direct marketing industry, but to bring up a huge point that seems to be a major disconnect between the general public and the marketing industry - specifically those in the direct marketing sub-niche. There is a HUGE difference between SPAM and junk - the two are NOT synonymous.

So, why the rant? Ok here goes: I practically live on LinkedIn - a social networking tool entirely for business professionals. There are no trivial posts here about "walked my dog today". This is entirely people just posting and connecting to increase their network and hopefully strike a few business deals & acquire clients in the process. Much like Facebook, they have targeted groups where you can connect with a specific set of people who supposedly share common interests with you. But lately, there seem to be a lot of people on LinkedIn who can't tell the difference between true SPAM and just a junk post that isn't relevant to them.

So, let's define what SPAM truly is. SPAM is any unwanted email sent to you by a party who you have no connection to and did not request communication from them. And before you say "but I didn't want that email for home refinance"...slow down. See, there's a huge grey area when it comes to marketing over the topic of 3rd party acquisitions of consumer contact info. The marketing agency sending you those (yes I'll say it) obnoxious emails about refinancing your home didn't just randomly find your info. They bought it and not from some unscrupulous dealer who you've never heard of - but from social network sites, dating sites and even ESPs (Email Service Providers). Don't believe me? Mosey on down to the privacy policy of any website and 9 times out of 10 there's some verbiage saying "we reserve the right to share your information with only our trusted partners". "Trusted partners" is a white wash term for "the highest bidder". So, technically, when you join FaceBook, JDate, etc.'re unknowingly opting in to be contacted by these companies' "trusted partners". Sucks doesn't it?

So by default, those messages aren't spam but junk mail. Why? Because it's not relevant to you but it's not technically unsolicited. To bring this back to LinkedIn...recently, there have been a number of business people who complain when someone in a group makes a post that simply outlines what they do because people feel it sounds too "pitchy" rather than being a "deep meaningful discussion". Suddenly, the poster is accused of "SPAMming" the group. This grates on my nerves because in this scenario too, this is not SPAM. If you join a networking group for the express purpose of connecting with others to either increase your network, find new clients or broker new partnerships, why are you complaining when someone introduces themselves & their business?? By joining a group who's express purpose is to network, you're advocating anyone to pitch themselves. By these people's standards (regarding the complainers) anytime ANYONE makes a post that isn't relative to even just one person, it would fall under the title of SPAM. Put into perspective, how ridiculous does that sound?!

Now, I can understand when people post obvious junk messages about gaining 20,000 twitter/myspace followers in 5 hours or even posting multiple posts of the same topic within one group. That's pretty junky, and the average business is neither interested in or believes in claims like that because the ROI (return on investment) is pretty low if not non-existent. But to berate people for posting introductions about themselves & pitching their business seems entirely counter intuitive for a site like LinkedIn which is supposed to be for business professionals anyway. Is it really that hard to ignore the message and/or delete it? Apparently so...

But that's just my opinion! ^_^


Jonathan said...

FWIW - your blog post is one of the top google results for "linkedin discussion spam".

I would agree that someone offering their firms' services that are applicable is part of the POINT of networking. But more and more linkedin groups have spam that is completely useless. I would guess that 25% or more of all job boards that I've looked at are spam.

Since linkedin makes money off of selling legitimate job placement connections, they don't have any reason to puts in a social mechanism, such as voting down or marking as spam.

Dorian @ Big Apple Style said...

Hi Jonathan,

Thanks for letting me know! I noticed an uptick in my stats from this post and my one on the Yorkie/Cameroon Scam.

I think LinkedIn does need a report button/function. Because irrelevant posts or a poster who doesn't understand the necessity of regulating the frequency of their posts is equally detrimental to the entire LinkedIn community.

LinkedIn does have a feature where people can make suggestions. I believe if enough people requested a "report" feature, then a lot of the irrelevant "spammy" posters would be regulated.

Shan said...

Hi Dorian,

I was searching for some technical difference between Spam and Junks, but I ended up collecting a more meaningful discussion of the same.

I think this post would be complete if you refer to UCE and UBE, in technical terms.