group of people sunset friends spam

A couple times a year, I lose it. I run out of patience and end up scolding people about spam via an agitated post. Expecting people to get upset with me, I was quite surprised at the overall response from my network the first time it I did it. Now it’s a biannual event. Hear me out.

Let me set the stage for you

You’ve got a friend or relative you’re connected to online (this situation is most common on Facebook) and they start selling something or launch a new business. They’re selling jewelry, essential oils, or some other product and they talk about it ALL the time in their posts. Maybe they included you in their group without asking if it was right for you.

You’re so happy they have a new venture! We want people to succeed, make money, and prosper BUT there’s a problem. I’m going to get technical for a minute.


road-sign-stop-spamThere’s something called the CAN Spam Act. It’s legislation that was passed in response to spam emails that were sent by the billions and clogged up the figurative internet pipes. In order to have rules to abide by and regulations to enforce, it was a necessary step to protect consumers. Junk communications continue to make us angry to this day (we’re experiencing the same behavior with spam phone calls right now.)

These are the standards that marketing emails must abide by:

  • The marketer must have gotten explicit permission to send to the recipient
  • The communication must include an opt-out function
  • The email must contain a physical address so that the recipient may be able to locate a person or organization that is flouting the rules
  • The email address identifying the sender must be honest and not misleading
  • The subject line may not be deceitful or misleading either

Now these rules are designed for email marketing, not for social media posts, but the rules are the current standard for media marketing in the U.S. (the EU is different.) All businesses must comply or face consequences such as a fine levied by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC.)

Social contract

When you agree to connect with someone online, unless you’re in a business environment (think LinkedIn or a business focused social group), you’re entering into a social contract. The word “friend” means something to both parties. Even though you haven’t thought about this previously, you have expectations of some basic behaviors.

woman and man taking photo spamImagine that a friend has invited you over for dinner. What kind of activities do you suppose will take place? Perhaps you’ll offer to bring something, you arrive, spend time together, eat, do dishes, maybe play a card game, have dessert, and say goodbye. This is fairly common, yes?

Another friend has invited you over for dinner and as soon as you arrive, you’re sat down in the living room for a sales pitch. There are appetizers on the coffee table next to brochures, sales materials, and product samples. There’s a presentation with visual aids. How would feel about that situation? At the very minimum, it’s not what you were expecting. (This has happened to me and I was IRRITATED.)

You wouldn’t want to be stuck in that second scenario without warning, without your consent. An online relationship is no different. People want to connect with their friends and family while they share jokes, news, events, and important issues. They don’t like ads. Periodt.

They don’t know how to say it

Every single time I lose my cool and sound off on this topic HUNDREDS of my connections Like/Love/Share my post. I’m not exaggerating. People simply don’t know how to say it, that they feel like they’re being spammed. They resent the sender for not following the social contract, it’s awkward, and the relationship can be forever damaged as a result. (Feel free to share this post with anyone that needs to read it!)

woman-man-holding-heart-signs-spamIt’s natural at this point for people to be worried that they can’t talk about work at all. Of course you can! When we spend time with friends, we ask each other how work is going and we really do care. But do you want jobs and business to dominate every conversation? I don’t think so. Use your in-person conversations as a guide to balancing personal and professional communications online.

Do it Right

Use best practices in marketing by using a business page on Facebook. Pages give you the opportunity to advertise, reach more than 5,000 people (you can only have 5k friends), it will show up in search engine results, and you get analytics on performance. None of those features are available via your profile. Most importantly, Pages are in compliance with the FTC and the CAN Spam Act because they offer an opt-in/opt-out, otherwise known as the Like button. Feel free to encourage friends to follow, like, or interact with business content wherever it’s being posted.

Your friends will thank you!

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