You, Me, and Spam: 5 ways of Combating Spammers Online

I’ve been through a number of trends regarding Social Media.  However, the trend that annoys me the most is that someone out there is making a fortune telling people to essentially ‘cold-call’ prospects on Social Media, relying on consumer ignorance and apathy to get their message across.  AKA, it’s Spam, at it’s most boldest level, because it sounds sincere, but it really isn’t.  With enough complaints you can risk your profiles being blocked / deleted from SPAM complaints.

I’d like to run through some of the attempts that have been made that almost got through the filter.

LinkedIn

NOTE:  LinkedIn is notorious for ‘if you don’t know this person, don’t try to connect with them, because the consequences of such behavior can get your account suspended’.  So I don’t understand as of recent the increased number of invites with the Default invite line and really shady crap on their profile.

Without further ado. . .

A) Douchebag 1:  After asking “Why are you connecting with me on here?”  This guys response? “Found you through one of my connections and wanted to do some networking to see how we may be of help to one another.”

NOTE: Anytime the premise is vague, or they can’t be direct on what they are selling, or otherwise, it’s SPAM.  There is no benevolent purpose here.  Sure enough I was right, the very next email was something about his business, it said “To Bears Fans!” and had some non-personalized SPAM mail.  Was very sad.

B)  Douchebag 2: Again, after asking why. .reply? “Went to Loyola with S***** G***** and very good friends with D*** C*****”

Again, premise is vague, you didn’t say ‘recommended by xyz’ and I didn’t go to the same school you did either.  SPAM, next caller.

C) Douchebag 3:  Friended me, default invitation text (I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn) and viewed her profile, didn’t show me any information.  Did a quick Google search, her name was associated with a bunch of self-aggrandizing websites.  I mean, even if ‘befriended’ this person on LinkedIn, I already knew what the next email was going to be.

SPAM, reported to LinkedIN.

Facebook

NOTE:  Facebook is starting to take a Line from LinkedIn, now you can report to facebook for friendSPAM and people you don’t know.  They also guard against massive email imports and invites as well, which is awesome, and about time.

A) Someone friended me, with 0 mutual friends on Facebook, and with the message of “HI Will, I don’t know you that well, but I wanted to help you have a good year!!”

B) Someone friended me, had 42+ mutual friends, but listed Properties he was trying to sell in the invite information!  What a joke!

Both Spammed, Blocked and reported to Facebook.

3) Twitter

Is a lost cause.  I turned off Auto-Follow years ago, and there is no simple batching process for blocking / discouraging spammers.  There is currently a spammer who is doing random names, pictures of pretty girls, and some variation of ‘I help guys bang chicks’, and some yeast diet nonsense.  I don’t know how they can keep up, but if there was a way to batch report them all, I would do so.  Thankfully I don’t have to follow them back or indulge in their fuckery.

How to combat against this nonsense?  Very simple.

1) Ask the Spammers a Direct Question: Most spammers are obvious, but for the ones who pass the smell test, I always ask “How did you find me?”.   Not one person I’ve asked this to has given me a direct answer.  They don’t say ‘Oh, I’ve met you before’ etc. . it’s always vague or the reply doesn’t make sense in reality.  Instant Ban.

2) Do a little research:   Either Google searching by email, name or handle will usually reveal what the person has been up to on the web, especially if they have a picture on their profile.  For this very reason is why I’m so vigilant about my personal brand, because I don’t want someone looking me up and finding less than favorable information regarding my reputation.  The spammers are literally plastered in all corners of the web with really crappy information.

3) Tend and Hedge your networks:  I tend to batch invitations on my various networks, and I turn off notifications.  If you see spammers, or activity on your network, remove them immediately.  I have a zero tolerance for this kind of behavior.  The only exception I make is for Facebook games, because while it is SPAM in its most pure form, it provides entertainment value for those involved.

4) Can you meet them in Real Life?  If the spammer is a friend of a friend, it’s easier to find out what their story is.  Most of the ‘networkers’ I know who offer real value, I would have heard their name before somewhere.  This is also because I’m a very social person.

As a side note:  If you intend to add people on networks cold (or by ‘suggestion’), here is a suggestion.   Do a little bit of research on said person, and add context to the invitation.  For example, if you want to connect to an HR person at a specific company, mention in the invite that you were interested in a position at the company and were reaching out to them to make that happen.

