Larry Brauner

When I read comments on What is Wrong with Ning and other articles, a recurring theme is that spamming on Ning and on other social networking sites has become a major nuisance.

I often speculate about why people spam — regular well-meaning people like you and me, not the offshore criminal type. What are they thinking? Why do they spam?

Ignorance a Big Factor

While there are many possible reasons, an eye opening experience last week convinced me that ignorance is definitely a factor.

A newcomer to the Internet is repeatedly exposed to the much too prevalent practice of spamming and easily concludes that it’s the way business is transacted. From then on, it’s monkey see, monkey do.

It matters little whether or not they’ve heard that spam is bad, since they don’t know what spam is anyway. Therefore, they don’t realize that sending unsolicited commercial messages or advertising on other people’s pages is spam. To them it’s just advertising, and advertising is good, not bad.

Now let me tell you about what happened last week.

SPAM on My Ning Site

I received spam from a member of my Beyond Business Coaching Ning network, a private message sent to me and other “friends” on the site:

Tool for any business that will put money into your pocket. Lead generation software which automatically extracts leads and traffic from other targeted websites and systematically does the selling for you: http://www.—-.com/?ID=—-

Not only is this message spammy, it’s hypey and a little scary too.

I replied to the sender and to the other message recipients:

The message you sent is a violation of the terms of service you agreed upon when joining, which prohibits spam. Please refer to these two articles about spam:

Introduction to Using Ning Sites
How Do You Like Your SPAM?

I request that you use a more compliant marketing approach.

This should have been the end of the story, but it wasn’t.

I Can’t Believe It’s SPAM

I received a call from a woman I had once-upon-a-time banned from my site and had later reinstated. She had received a copy of my reply quoted above, and she was angry enough to pick up the phone and ring me.

She felt that my rules were too restrictive and unfair. Here her friend was trying to help by sending out useful information, and I was accusing her of spamming. How could I?

I asked her what she considered spam. She said that spam was a message with banner ads or images. She wouldn’t believe that her friend’s message was in fact spam.

There was a difference of opinion, but I tried to be as nice as possible. I didn’t ban anybody, but I did take the liberty of deleting some spammy profile comments that my caller had recently made on several members’ pages.

I naively assumed that this would be the end of the story, but again of course, it wasn’t.

Spillover onto Facebook

A couple of days later I was promoting my Beyond Business Coaching network on my Facebook profile, and the controversy resurfaced, this time taking on a new dimension, our freedom of speech.

Here’s how it started:

Do not join this group unless you like being restricted to what and how you say things. The rules and restrictions are irrational and don’t allow freedom of speech.

Freedom of expression and ideas are not the same as spam!

The comments went back and forth, but this was the essence of my reply:

I’m sorry to say that while there is freedom of expression and ideas in the US, that freedom DOES have limitations.

For example, what would happen if you planted election campaign signs on all the lawns in your neighborhood or painted your ideas on the walls of the Empire State Building?

Fortunately, several people came and supported me.

Stacey Chadwell wrote:

This is an impressive professional site with superb information about social media and marketing. I have been a member for some time and highly recommend it.

I am sorry you feel this way. I’ve written on a few of Larry’s sites without issue. He has always been fair and professional even when dealing with members who spam the rest of us. I applaud him for doing his best to protect his members from spammers.

Jim Canto, creator of mexXcentral Community wrote:

The best part about the Internet these days is the number of free services out there including at least one where you can create your own social network for anything… AND.. you get to make the rules. So, if you feel “slighted” by someone’s rules.. just remember, it’s their house and their rules, same as it will be when we join a community created by you. You make the rules and we the members see if we can live with them.

I have a community of my own,  and I can assure you, it has its restrictions. Why? Because it has a direction and a purpose. To keep it on track, I must make sure I’ve laid the track down, i.e.the rules.

If you want to build your own community, Ning.com is free.

Luc Despres wrote:

I’m a member of Larry’s social network and I REALLY appreciate his rules on spamming.

What next? This can’t be the end of the story.

Better Education

See my article, 8 Great Choices for SPAM Free Promotion, which identifies methods of promotion on Ning and other social networking sites that work without resorting to spam.

To the extent that ignorance contributes to spam, better education might provide some relief.

Did you enjoy this article? Subscribe to my RSS feed or by e-mail. Also, visit my About, Services, Media Buzz and Connect pages to learn about Building Your Audience and Brand on the Web.

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42 Responses to “Why Do People SPAM?”

