As the twitter machine gains momentum it brings with it the same problems that follow all popular communication vehicles. Namely that cursed plague known as ‘Spam’. We’ve seen it in every form of online communication, be it broadcast or narrowcast. It is inescapable and most people have become completely blind to the auto-spam style of spam that has existed for many years due to; a) the sheer amount of it and b) the effectiveness of spam filters. However what people have not yet become blind to and are, in fact becoming more aware of is the ‘contribute nothing, post some bragging and heaps of links’ style of spam that is so common on twitter.
Then last night while in my room contemplating writing this post I wondered across this great blog post by Jim Connolly that echo’s my thoughts (only in reference to blog comments). Jim points out that:
Comment spammers are simply telling everyone who reads their spam that they are spammers – something to avoid! It’s nothing more than self-generated bad publicity.
This same comment can be used in reference to people who use Twitter in the same manner. Most people would probably air on the side of caution and not name their inspiration for a post like this. However I am not one of those people. The inspiration for this post was the generally spammy behavior of @waynemansfield who has done nothing over the past 7 days but shamelessly self promote and talk about how he wants to be in the “Twitter Top 1000″ (I personally think the whole ‘ranking’ thing is a bit of a wank really). I will also add that this is the first organic search result on Google for the term “Wayne Mansfield”. (PLEASE don’t follow him.
My main issue with this type of behavior probably has more to do with the other users of the medium than with the spammer themselves. Many people notice this behavior, comment on it, complain about it but then proceed to do exactly what is wanted by the spammer and follow them and generate ‘buzz’ (yes I realize that by posting Wayne’s details I have effectively done the same). The problem with this is that the more leverage these people get, the more they are looked at as people who achieved their goal in social media, the more these people are in a position to market themselves as ‘social media professionals’. The last thing we need is more dodgy social media specialists encouraging poor etiquette and spammy behavior.
Here is a quote from the comment I left of Jim’s blog post (which I recommend everyone reads)
While twitter is a very different medium to the comment field on blogs, at the end of the day both are two way forums for the voicing of thoughts and opinions. When spammers inject their mindless drivel into these mediums the only person that really suffers is the spammers themselves. Readers are getting smarter and employers are getting more tech savvy. As in your example Jim spammy behaviour could be the difference between a big job and the unemployment line.
I’m not quite clever enough to think of an applicable solution to this type of issue. It is not really possible to apply a filter to this type of human generated content without risking censorship of genuine content. The only cure I can think of for this disease is for users to be educated to ignore this spammy behavior and not follow users who engage in it. Perhaps someone out there has the real answer to the problem of not just Twitter but all social media related spam.
Any ideas people?