What’s your number?

The Number 12

No, it’s not what you think.

I wanted to address really quickly one of the Social Media Pet Peeves I have, which is that somehow, some way, ‘The Money is in the List’.  And the ‘larger’ the list, the more income that can be generated.

If ONLY I had such list.

What I’m finding though is that having the largest list is somewhat irrelevant.  I’m quite sure that I could friend enough people and talk enough to get TONS of friends (and max my personal profile to 5,000 people), but then what?  What exactly do you do with that?  More importantly, I’m finding that 90% the larger list people don’t correspond to intelligence, integrity, or even basic respect.

Keep in mind, while I’m ranting about this, I got sucked into the numbers game as well.  I realized all too much that my ego was tied to my number of Facebook friends.  As soon as I realized how much stress was involved in doing so, I’ve changed my strategy.  I’ve even removed some of the people I’m following on twitter because just about half of the people on are irrelevant to me. People would appeal to my ego checking out my Facebook and Twitter counts.  I got sucked in because I wanted the attention that it drew for me (and of course the potential money involved.)

But where I always stopped short was when I was asked to essentially ‘sell out’ my list to interested parties.  One person even expressed to me a strategy of creating a second Facebook Profile (which is against the TOS), adding friends from various networking groups under false pretenses (in groups / circles that I’m known, thank you very much!), and then do a bait and switch into an offer!

THe main reason I never do it is that I don’t want to ruin the relationships I have already with said list.  If I ‘suddenly’ start pitching for products or people, regardless of the ‘premise’ of said pitch, people get skeptical.  I’m starting to realize that I automatically tune out when anyone starts telling me ‘they’ve been featured in so many outlets’ because that just shows me they have a problem reaching ‘real’ people.

So, if the money is in the list, I don’t think so.  I think the money is in the ‘relationship’ you have with said list.  And how much value are you giving said list!

Even more so, there is still a human element involved.  While I have a big list, and people / friends tend to get lost in the shuffle, I try to make it a point to reach out personally to my friends and try to meet them in real life, as that does more for my ‘list’ than anything else I could do online.  Which is one of the main things that I preach in any strategy online, bringing the the relationship offline somehow (phone, event, etc. .)

A Thank You

Twitter Wall Flyer from Domino's Pizza
Twitter Wall Flyer from Domino's Pizza

Ramon has done it again!

If you don’t know Ramon DeLeon, you should.  He’s the best example that I can point to of what Social Media is about.

First of all, he sent pizza to my birthday party at District (do a search for #wbdayparty on twitter).

But even MORE awesome is now my quote is going out on various pizza boxes on his flyers! (see above).

THANK YOU SOO MUCH!  YOU ROCK!

Will English and Ramon DeLeon
Will English and Ramon DeLeon

Death of a Sales Letter, Moment of Silence.

(note: this is an example of what not to do with Social Media)

Stop Me if you’ve heard this one before. .

I’ve got this amazing product that I want to share with you, that’s going to replace your current income with money from the internet and it’s so easy

http://www.willenglishiv.com

I thought it was easy too, I have this really sad sob story as to why I developed this product, connect with this story and buy now!

http://www.willenglishiv.com

And if you haven’t clicked on the first two links (cause it was so obvious my product was SOOO awesome) here is the third link!

http://www.willenglishiv.com/

Most of what is taught in these secret Internet Marketing classes follows the method of the letter above, give or take.   But I know for a fact that unless the email is solicited (i.e. I was interested in buying what you are selling) that anytime an email has 3 links in it, it’s a bona fide internet marketing sales letter.  I also know for a fact that whatever this person is selling I’m DEFINITELY not interested in buying.  Especially when 4 or 5 of my friends send me the EXACT SAME SALES LETTER.

In the interest of fairness, yes I did post the Tony Robbins sales letter onto my blog.  However, my intention (value proposition) was to help people get discounts to an event I know that some of my friends in my network ALREADY planned on attending.  I disclosed everything regarding the proposition in the beginning of the post.

