Perceptions: What is spam to you?

Last week I received a message from someone on one of my social networking sites.  It sparked a candid conversation that got me thinking about perceptions. The message came from someone I didn't know who was not connected with me on this networking site.  There was no note of introduction, nor was she trying to befriend me or connect with me on this site.  Her message was an ad for her product.  Now, I have had people send me things like this before.  I usually send them a polite reply advising them to be careful because people get upset about spam and the networking sites have a link in place for people to click if they feel you have spammed them.  Some number of clicks on that spam button and you could be banned from that networking site. The conversation that ensued revealed that her perception and that of most people I know were quite different.  She didn't see her message as spam.  She thought of it as sharing information that others could use.  While I agreed that her product was interesting and needed, I felt most people would see that as spam. Merriam Webster defines spam as, "unsolicited usually commercial email sent to a large number of addresses." Aweber, the service I use for my newsletters, is very strict in its adherence to the spam laws.  They tell me that spam is when you send any email to someone who didn't sign up for it.  Further, they don't allow a mailing to go out without a link where the person can unsubscribe.  So even if my newsletter doesn't ask for a sale, it is considered spam if I send it to someone who didn't double opt in.  In addition, Aweber monitors the amount of people who click the spam button on each mailing.  Depending upon the amount of people my mailing goes to, there is a percentage limit to the number of people who report my mailing as spam.  Too many, and Aweber can cancel my account. Every single newsletter shows at least one person who reports my mailing as spam.  At first I called Aweber panicked about the consequences.  They explained that some people forget they signed up for your newsletter or want to unsub, but find it easier to click the spam link than to click through to the unsubscribe page and unsubscribe.  That is why they do allow a certain percentage to report you as spam before they take any drastic action. So there is a difference in perception as to what constitutes spam.  Merriam Webster says spam is only a mass mailing of a commercial email.  Aweber says it's when someone didn't opt in and/or you don't provide an easy opt out.  Some of my subscribers think it's when they don't recognize the mailing or when they simply don't want it anymore.  The gal who sent me this message thought spam was something entirely different. Spam is a pet peeve of many.  It's a communication faux paz.  It's a way you can get yourself banned from Facebook, Twitter and other social networking sites like LinkedIn.  But spam is also subject to perceptions. Here are some more subtle examples.  Do you consider them spam? ------------------------ 1. An email from someone you know on your Yahoo group asking you to check out their vitamin website in reply to your post that said you were sick. 2. A Twitter auto reply that thanks you for following them and asks you to visit their website. 3. A phone call from a really good friend who just went into business asking you to buy from them. 4. A Facebook friend who only posts when they have something to sell. 5. A Twitter follower who only replies to you when they can talk about something they sell. Would you click the spam link on them?  Have you reported someone on a social networking site for spam? Not everyone sees spam the same way.  It's not only important to follow the letter of the spam laws, but to understand that it isn't our definition of spam that ultimately counts. It's the definition of those we contact because they are the ones who hold the finger over the spam button. ~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~ JoJo Tabares holds a degree in Speech Communication.  Her Christian and humorous approach to communication skills has made her a sought after speaker.  JoJo’s articles have appeared in various homeschool magazines and websites such as Dr.  Her Say What You Mean curricula is endorsed by The Old Schoolhouse Magazine and her eBook, Say What You Mean When You’re in Business, has been used by direct sales leaders and small business owners alike.  For more information, please visit


  • Mary Joy @Seeds of Encouragement Sewn with Grace

    Excellent article, Jo Jo! There is such a fine line sometimes isn’t there? One of my pet peeves regarding spam is someone who who gives their friend access to their facebook friend list to send facebook messages to about their friend’s products. Sometimes trying to educate them seems useless sometimes its helpful. Always depends on the person.

    This is an article that we can all relate to! Its all about respect in the end isn’t it? And people define that differently as well…

    Thanks for sharing your experience and story on such a difficult topic.


    Mary Joy

  • Carla

    Ooooh, a quiz! (Says the history teacher. . . LOL) Okay, I agree with your definitions and the definitions of Aweber. Unfortunately, most people do NOT understand what hitting that spam button on a site that they double-opted in to can do to the sender! It’s unfair, but nobody thinks much past themselves in today’s world.

    As to the above situations. . .
    (1) Yes. Harvesting emails for private sales emails is definitely considered SPAM in most groups.
    (2) No. You are following them. You didn’t check what they do, say or sell?
    (3) Definitely not. All direct sales companies train you to announce your biz to family and friends first. Plus, your friend may know you need the product they have just agreed to sell.
    ( 4) Yes. No relationship built. No other likes or comments except to sell? Definitely SPAM.
    (5) Yes. Only sales replies to anything and no other communication is, in my book, SPAM.

    BTW, I rarely hit the SPAM button on anything. I simply delete and will never do business with that person. I guess I should so they don’t keep it up.

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  • jojosblog

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts everyone! Great feedback on this topic! So good to hear all the opinions.

  • cindy holman

    I would say yes to all except #2. I’ve had that happen and that doesn’t mean it is a turn off for me visiting their site – I just see them as busy and having a lot of followers. I hate spam too – I dislike friends trying to sell me something or promote their latest ‘mission trip’ for me to contribute to. If I had a nickel…It’s annoying and they do not usually want to connect with you – just want to promote themselves.

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