I had an experience on Facebook last week that got me thinking about how important it is to be careful that our communication doesn't resemble
something that people could take the wrong way. It isn't enough to be
genuine, we have to communicate
that we are. If you use the language of scammers and spammers, people will wonder if you are. If it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, people will naturally conclude that it's a duck. Here's what I mean and what we can all learn from Pst Spence.
Last week, I received a friend request from someone with an odd sounding name: Pst Spence. We had several mutual friends, his page looked normal and he was in ministry so I accepted. I never heard from him until he sent me a personal message on Facebook with a gloriously formal sounding introduction, "Calvary Greetings to you..." It was a rather long message where he asked me for prayer and to donate toward a relief effort for those in Australia who were affected by the flood. I don't make it a habit to send donations to people I just met so I sent a reply saying that I've been praying for them.
The next day he sent a reply stating that prayer was good, but that they needed MONEY! I was taken aback! A minister who doesn't think that much of prayer? I was busy that day with a sick son and many other projects so I decided not to answer him. The next morning I received a message from him asking if I'd received his reply and stating that he was "still expecting my donation
." Still...EXPECTING!? In this reply he asked me to send my donation Western Union and NOT by Money Gram. I went back to his first message and noticed that he had put in quite an elaborate address and instructions for the donation.
Next I went to his page because I felt this was a scam. He had unfriended me and put a note on his page saying he had reached his limit of Facebook friends. He asked everyone to "like" his fan page. Curious because he didn't seem to have ANY friends anymore, I went to his fan page and found no real information on it and only 13 fans. A few days ago, this man's Facebook page seemed normal, yet only a few days later, he had no friends and nothing to speak of on his wall. I reported this to Facebook because the manner in which he was speaking, the words he used and the nature of his Facebook page and fan page, all SCREAMED scam.
To my utter amazement, he had the audacity to send me another message the very next day. It simply said, "Still waiting for a response." I thought to myself, "and you'll be waiting quite a long time, too!"
At the risk of creating a blueprint for spammers, I'd like to share some of the things in his messages that caused me to believe he wasn't genuine. Then I'm going to take some of these same things and show how well-meaning, yet untrained communicators can mistakenly appear the same way.
Spam and Scam Red Flags
1. Unusually formal or flowery greeting
2. Poor grammar or incorrect word usage
3. Sender is someone you just met or don't know well
4. Asking for money, especially in a more demanding way (Expecting your donation)
5. Most of the detail is in the directions for acquiring the donation rather than the cause
6. Asking for the money to be sent in an usual way or by an unusual method
8. Language becoming increasingly hostile
Now I know many of you wouldn't be this blatant, but let's look at a few of these and see how you might (perhaps) sound like a spammer. Sometimes, perfectly genuine people fall into the habit of doing things that just feel like spam. This causes folks to become uncomfortable and/or unlikely to continue the online relationship. Here's a list of things that "feel" like spam. I call them Pink Flags.
Spam and Scam Pink Flags:
1. Sending private messages asking for donations or announcing sales to people you don't know well.
2. Posting mostly or only when you are selling something
3. Poor grammar or word choice, especially to people with whom you are not close.
4. Not being careful to be respectful when asking for donations, especially if sent to people having financial difficulties of their own.
5. Sending more than one message through in a short period of time. (Once a day or several times a day)
6. Posting several times in an hour about things you have for sale.
7. Posting ONLY things you have for sale on your personal Facebook page or Yahoo group while never responding to or posting things of a more personal nature.
8. Posting MOSTLY things you have for sale.
9. Creating events several times a week/month, inviting all your Facebook friends and then sending constant updates about them.
I've known several people, good
people, who are in business. They have good businesses and they try hard to be honest and trustworthy. However, they have some practices that make it appear
, like this scammer, such that they could get in trouble even though they are not scamming. Here are a few scenarios that illustrate what I mean. Perhaps you've seen them?
Paula sells handmade jewelry. She's on Facebook where she also has a fan page. She's very excited about her creations and so she posts pictures and sales items about six times a day both on her fan page and her personal Facebook wall. She also sends out messages to all her personal friends on Facebook each hour with updates about how well her business is doing. Finally, she tags about 20 or 30 different friends each time she posts a particular type of product picture on her personal wall.
Paula is a sweet girl and everyone is polite, but secretly, several have almost unfriended her due to the sheer volume of emails this generates for them. In fact, sometimes Paula has posted pictures of her products directly on her friend's walls or on THEIR fan pages.
Connie is the sweetest little thing you' d ever come across. She's a stay at home mom whose kids are all grown and she's got a passion for getting involved. She's the kind of person who is always donating and doing for others, but she is completely unaware of how to communicate her passion effectively.
Connie sends blanket emails to each of her Yahoo groups every day, sharing with them about all the causes she supports. She addresses her emails to reflect her faith-filled love for people using terms like "Blessed Brothers and Sisters in Christ Jesus." She asks for donations and, because she has a lot of groups she belongs to, she gives all the information to donate up front so that people can have all the information ready to donate. Unfortunately, Connie doesn't realize that some of the groups she belongs to don't allow ads. She doesn't have much time for interaction on these groups because of all the wonderful causes she supports. In fact, most of her posts have numerous typos and other mistakes because Connie is in a hurry each day to get these messages out giving her the ability to help even more of God's children.
Most people on Connie's groups feel like she is only there to get their money. Many question whether all her causes are legitimate because of the typos and the fact that only two lines tell about the cause while six lines share how to pay.
We must be careful to say what we mean in a way that allows the listener/reader to hear what we say the way we meant it. Otherwise, we risk appearing like a spammer, losing friends and having our Yahoo groups or Facebook privileges revoked.
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. Laura.com. 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 http://www.ArtofEloquence.com