The other pet peeve in the internet marketing realm is the ‘annoying ‘ lead capture page.  Mind you, I respect that most blogs have some sort of ‘opt-in’ mailing list.   That’s respectable.  Some places even go the more ethical route and do a ‘double opt-in’, where a confirmation email is sent to make sure the recipient wanted to sign up in the first place.   But it’s considered a ‘lead capture page’ where  potential clients qualify themselves to your company in order to business with them.

What’s the difference between a respectable Lead Capture Page / Opt-in letter and an annoying one?  I know that again I’m not interested in buying if when I get to said LCP, a video AUTOSTARTS asking for your email in return for some ‘perceived value’.   If there is some javascript applet that offers you some more value (or a one time offer) as you navigate away from the page (and I specifically block popups, so there is some kind of counter-programming going on) and the second page is even worse than the first.  If it was so awesome why didn’t you offer it the first time?  I will inevitably develop a lead capture page for my IT Business.  However, it’s not required for my readers.  I’d prefer you contact me if you want to, not because I tricked you out of your email address.

Oh, and it gets better, this product I was pitched today was about monetizing your Social Media audiences as a turnkey system.  On the premise of being ‘ethical’.  Yeah right.  That’s already been done before.

Last point, one of the main reasons why I like my business is because I can see building and scaling my business, because it’s something I enjoy and love.   Internet Marketers come and go.   While they may be selling one product and making millions with it, for some reason that pot of gold runs out.  They develop a new product, or they re-package their old information and re-sell it.  Their sales cycle is around 6-12 months, and they always need more!  They are serial-monogamists in that regard, tied to the next idea that’s going to fool them today.  And they assure you that this product, THIS TIME, will be the millionaire jackpot.  Thankfully, I think many of the people that are still around and sustainable are not employing these shortcuts and tactics.  While these people have more balls than brains and are making more money than I am at the moment, I totally do not envy their position.

My experience with Video. .

At the most recent gathering of Social Media Club Chicago (a great gathering of wonderful people, might I add).  Put me smack-dab in front of one of my worst fears.

And that is doing some kind of Video blog.   Or posting Videos of myself on the internet.

I believe my fear is something similar to being afraid tripping the rift and the ‘unintended audience’.  As a matter of fact, my question that I posed to the panelists about Video was in response to the “If You’re Applying for a Job, Censor Your Facebook Page” article on Fast Company, not to mention people younger than I am shying away from Social Media (or at least my theory, the mainstream has ruined the fun and it’s no longer a safe place to hide shenanigans from your ‘unitnended audience’)

Either way, while I was asking the question to the panelists in hopes of spurring a conversation, Tim Jahn from Beyond the Pedway recorded my ‘akward silence’ for a few seconds.

I didn’t know he was recording me, and had I known, I probably wouldn’t have been so stiff.    I guess the other issue would be being my worst critic.   Writing about my experiences seems to be a safe harbor for myself, although as the panelists explained, video does the same thing, and more because it shows more vunerability due to connecting with your facial features and vocal tonality.

As Kelly Olexa (one of the queens of video blogging) mentioned to me ‘just be yourself’.  I’m really good at that!!

Darren Williger, my partner in crime mentioned how his spymaster rant broke down some barriers during a interview with a top company.  .

Believe it or not, I always had a dream of doing some kind of television show.  I actually wanted to do the news and/or the weather when I was younger.  I distinctly remember freezing up at the CNN HQ when I had the chance during a tour when I was younger.

Since then, I’ve gotten over my fear of the stage, have done comedy stand-up routines, emcee’d in front of large audiences (if one day I could EVER get proof I would be soo enthralled),  But if you take all those things away, it’s just me and whatever medium, I can’t do it. . . until now. .

Ethics and Censorship in Social Media, Part 2

author’s note: this is a repost cause I accidentally deleted my blog! Thank goodness for backups!

The other side of the ethics debate is the issue of censorship.   Or even more close to home is self-censorship.   What can you and can’t you say online these days?  We assume that whatever we talk about online, photos we share, etc are part of our small social circle, and thusly invisible to say ‘the unintended audience’ member.   Social Media has changed the game as to the idea of ‘communication’.

