As users of social media, we’ve all been the targets of online marketers and spammers and webcam girls. Of course, social media is still fairly new, and the boundaries are continually being tried and tested, not to mention pushed. We’ve all made mistakes and, we hope, learned from them. This isn’t the first time I’ve addressed this issue (see Tweet Tweet Tweet: Will Someone Please Shoot That Effing Bird?). However, there really needs to be some form of established etiquette – because the methods being employed to get one’s message across are getting out of hand.
Now I’m not exactly a novice on this subject. In fact, I’ve even given talks about the use of social media (see Social Media For Creative Artists). Although I’m going to focus on those in the writing and book business, I’m sure we can find parallels in other fields. As everyone knows, I’m a big user of Facebook. I’ve worked very hard to establish myself on the site and build up a fan and friends base. I always try to be respectful of others and respectful of the space of others. Meaning: I do not post my “advertising” on people’s personal profiles or personal fan pages. By advertising, I mean self-promotional content.
This is the kind of thing you often see manifesting itself in sneaky posts on your wall – you know, the ones that say “nice to meet you,” but a “nice to meet you” that happens to include a very handy link to a website or the jacket of a book. Add to this the practice of tagging someone in order to get your content onto their page. Further add to this a reply tweet that uses your Twitter name to spread someone else’s message. And these are just the subtle methods.
More blatant forms of such promotional trespass consist of folk posting content designed to draw attention to themselves and their product without even attempting to disguise what they’re doing with a personal message, plastering these website links and book jackets, not to mention book trailers and book events right smack dab onto your wall like a giant neon sign. Perhaps they justify this activity by saying so-and-so is a Facebook friend (and possibly a fellow writer), so I guess that means I can be a squatter in his or her house.
I mean, it’s bad enough when this happens on your personal profile, but you won’t believe the number of times I’ve had to remove the advertising of various individuals from my fan pages. I mean, I’ll have a fan page for a book of mine (for instance In Sleeping Beauty’s Bed), and these cheeky buggers will post a book jacket and link to THEIR book on MY book’s fan page. Excuse me, but this is really taking the piss!
Now I’m all for self-promotion as everyone knows, only this is not the way to go about it. I realise things are tough out there, and I know it’s likewise tough to make a buck, but for pity’s sake, use some common sense. If you’re posting to a fan page or group page or even a personal page that indicates it accepts and welcomes these kinds of posts, then fine. But to randomly post on personal profiles, groups and fan pages that are clearly NOT an interactive billboard asking for your advertising (and you can see no evidence to indicate that it is), well, that’s just plain tacky and rude. In fact, it’s SPAM.
Of course you can always remove these posts, and I do it all the time. However, there’s only so much I’ll tolerate when it keeps continuing, especially from the same individuals. Allowing yourself to be a graffitied wall to benefit and promote someone else’s agenda is not going to make them like you. (They don’t like you – they’re using you!) Rather than outright removing said person from my friends list, I try to give them a chance to mend their ways by making my displeasure known via a polite note requesting they cease and desist. You’d think this forthright and civil approach would work and therefore generate an embarrassed apology, right? Well, think again.
A recent SPAM-fest I was made the victim of came from some supposed “book reviewer” who listed quite an impressive CV of where he’d reviewed books. I received a Facebook friend request from said person, and I thought, well sure, of course I’d like him as a friend – until I started to get daily posts on my wall of his various book reviews, none of which were even of my books! Now excuse me, but what in hell is that about? Did my Facebook profile suddenly turn into Publisher’s Weekly? Needless to say, I sent him a polite note requesting he kindly refrain from said behaviour. And get this: he actually un-friended me as if I’d done something wrong!
Awhile back I had another bizarre run-in with some Norman Bates of a poet I’d never heard of. This individual’s personal information was vague to say the least, unless you count the hazy photos of her that looked as if they’d been taken when Nixon was president. It seemed she was hiding behind some paid membership website – and she was continually posting on my Facebook profile and various fan pages advertising said website. When I asked her to stop spamming me, I got a nasty message, followed by some extremely nasty, erroneous, and downright libelous comments she attempted to publish on my website. Had they not been so pathetically inspired by professional and personal jealousy I’d have reported her to my web-host (and my lawyer).
Then just the other day an author posted her book release event on my profile wall, likewise tagging me for the event, following it up by posting her book trailer. Since when did Mitzi Szereto become Barnes & Noble? Hey, I have my own books to sell! Rather than send a message, I removed her from my friends list. I’m not going to be nice with second chances anymore, especially when I end up being disrespected for it. Yes, I’m interested in seeing what others are doing, but I’d prefer not to have it forced on me via a space which is supposed to be for my use and under my control, especially when I can easily find out what’s happening in my newsfeed and by visiting friends’ profiles and pages! I post many things, a lot of which are not self-promotion (I’m big on animal welfare groups such as StopCrush.Org and Charlie to the Rescue), so I find it annoying to get a post that’s not only irrelevant to me, but serves no purpose other than to get a free ride off my hard graft. I don’t much care for freeloaders, nor do I know anyone who does.
So if you want to mark your territory, use your OWN personal profiles and pages to get your message out rather than trespassing on those of others – or else ask permission before you post or tag as a method of self-promotion. It’s called “having good manners!”