Time to fight spam on our social networks

While receiving yet another invite to connect with someone on LinkedIn with whom I have never met, never spoken to and never heard of before, I decided it was time to turn my attention to social network spam.

Thursday, 20th March 2014, 11:42 am
JPCT 150713 Alan Stainer. Photo by Derek Martin

Now, you may well associate the word spam with unsolicited e-mails, or indeed a certain Monty Python sketch. It can also be associated with certain types of activity on social networks.

Connection spam. This only affects social networks like Facebook and LinkedIn, which require you to accept an invitation to connect with another person. It’s a two way process. The ‘spam’ in this case, are the invites to connect from people that you do not know, or that have not bothered to give themselves an introduction. The idea behind making the connection, is so that you see more of their content. They likely have little or no interest in the content that you share, which translates as little to no benefit in making the connection.

Now, a lot of people may be perpetrating this without realising it. If you want to connect with someone, tailor the invitation with a personal message. If they accept, then make the effort to engage with that person and build a genuine relationship.

Twitter, Google+ and other networks which allow you to follow people, but without an expectation that you are followed back, don’t have this problem. The connection process is one way, so that if someone follows you, you know it is because they want to read what you have to say, not the other way around. It is still a good idea to engage with others though!

A second type of social network spam is akin to the all too familiar e-mail spam. You can usually tell by looking at a person’s profile page if they are a spammer. If it is filled with the same posts day in and day out, then they are spammers.

The methods they use are various. They may reply to a tweet, or they may comment on a discussion thread which you started, or perhaps post a message to a group you belong to.

The point is the messages are unsolicited. While you cannot stop people from doing this before they do it, you can block them and report messages or individuals once they have committed the act.

You can lower your chances of receiving spam like this, by making sure you know who you are making a connection with beforehand, which links back to my previous point about connection spam.