The Fine Line Between Marketing and Spamming

March 13, 2011 | By Paul Mackenzie Ross | Filed in: business, marketing, social media.

Tightrope walking

Some time ago I decided to join Ecademy to try it out and possibly extend my network within my industry. Immediately upon subscribing a couple of people were “all over me”. Now that’s not exactly “the way I roll” but I connected with these people anyway and, in a short period of time, received numerous “marketing communications”. The content was mostly irrelevant so I largely ignored these emails and have hardly touched ecademy since.

Then a few months ago, I noticed a familiar name on twitter – it was one of the “marketers” from ecademy. Seeing that their twitter bio included some interesting information relevant to small business (of which 1. I run a small business 2. I work for numerous small businesses and 3. I love to champion the cause of small businesses) I decided to follow this person on twitter.

Before long it became evident that they weren’t your average tweeter – One morning there was a burst of 20 tweets from this one person in my timeline – I was using Tweetdeck at the time (I still do) and they filled all of my visible public timeline with their tweets and only their tweets all in one go. Then, the very next minute, they spewed another dozen tweets in my feed – 34 tweets in a row, “dominating” the timeline, no place for anyone else.

Needless to say this was more than a little impolite so I sent them a friendly tweet saying some people might consider their behaviour was a bit much and that what the volume of their tweets in such rapid succession *could* be construed as spam.

No reply.

A few days later, this time in the evening, they did the same thing again. They posted such a large number of tweets in one go (again, around 20) that I simply unfollowed them. They should have been reported/blocked for spam but I was feeling generous so they got away with it. The fact is they’d probably argue that it wasn’t spam, it was “aggressive marketing”. Anyway, they very quickly unfollowed my twitter account too, so either they were very sharp with their twitter control or they were using an automated tool (Not my bag – It’s slower but far more satisfying to follow/unfollow manually)


The same also happened recently with a couple of email newsletters to which I subscribe – One newsletter was for guitar hints & tips, the other for that famous marketer Seth Godin.

What I didn’t expect from these two subscriptions was to have an email from each of them in my inbox EVERY SINGLE DAY.

There’s enough mail in my inbox without accumulating more unread detritus (Junk email deleted, there are currently 242 unread emails in my inbox on a Sunday morning)

I’ve now unsubscribed from both of these newsletters. If I want to play guitar better I’ll go seek out the guitarist guy’s website. Oh, there’s no content – he only communicates via email – scratch that. Bye.

As for Seth Godin’s brain farts, again, if I want to smell his latest thought, I’ll go check out his blog (and try and ignore the numerous times his disciples retweet his pearls of wisdom)


So, there you have it – the “fine line between marketing and spamming”. I’d love to simply say it is so very easily crossed, but actually it’s not. Some people market so hard and so fast that they’re going to cross it very quickly. The rest of us stay well below the threshold and are still successful in getting our messages out and getting a response.

I was, however, once asked why so many of my Facebook posts were short 140 character posts with links to tech & SEO. The reason is that I linked twitter to facebook via friendfeed to save typing/posting twice. The flipside of that is that my friends and family get to see all my SEO, design, tech, philospophy, politics tweets and they’re a very different community from twitter. I’ve since reduced the number of tweets that automatically go to Facebook.

When it comes to marketing it’s all about gauging your audience and having respect for them. Understand the tools, understand the platforms. For example, if you’re going to use twitterfeed to deposit your blog posts on twitter (as we do here) then please use the tool intelligently. Don’t set twitterfeed to check your blog and post every 12 hours if you’re going to write or publish 30 posts inbetween those times.

The difference between marketing and spamming is that it’s about the quality not the quantity, the sniper rifle, not the scatter gun. And don’t try shove your message down the throats of people who you think are only there to listen to you – It’s a two-way thing.


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The Fine Line Between Marketing and Spamming

March 13, 2011 | By Paul Mackenzie Ross | Filed in: business, marketing, social media.

Tightrope walking

Some time ago I decided to join Ecademy to try it out and possibly extend my network within my industry. Immediately upon subscribing a couple of people were “all over me”. Now that’s not exactly “the way I roll” but I connected with these people anyway and, in a short period of time, received numerous “marketing communications”. The content was mostly irrelevant so I largely ignored these emails and have hardly touched ecademy since.

Then a few months ago, I noticed a familiar name on twitter – it was one of the “marketers” from ecademy. Seeing that their twitter bio included some interesting information relevant to small business (of which 1. I run a small business 2. I work for numerous small businesses and 3. I love to champion the cause of small businesses) I decided to follow this person on twitter.

Before long it became evident that they weren’t your average tweeter – One morning there was a burst of 20 tweets from this one person in my timeline – I was using Tweetdeck at the time (I still do) and they filled all of my visible public timeline with their tweets and only their tweets all in one go. Then, the very next minute, they spewed another dozen tweets in my feed – 34 tweets in a row, “dominating” the timeline, no place for anyone else.

Needless to say this was more than a little impolite so I sent them a friendly tweet saying some people might consider their behaviour was a bit much and that what the volume of their tweets in such rapid succession *could* be construed as spam.

No reply.

A few days later, this time in the evening, they did the same thing again. They posted such a large number of tweets in one go (again, around 20) that I simply unfollowed them. They should have been reported/blocked for spam but I was feeling generous so they got away with it. The fact is they’d probably argue that it wasn’t spam, it was “aggressive marketing”. Anyway, they very quickly unfollowed my twitter account too, so either they were very sharp with their twitter control or they were using an automated tool (Not my bag – It’s slower but far more satisfying to follow/unfollow manually)


The same also happened recently with a couple of email newsletters to which I subscribe – One newsletter was for guitar hints & tips, the other for that famous marketer Seth Godin.

What I didn’t expect from these two subscriptions was to have an email from each of them in my inbox EVERY SINGLE DAY.

There’s enough mail in my inbox without accumulating more unread detritus (Junk email deleted, there are currently 242 unread emails in my inbox on a Sunday morning)

I’ve now unsubscribed from both of these newsletters. If I want to play guitar better I’ll go seek out the guitarist guy’s website. Oh, there’s no content – he only communicates via email – scratch that. Bye.

As for Seth Godin’s brain farts, again, if I want to smell his latest thought, I’ll go check out his blog (and try and ignore the numerous times his disciples retweet his pearls of wisdom)


So, there you have it – the “fine line between marketing and spamming”. I’d love to simply say it is so very easily crossed, but actually it’s not. Some people market so hard and so fast that they’re going to cross it very quickly. The rest of us stay well below the threshold and are still successful in getting our messages out and getting a response.

I was, however, once asked why so many of my Facebook posts were short 140 character posts with links to tech & SEO. The reason is that I linked twitter to facebook via friendfeed to save typing/posting twice. The flipside of that is that my friends and family get to see all my SEO, design, tech, philospophy, politics tweets and they’re a very different community from twitter. I’ve since reduced the number of tweets that automatically go to Facebook.

When it comes to marketing it’s all about gauging your audience and having respect for them. Understand the tools, understand the platforms. For example, if you’re going to use twitterfeed to deposit your blog posts on twitter (as we do here) then please use the tool intelligently. Don’t set twitterfeed to check your blog and post every 12 hours if you’re going to write or publish 30 posts inbetween those times.

The difference between marketing and spamming is that it’s about the quality not the quantity, the sniper rifle, not the scatter gun. And don’t try shove your message down the throats of people who you think are only there to listen to you – It’s a two-way thing.


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