  1. sheila sultani on July 5th, 2009 5:59 pm

    I think you are right - probably about 80% of the spam you receive is out of ignorance. I remember when I started online. I idiotically paid for a package that teaches you how to sell Clickbank items, you know, those annoying spam emails you get telling you how much money you can make processing rebates? In this package (of lies and misinformation) you receive all sorts of crazy “marketing” tips. Not until you receive a few messages from irritated people do you realize that you’ve been spamming people.

  2. Larry Brauner on July 5th, 2009 6:13 pm

    Sheila’s blog, The Ad Master, is an excellent resource for marketers.

  3. Harold Koning on July 5th, 2009 6:35 pm

    Larry,

    I am new to your group, and I like the clarity and openness you project.

    In my work as a Coach I also put emphasis on clarity regarding rules, responsibilities, fee structure, etc. Some people don’t like it, because they live out of ignorance or with a sense of entitlement.

    Educate the masses!!

    Keep up the good work; I am with you.

    Harold

  4. Larry Brauner on July 5th, 2009 6:38 pm

    I appreciate your support Harold.

  5. Jeffrey D. on July 5th, 2009 6:46 pm

    This is obviously SPAM in my eyes. When you are involved on ANY site ( Ning, Twitter, Facebook, or ANYWHERE ELSE ) you should be respectful not only to the moderator of the site, but to the Topic of the site as well. If the name of the site is “Beyond Business Coaching” then that would mean it is intended for discussion around business, coaching, and other related areas in the “niche”.

    By coming on to the site and immediately writing that message, she is discrediting herself. If she wants to promote a “Lead Generating Software Tool” why not Google the question and find out WHERE people are looking for this information? It’s probably NOT going to be at “Beyond Business Coaching” and this will probably NOT win her any friendships there.

    Now if she had posted some good quality information regarding BUSINESS or COACHING, or something relevant to the subject, that would be different. Possibly people would be interested and want to get to know HER more and she could then conversate with them on more of a personal level. Anything after that could possibly lead her to a sale and more “naturally” in the process.

    The “old” ways of “shoving your business down someone’s throat” doesn’t work anyone, whether going door-to-door or on the internet. And SPAMMING is so 1990’s. If people REALLY want to start succeeding online they will soon learn that “building your brand” is much more important than randomly “posting your offer”. And being much more RELEVANT to people’s needs will get you much further than simply “going through the numbers”.

    Another fantastic article Larry!

    Jeff Dietsche

  6. Larry Brauner on July 5th, 2009 6:55 pm

    Hi Jeff,

    Regardless of the fit with the site, the method of operation is critically important.

    Lead generation is relevant to many people in business, but the way in which the tool was promoted was inappropriate.

    If I were her I would have written about it a blog on MY page. In the course of networking, people would come to my page and read the blog.

    Alternatively, I’d write a general piece dealing with the challenges of lead generation. I would share that with all my Ning friends.

    Then people who liked the article would visit my page and discover a link or a video about the actual service.

  7. Heather Kilcrease on July 5th, 2009 7:32 pm

    This is spam, and it is also ignorance!

    I agree with Jeff D. Spamming is so 90’s, and if you would like to be taken seriously then build and engage your audience. When I get a Spam email any respect I had for a company goes out the window and I don’t take them seriously anymore.

    Now Larry, you are awesome and not at all a tyrant, the Facebook message this person left was rude and intolerable. It is funny to me how people love to scream injustice the second they are called out on their ignorance. I hope you have since blocked these nuisances from your network, as you do not need to deal with this.

    Have they failed to realize the group is YOURS?

  8. Larry Brauner on July 5th, 2009 8:01 pm

    I appreciate your concern Heather but, as I stated above in my article, I want to educate these people, not reject them.

    I feel sorry for them.

    Not only are they stepping on other people’s toes which is quite clumsy, they’re not getting the results they want and need.

    That’s why I feel bad for them.

    Thank you Heather for being in my network.

  9. Salvy on July 5th, 2009 10:28 pm

    I must confess that I might be have doing a little SPAMMING. I’ve been promoting my website on MySpace. But now my account is marked as SPAM, and I can no longer receive or send messages. I accept this is a result of my ignorance on how to promote my website.

  10. Larry Brauner on July 5th, 2009 11:36 pm

    And your first attempt at commenting here was filtered out as spam by my spam filter.

    There’s much to learn, but it’s not to late too start.

    Incidentally, we see that my sites are not the only ones to have rules against spam. MySpace has such rules too.

  11. Jeffrey D. on July 5th, 2009 11:57 pm

    Thank you Heather! And I am in full agreement you as well.