Where it would be easier to shape opinion and categorically deny any wrongdoing with communication really being in a vacuum and traditional media having a monopoly on the message, politics has changed drastically due to the ability to look through archives and records of people’s communication online.   There is only a perceived layer of security from the ‘unintended audience’ of your communications online.   I covered in one part of my presentation “The Art of the Conversation” that there are some things that you shouldn’t talk about online.   The reasoning is not because you don’t have the freedom to talk about what you want.  However, most people aren’t prepared for the consequences that responsibility holds.

Something very chilling to me was reading the initial report about someone getting sued over a tweet.  It was pretty high profile.    Regardless, I do have a few cardinal rules, a personal code for myself and my online communications.  The big one is not to make personal attacks or vindictive statements about entities.  There are always exceptions to the rule, and bigger brands usually fall into that exception (I doubt AT&T will sue everyone who has had something negative to say about the company, since it has become a trending topic on twitter quite often lately)  However, the idea is that there is a tangible liability to the information that you post.   Libelous information, even in electronic form, can land you in court.  (Later on, it was revealed that the suit was a counter-suit to an original problem.   However, I believe the damage has already been dealt, regardless of the well-intentioned.)

Taking legal action against social media counterparts however usually doesn’t bode well for the brand making the suit.   The RIAA is a perfect example of this.   Even worse, denying your imperfections after the fact leads ‘patriots’ to dig up even dirtier laundry about the company.   Very simple transactions can turn into MAJOR PR nightmares.  Some brands have decided not to go that route, and actively search for and silence all critics by resolving their needs quickly.   They know the value of communicating that their brand takes care of issues and problems quickly as soon as they come to light.

Of course, this can be taken advantage of, which is always the danger.  But the benefit of resolving issues online in the Social Media space, despite the opportunity for a brand to resolve the issue legally is to broadcast your good name in front of the respective complainer’s audience.   This is better than any marketing platform, or message controlling campaign you could put together.  It’s called word of mouth marketing.

Ethics and Censorship in Social Media, Part 1

author’s note: this is a repost cause I accidentally deleted my blog! Thank goodness for backups!

I personally believe in all writing, decision making, and expression, there is an inherent bias.  As impartial as we all claim to be, our experiences, environment, nurturing all affect our expressions.  As such, we enjoy reading our blogs and other irreverent commentary, because we can pick and choose what bias best calls to our own.

I believe that this is also the major reason for the decline in print media.   Every newspaper is pretty much a blue-chip commodity anyway (ask yourself what can you buy for $0.50 these days).   But I feel the decline is because print media it is not speaking to its core audience.  (Which by the way, I also believe if you do start losing your audience, it’s helpful to look at yourself to figure out what you are doing to lose them, rather than blaming the competition) Traditional print media I also feel has lost some credibility, in the face of other available opinions and media.   This says nothing about the quality of the work that Print media produces; however, it calls to human nature.  Which is ‘perception is reality’

Then there is the ethics debate, which gets really messy.   I actually enjoy this debate, because the line between a ‘journalist’ and a ‘blogger’ is blurring.   Not to mention, there seems to be one thing separating the two, and that is an ‘ethics’ code voluntarily in place by journalists.   There is also a call for ‘ethics’ for bloggers, if nothing else, more disclosure in reviews and opinions.

Ethics you say?  I thought that was the benefit of being a blogger.   The kind of arm-chair quarterback talk, the unfiltered opinion.  Ethics?  Who needs them!    Why would you trust a journalist over Michael Moore, for example?  Over any other blogger turned subject matter expert?

I think some rules, generically need to be applied to any kind of print medium.   I believe these rules become even more important when compensation is involved.  I believe people would care less about the opinions of others, but if someone is being paid to present an opinion and touted as an expert, people feel as if they are owed some kind of justification.   I’ve read plenty of articles and blogs where I don’t see any kind of standard or ethics involved.  Not to mention, some are riddled with affiliate marketing links, so I feel the person isn’t writing for the audience, but for the revenue.

When would marketing and advertising be okay for a blog? (That’s a whole other article) When would it be okay, say for myself, to ask for compensation for the content of my blog?  And what type?  The answer seems muddy for many of my blogger friends.  Me personally? I’d prefer to build my audience and provide as much value as possible.   I want that audience to eventually hire me and my firm to do work for them.  Heck, I wouldn’t even mind some of my articles being re-used on other sites.  I also toyed with the idea of doing review postings (i.e. Product Reviews) and pointing to an Amazon Affiliate link, saying clearly that it’s my Affiliate link.  (I believe this is the Chris Brogan approach, but I could be wrong).   But the idea would be it would be clear it’s a promotional (or ‘puff’ piece) on a product or service, and it would be used sparingly.

