“Spam, lovely Spam, wonderful Spam…I DON’T LIKE SPAM!” These lines from the 1970 Monty Python sketch that incorporates Spam into everything is the namesake of the annoying and potentially time-wasting unsolicited bulk messages we see everyday. Whether it’s in email inboxes, blog comments, social media or auto-filled on online conversion forms, it’s tough to escape. However, there are a few tricks you might not be familiar with that can reduce the volume.
Spam in Email:
Sometimes it seems like if there wasn’t junk email, there wouldn’t be much email at all. In fact, estimates are that 80-85% of worldwide email is spam. Today alone, I’ve received over 75 spam emails and it isn’t even noon! Fortunately, we have a good junk mail filter but some still sneak through. This abundance of spam inspired this post and I’ve learned a few things.
- DMA Email Preference Service – similar to the National Do Not Call Registry, The Direct Marketing Association (DMA) has an email Preference Service (eMPS) that allows you to register and opt out of receiving unsolicited commercial emails from DMA members. Registration is free and good for six years.
- Virus and Worm protection – because much of the spam is sent by zombie networks that take control of infected home and office computers, making sure you have high-quality, up-to-date Internet Security software is a must.
- Don’t be quick to give out your email – exchanging your email address for valuable information or registering for a service, event or membership on a website has become commonplace. While usually not a bad practice, make sure you read the fine print. Anytime a user agreement is prompted, don’t automatically click saying you’ve read it. Lesser-known, lower-reputation sites often slip in a line saying they can sell your information to other online marketers (term used very loosely). And, these are not always marketers you want to hear from. Once you end up on a list, it can be a big process to get yourself removed.
- CAN-SPAM – while sometimes referred to as “You Can Spam” because of its limitations, it’s still the only legislation attempting to curb the flow of unwanted, unsolicited spam messages. The Act identifies compliance standards for unsubscribes, content and sending behavior. Reporting violators is the first step in getting them to stop.
Spam in Social Media:
Poor Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, no matter how hard they try their security systems can’t seem to block the nasty phishers, hackers and spammers from accessing member accounts. Tweets, posts and status updates seemingly from friends and connections can not only be misleading, but also end up bringing you angst.
- Don’t click! If you see a posting from a “friend” that doesn’t sound like them and has a link embedded, just don’t click. Don’t fall for the “I’ve been on this diet for two weeks and it works great” type message. The links are spam, or worse, can contain viruses or worms that are damaging to your system.
- Use strong, different, private passwords – This sounds basic but a shocking number of people use obvious passwords like “password” or “123456” and, use those same passwords for everything. See the problem? Scammers who regularly hack social media outlets know if they’re successful on one platform, try the same passwords on the others. I hate to admit it but I had the same password for my major profiles and yep, they all got hit at the same time.
- Interact through a secure third-party platform – HootSuite and other secure platforms will act as a buffer, giving you a warning that your account may have been hijacked. Any suspicious activity should trigger the software and hopefully give you time to react.
Spam in Conversion Forms and Blogs:
Because many organizations have form submissions feeding into their CRM systems, spammy responses are more than inconvenient. Being engaged with your prospects and customers shouldn’t mean you have to put up with bad information throwing off your process.
- Include a form field without a value – This one was new to me and I love it. Simply include a form field that should not include a value. In fact, you can even say on your form “leave blank”. Bots will automatically fill in any available field so if your form response has a value in this field, you know it’s not real.
- reCAPTCHA – These little puzzles are meant to verify that a real human is filling out the form or entering a comment on the blog. Unfortunately, they’re not exactly human-friendly either with frequent complaints that they’re unreadable. The customizable reCAPTCHA is pretty slick, it simply asks a very obvious question like “What color is an orange”. Responses with the correct answer are likely real people.
- Trackback and comment spam blockers – plugins, APIs and software are becoming a popular way to block irrelevant or false comments, trackbacks or pingbacks because they analyze responses and provide you with a review before you ever see any of the comments. These do a nice job stopping some of the more advanced spammers that actually employ real people to respond to your blogs and forms instead of using bots.
- Set up filters – We’re big advocates of HubSpot because they offer a lot of advanced, helpful features and this happens to be an area where they shine. Setting up filters that look for “asdf”, “abc”, “123”, repeatable strings like “William Williams” or URLs in the wrong fields eliminates a lot of bad contacts. For B2B companies, consider filtering out emails from general providers like @gmail, @yahoo, @hotmail, etc.
- Ask nicely – A great idea from one of our clients was to create a simple but nicely worded message on their Contact Us form asking that solicitations and self-promoting messages not be submitted through the form. While it certainly isn’t a net catching any unwanted activity, it might give pause to anyone randomly submitting unwanted promotional information.
Nothing stops spam completely but a few of these tricks should help reduce a few headaches. Do you have any helpful hints you have in place and would be willing to share? If you’re not a spammer, we’ll definitely give you credit!