    I did a test with a woman one time on a particular Ning site. She would not give up and we went back and forth. She continually talked about HER business and didn’t want to hear anything else. It all ended in a worthless cause and nothing was formed because of it. If she was doing this consistently, all she was doing was shooting herself in the foot. It doesn’t work!

    My point is that Social Networking is NOT Advertising. They are two separate things. There is a place for this lady to present her business to others, it’s called US FREE ADS. Social Networking needs to be treated differently than advertising, hence the name “social”.

    If we were at a party (a social event) and I walked around telling everyone about my business then nobody would like me, and I’d probably even be asked to LEAVE. On the other hand, if I walked around making friends and “socializing” I would possibly form some friendships. From these friendships some people would ask what I do for a living. Possibly a few people would say “Hey, I really could use that service”.

    Social media needs to be treated “socially”. And just because Larry’s site is called BEYOND BUSINESS COACHING does not mean that is not a social media site, because it is!

    Larry is correct in saying, that sadly, many people are “trained” to do this by some of these so-called “gurus” and their training programs. They believe that by “duplicating” what they are taught, they will get the same results. After all, when people are following a program and are “taught” that this is what you need to do to get results, they do it.

    Unfortunately, in this current economy, it is so easy to mislead “poor souls” who are desperate for a buck. Fortunately though, we have great “leaders” around like Larry Brauner to help steer us in the right direction, and at the same time, not take advantage in the process!

  12. Jeffrey D. on July 5th, 2009 11:59 pm

    Salvy,

    At least you realize now what you were doing wrong, and that is to be commended!

    Some people will NEVER learn, nor will they LISTEN!

  13. David on July 6th, 2009 12:25 am

    Comment spam is a real hassle. And it is also scary. Every time I log into my blog using Wordpress, I am faced with a hundred spam comments I have to delete. I hate having to resort to a widget creating a “test” for a commenter to answer. I hate those. But it seems that has to be the situation. Who ARE these spammers? What is scary is that this spam seems like criminal activity, and it’s splashing down in my comment inbox. This is not some innocent activity, only mere ignorance. These fellows know exactly what they are doing.

  14. David Alexander on July 6th, 2009 2:24 am

    Greetings. Of course you are right about this, Larry. I commend your willingness to work with the people to help them be more effective (and less annoying).

    Hopefully most people end up responding positively when they get some good advice about effective social networking. And as you hint, if you can show them a preferable way to build business relationships, rather than immediately shoot them down without alternatives, you are likely to get most people to be responsive. In the end, as Heather indicated, you may need to block folks who simply refuse to respect the rules of other peoples’ groups/networks.

  15. Larry Brauner on July 6th, 2009 10:01 am

    @David#1 These are mostly — but not entirely — the offshore criminal type I refer to.

    The only good thing is that their spam is posted by bots, and they couldn’t care less who you are. They just want links back to their sites.

  16. Larry Brauner on July 6th, 2009 10:04 am

    @David#2 Unfortunately, it’s going to be a long uphill battle, but we have to do something constructive about spam.

  17. Phil Jackson on July 6th, 2009 10:30 am

    I’m a relative newcomer to Larry’s site, but I find it professional, thoughtful and beneficial. I’m an online marketer and in my opinion spam hurts the industry. There are plenty of ways to communicate with people without spamming them.

    Phil Jackson

  18. Debbie Morgan on July 6th, 2009 10:45 am

    Hi Larry! It is very easy to fall into the spam pitfall when you’re new to network marketing. You’re told it’s all about building the list and then, really, nothing more specifically about how to reach that list with your message without spamming.

    The normal way to reach a list is with advertising so that is usually the first approach for newbies. You are absolutely correct, education is key for spammers. However, if after you’ve gone to the trouble of defining spam for them, given them a warning, and given them some great examples of the correct way to reach out to their list and they continue to spam, they need to be banned.

    Instead of berating you for warning her, her attitude should have been apologetic. Sticking to her guns will only get her banned from other sites that are not as forgiving as yours. It’s a hard lesson to learn but she will eventually get it.

    Thanks, Larry, for being you!

  19. Larry Brauner on July 6th, 2009 11:01 am

    Thank you Debbie.

    Unfortunately there are Ning sites that condone spam — sort of like safe lists of Web 1.0 fame.

    The there’s Direct Matches, also overrun by spammers.

    There’s no shortage of sites where spammers can feel at home.

    However, spammers are seeking virgin territory where they face less competition from other spammers. That makes sites like mine look pretty tempting.

  20. Mary Ann on July 6th, 2009 12:17 pm

    People need to learn how to market rather than give sales pitches. I know many like those long ad letters but they are a turn-off for me and seem to scream ‘buyer beware’.