Part 2 continues in the next post

7 things NOT TO DO with your online Social Media Presence

With Social Media, people have the greatest opportunity to market themselves and expand their networks at a rapid pace.  However, with this new channel of communication comes a different level of dialogue.   Some conventions we have used in the past when information was not accessible do not apply in Social Media.   We cannot assume that no-one else is paying attention, or can hear your voice.

These are some conventions that EVERY Brand can use.

DO NOT gripe about your current employer / DO NOT bite the hand that feeds.

An employer who knows or sees any dissent among the ranks, especially without prior knowledge of said issue can be grounds for termination from your place of employment.  It is a good etiquette and practice not to burn bridges anyway, but online, the damage can be residual if future employers decide to look through your previous status updates.

DO NOT gripe about specific people or brands.

Calling someone out over a social media line of communication is really bad form.  Not only does it damage the other person’s brand, but it also damages your reputation as someone who doesn’t respect boundaries.  Take every precaution to deal with issues and conflict offline.   Escalating an issue should be a last resort, and there are plenty of resources to gripe about brands with authority.

DO NOT gripe about relationship issues, especially during legal matters.

Again, this is more of an etiquette rule.  Relationships don’t work out, for whatever reason.  Burning bridges and ‘letting everyone else know too’ is also bad form.   This become more prevalent in legal matters, especially divorce.  Even ‘relationship status’ changes can be tracked and used against you.

DO NOT incrementally update your whereabouts.

This is a common sense rule concerning your safety.  Some enterprising young thief may follow your Social Media presence to find out when you will be away for extended periods of time and take advantage of the opportunity.

DO NOT share your physical address online unless absolutely necessary.

Just because we’re sharing information about our lives online is not a license to trust that the information shared will be used by the intended audience.  Following this, posting all sorts of personal information is not recommended, especially if you plan on being found.  Follow the safety rule of if you want to meet someone, do so in a public place.  If you’re having a party at home, share the location privately.

DO NOT share pictures, photos or art that could potentially incriminate or embarrass you.

While it was a fun bachelor or bachelorette party that you attended with your friends last year, or the trip to Cancun that you were wasted, those pictures should not be shared online.   If someone chooses to share a picture of you (or tag it in facebook, etc.) request that friend to take it down or de-tag yourself from the photo.   Make it a policy if you or anyone else wishes to engage in those activities to respect your online boundaries.  Repeated violation of this boundary usually leads me to block any access the offender has to my brand.  (One picture of Michael Phelps smoking weed destroyed his reputation and credibility as a Olympic Gold Medalist and World Record Breaker, think about that)

DO NOT immediately react to negative spin or press.

Think about it before you respond.  Most of the time, the other person wants to vent and get out his or her frustration.  He or she chose to do it in an immature and petty fashion online.   People online have a tendency to say things they normally would not say in public due to perceived lack of consequences.  How you respond can make or break your brand / reputation.   A rule of thumb is that unless the message is being broadcast on your brand (i.e. your wall, facebook page, etc. ), it’s a safe bet to ignore the online bait, take the opportunity to contact the user directly or offline, and then post the resolution as a reply.

Be CAREFUL what you say online.  MONITOR your brand closely.  If you don’t, your customers and your competitor’s are defining the message FOR YOU.

The Event Planner’s Dillemma in the age of Social Media

(and my first ‘rant’ post)

NOTE: This post is partially inspired by Blagica’s article

http://www.blagica.com/2009/03/nightlife-promoters-club-owners-and-lounge-hosts-there-is-no-velvet-rope-in-social-media-get-over-it.html

NOTE 2: I am ranting here.   I will not name names, but I would like your input and comments.  Someone rubbed me the wrong way so I’m trying to bring constructive action to it.

To preface my post, let me start by what my current dilemma is.