    When you sign up for social networking sites, you must project yourself, your ideals and some knowledge of your market. The more I market, the less I need to resort to heavy-handed sales methods…let your sales follow your reputation!

    Mary Ann

  21. Larry Brauner on July 6th, 2009 12:34 pm

    Thank you for great advice Mary Ann.

  22. Phoenix2life on July 6th, 2009 2:03 pm

    Very good analytical blog post on spam. It is the time to raise the concern and awareness.

    Spam in any form is bad. In fact it distracts any human from focusing on productive or interesting tasks.

    I consider the spam every email which I have not asked for voluntarily and which does not suits to my life style or thought process. Of course it is my personal choice and following rules and social courtesy is always the best manner.

  23. DrErica on July 6th, 2009 10:57 pm

    Larry,

    Thanks for writing this blog. I find it totally frustrating when somebody writes a comment on MY page, and I receive an email at my regular email inbox saying I have a comment. And I check out my page and it is just a self-serving spam instead of a comment that is related to something I have written or an invitation to connect in some way. There is a time and place to advertise your wares, but not in a personal response on someone’s page or in the middle of a discussion on someone’s Ning site.

  24. Miriam Bobroff on July 6th, 2009 11:12 pm

    Hi Larry,

    The question as to why someone sends spam emails is really relevant in this day and age when cybercrime yields $8 billion a year nationally and $1 trillion globally. President Obama has a Cyber Czar and the US and Europe are setting up a Cybercrime and Identity Theft Task Force.

    Yes, this woman who sent you a spam e-mail is ignorant. She does not realize that she is at risk of being arrested and put in jail for spamming as spamming is one of the ways cybercriminals use to steal your money and your identity.

    Personally, I use the #1 managed security service that protects me. When I was ignorant and naive, I set up a Yahoo account and was asked if I wanted a free computer. I said yes and put in my information. Lucky for me, this service immediately notified me that I had a “Trojan”. I was asked if I wanted to quarantine and delete it, and with a click of the mouse it was gone.

    I feel protected with this service. It also allows me to call Tech Support and tell them not to allow an address from someone who is spamming me to come onto my computer.

    Miriam

  25. Jake Jacob on July 6th, 2009 11:18 pm

    I have thought about this “spam” issue a lot and I think honestly the line in the old Seinfold episode when the telemarketer called at dinner and said “I’m busy right now in the middle of dinner - let me get your home number and I’ll get back to you after dinner” sums up the whole issue.

    Bottom line as long as there are hawkers at the circus there will be spammers. That’s why I bought a tvo. Who cares - really?

  26. Larry Brauner on July 6th, 2009 11:37 pm

    @Miriam Let me remind you that we’re not discussing cybercriminals here, people trying to commit fraud.

    We’re talking about regular people who would like to be marketers but haven’t learned enough about marketing.

    There are many of these types of people spamming Ning, Facebook, MySpace and other social networking sites.

  27. Dave Hale on July 7th, 2009 10:39 am

    Social networking is a key “ingredient” to a business. Although it just recently become popular during the past five years or so, it has definitely changed the way businesses run things.

    Keep the good info coming.

    Chris Moniz
    VP Marketing, Internet Marketing Professor

  28. Mirdza on July 8th, 2009 11:38 am

    Yes, many people think we are spamming them when we are simply trying to get the word out on a product that is helping us…. You are right when you say that advertising is good, not bad. Many people think I SPAM, when all I do is try to get the word out about products that can help them since they are helping my family in so many ways. Many people don’t realize what spamming really is, unfortunately….

  29. Larry Brauner on July 8th, 2009 11:53 am

    Mirdza, what is SPAM in your opinion?

  30. Mirdza on July 8th, 2009 12:01 pm

    In my opinion, SPAM is advertising without putting any thought into what you say. It’s just throwing out the same words and sending out the same advertisement week after week, or even day after day. We can do this through email, on our Facebook/MySpace profile, or when we respond to a comment/note/article someone made.

  31. Larry Brauner on July 8th, 2009 12:10 pm

    Are you saying Mirdza, that if an e-mail advertisement is carefully worded, we are free to send it to whomever we wish? Or, in your view, are we restricted in some way?

    Similarly, a comment that is an advertisement, as long as it is carefully worded, could it be posted anywhere?

    For example, could you post an advertisement right here or on one of my profile pages?

    Do you think I might be offended if you did? Would that matter?

  32. sharkbytes on July 8th, 2009 2:38 pm

    This is a perfect example in cyberspace of the problem with the philosophy that freedom means being able to do whatever you want rather than being able to do whatever you ought. Freedom without personal responsibility is anarchy. And we as a society are getting awful darn close.

  33. Daniel on July 9th, 2009 4:49 am

    People spam because they’re lazy and ignorant, and they have no matter of quality and good behavior, even tough many do it because are rebels.

    I remember when the Internet worm MyDoom was released, it was an attack on the SCO Group. The attack was made because the SCO Group tried to acquire the trademark for the operating system Linux, which is a free operating system. That was rebellious behavior, however many innocent Internet users were victims too.

  34. moongoddesslae on July 10th, 2009 10:37 am

    I visited one blogsite and I was prohibited. It said that my IP’s in some sort of a forum’s database. It is said that my IP address’ a spam. NO WAY!! I don’t even know how to spam!

    And Akistmet sometimes blocks some of my comments! Darn :(

  35. Metz on July 10th, 2009 10:54 am

    Dropping by to catch up on my reading here and to greet yah a restful weekend ahead :) xoxo

  36. Jeffrey D. on July 14th, 2009 10:35 pm

    This is a great topic of conversation. I have my opinions about SPAM as well.

    Miriam - Are you serious? I mean, c’mon, we all know that Spammers are “annoying” and they are throwing out self-centered advertisements which will provide minimal, if any, results. But give me a break! Accusing the woman of committing “cyber crime” doesn’t even apply to what Larry is trying to get across with this article. And in reality, is a very harsh judgement to pass on the spammers themselves. Many of them are simply “trained” to do it through the programs they choose to follow, unintentionally. Many are doing it ON PURPOSE. But to accuse them of committing a “criminal act” is purely ridiculous.

    If you plan to make that statement, then why not call the Police whenever someone puts a flier on your door? Or a business card on your windshield? I agree, criminals deserve to be fully prosecuted. But spamming is not “illegal”, it is just “noise”.

  37. Larry Brauner on July 14th, 2009 10:58 pm

    This is a hot topic Jeff.

    I wish readers would be more interested in discussing my sequel to this article, 8 Great Choices for SPAM Free Promotion, but I guess it wasn’t meant to be. :)

    I understand where Miriam is coming from. Because she is in the computer security and identity theft protection business, she’s focused on dangerous forms of spam.

    For the record Jeff, there are forms of spam that are illegal besides the dangerous type, e.g. spam e-mail — and unsolicited marketing calls to phone numbers in the Do Not Call Registry.

    Now everybody mosey along and read and comment on 8 Great Choices for SPAM Free Promotion.

  38. Jeffrey D. on July 15th, 2009 12:29 am

    I understand that there ARE illegal forms of SPAM Larry. And I am in full agreement that unsolicited calls and “harassment” should very well be “illegal” and people should be prosecuted for this, as well as “fraud”.

    Miriam is insinuating that the lady who SPAMMED your site could be facing “jail-time” and investingated by the President and the FBI.

    Since when did it become “illegal” to advertise Business XYZ on a social media site or someone’s blog? Let’s be real about the situation, she’s just practicing very bad marketing techniques. She is not trying to intentionally “harm” someone.

  39. Steve on August 30th, 2009 4:23 pm

    Ahhh…Larry, you hit upon a topic near to all of our souls. With all the spam available today, it is a wonder that more people are not choosing a vegetarian lifestyle :) I am daily removing from my followers those who are mere spammers or self promoters. I would recommend they read your blog to get a better understanding of the etiquette of online social networking. :)

  40. Larry Brauner on August 30th, 2009 5:52 pm

    Unfortunately Steve, as I alluded to above, the spammers of the variety we’re discussing tend to be unaware that they’re spamming.

  41. JOYA GANGULY on July 5th, 2010 2:15 pm

    SPAMMING IS NOT ALLOWED ON MY WEBSITE, YET I HAVE HAD COMPLAINTS FROM RESPECTED MARKETERS THAT SOME OF THE CONTENT SHOULD BE REVIEWED FOR SPAM. IS THERE A WAY TO JUDGE THE ONLINE CONTENT FOR SPAM, AND ARE THERE REGULATIONS GOVERNING WHAT CONTENT IS CONSIDERED SPAM AND WHAT IS NOT SPAM? KIND REGARDS, JOYA GANGULY.

  42. Larry Brauner on July 5th, 2010 2:50 pm

    Hi Joya,

    Thank you for your question, but before I answer, let me suggest that you not use ALL CAPS. Online it “sounds” like yelling.

    The general idea is not to advertise on other people sites or in their virtual mailboxes.

    There are many articles in my SPAM Category and some may interest you.

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