I recently delved into Keith Ferrazzi’s “Never Eat Alone” book, and one of the chapters is dedicated to courting Public Relations members and Journalists.  I felt a cringe as I realized that eventually I would run into this.  The most successful connectors that I know, and love, all host their own events and clubs.  Keith suggested putting together bi-weekly dinner parties.   I was instantly reminded of my disdain for the majority of the Nightlife/Event Planner types that I meet.

I put most Old Guard Nightlife types in the same vein as Old School Salesmen.   If you’re not buying from those sales guys, they want NOTHING to do with you.  With the Nightlife types, if you’re perceived as a value taker without giving them something first (bottle service, hordes of cute girls, or flaming their collective ego’s), then they want nothing to do with you.

My experience stems from being a part of both industries, Event Planning and Nightlife.  I was a DJ for a few years and moving up the ranks to be part of the scene.   However, what I ran into is what I felt was the ‘old guard’ of the industry.   For some reason, I’m not ‘cool’ enough to be part of the scene, and thusly my rise stopped wherever it was determined.  It’s kind of sad to me, considering it’s like the revenge of the nerds.  Even worse, in the long run IT DOES NOT MATTER.  And most of those people (mostly the IT girl of the moment, and most aren’t even THAT cute) are a dime a dozen.  To quote Blagica “we can easily find another party to attend, or better yet, create our own.”

I get invites from 4 or 5 people on Facebook for EVERY weekly event they throw, regardless of what I replied to on the previous event.  In addition, the past and present email blast lists I get for events are filtered to a folder from my inbox and marked read.  What I feel is that these blasts are a bit disingenuous.   Not to mention that on Facebook, I didn’ t OPT-IN to be invited to every event. (Worse still, my blackberry synced with Facebook does reminders for all of these events whether I said yes or no).   One particular planner scheduled an event for 2 months that was only for a few days out of that span.   I was not a fan of having the event being listed first on every scheduled calendar I saw.

There are a few event planners that have wrote personal emails to me about their events, and I focus more on trying to attend those than the ones that get blasted.  Not to mention, there are events that I do get blasts from because the general vibe and scene is that everyone gets value from it and is looking forward to the next event.   For the aforementioned old guard nightlife types, they may have 5-10k people on their lists, but only 5-10 people show up.

I’ve tried at various points in my career to be an Event Planner on my own accord.  I’ve done it for other companies and entities, but I’ve had very little success on my own name and presence alone.  I want my event invites to be less disingenuous and more value oriented.  In addition, my perception is that I don’t want to be the old guard nightlife type.  I want to be all encompassing and welcoming.  My goal is to get to the super-connector status that we all love and dream of.   Having the biggest numbers seems to be irrelevant.

I hope to gleam from other people in the industry and throw really good parties.  An age old challenge with a recurring theme appears before me.

To your Success in 2009!

Personal Branding

I hate buzzwords.

I’ve made a decision. A rather bold one for my tastes, but regardless.

I’ve decided to drop all the various handles I have online, and just brand myself and my image for various things.

While I created my company awhile back, DLW Consultants, it’s sort of evolved. When I started, it was a joint-venture between myself and a few people I wanted to start the company with.

What I realized however, through feedback and whatnot, that at this point, I AM the company. (Talk about drinking the kool-aid, no?) And that what I’m selling is myself. I very rarely talk about my business (except in the beginning).

I want to make connections, and connect those people with other connections. I want to make money as well, there is no doubt about that part. But to me, it’s much more fun this way. Especially when I realized that you really don’t need a company name to be a ‘brand’. Which is awesome.

And so, I probably will end up de-linking my dlw site. Or turning it into a online business card, one of the two. The new company now is just myself. Me. I really don’t have any catchy one-liners or money-back guarantees.

This does a few things for me, if I decide to develop a company, I can hire someone else to maintain the brand. I don’t have to be in two places at once. The articles that I would have wrote for the DLW blog now are going to be on this site and this blog, in a separate category.  Not to mention, closing both my original Livejournal page and my MySpace page was an awesome feeling.

I do believe however that developing my personal brand is a dual edge sword. It requires diligence on my part to maintain my image. Not to mention, that if I make a mistake, I have that much more of an incentive to make things right and be honest.

I’m sure that other people will come along the way and help me to greater heights as far as my brand goes. But for now, it’s a huge sigh of relief, and a push into a new frontier.

To your success in 2009!