Most social sites have elements such as direct messages features, app requests, event invites, etc. that allow users to ping others directly. This is not something unique or special to Facebook and Twitter, rather platform pings have been an integral feature of social sites since boards and forums reigned supreme. And since then, they’ve been abused.

This is a personal pet peeve of mine and has only grown in recent years as the number of communities I belong to increased. I’d say direct message and platform spam is on par, perhaps worse than email spam. This is because I don’t necessarily want more inboxes and with each ping I have to log in to a specific area to decide what to do with it. Even with turning off email pings of platforms – you still have to deal with them when you use that network.

Anyway, while platform pings are in many cases a good thing they’re equally abused in any number of ways. Here is just a short list of platform pings that I’d consider spammy:

1. Event spam

Please stop inviting me to your events with direct requests unless we know each other personally. If your event is that good my peers will inevitably tell me. Or I’ll hear about it in trade media or by the bloggers presenting. It wreaks of desperation to have event promoters inviting me to an event on Facebook, direct messaging me and emailing me about the event. Just because you have multiple ways to communicate with someone doesn’t mean you should. Someone did this last week for a social media event no less (who really should know better). I was going to blog it but honestly it’s just more exposure for their event which they don’t really deserve. All you do is cause me not to want to attend or talk about your event. Build permission for your event instead and use the channels users have given you permission to market to them on.

2. Any sort of auto DM

While marketing automation in the right hands can be a beautiful and effective thing there are certain items you should never automate. Direct messages on social channels are one of them. That’s not what the tool is for and you’re just going to bother people. It’s abuse of messaging systems, plain and simple.

3. Game invites

Don’t ever invite your friends to play a social game with you, ever. There’s just no reason to do this – if we want to play a game we”ll join, and if you’re already playing a game we can see it in-stream. Many games by design have a viral loop built in where they ask you to invite 10 or 20 friends before you can play. So you randomly pick 20 friends to also play – but just because we’re connected doesn’t mean I gave you permission to send me a game request. Do I play any online games? No, so I will never play yours. The only way a game invite is not spam is if you know that person to play online games.

4. DMs prompting me to look at or share your content…unless

I rarely ask others to share or even look at my content via direct message. And if I do it is because it was written in response to something that user said or I know with nearly 100% assurance they would find value in it. Yet all the time I get DMs from people asking me to share or check out their post despite it having no relevance to what I’m doing. I actually don’t have a problem with a DM to something you want me to check out if it has relevance to me. If you’re not sure, the answer is likely no.

5. Pitches to write about your company via DM

It isn’t likely too bad to DM to journalists or bloggers whose job it is to write about companies. But guys, it’s not my job to write about anything here, rather I’m writing purely to share ideas I find interesting with you. And aside from some companies who really get how to pitch a blogger if you haven’t built a relationship with me already a DM is not the place to pitch me on your company. Perhaps start a connection with me, but blatantly pitching me here (if we aren’t already connected) is spam.

6. Mass messages

If you are sending any sort of mass message through messaging feature of a social site you are abusing the system. That’s what the stream is for. Not much else to say here because this is basically all out spam.

7. Tagging people in pictures just to get their attention

This one is self-explanatory. Don’t abuse tagging others in images just to get their attention for something else.

Why communications pros should care

This is just a shortlist of items that irk me specifically. And that was kind of the point to sharing my specific complaints – because everyone is going to be different in what they find valuable and what they see as spam. A bit of common sense goes a long way – really ask yourself if what you’re about to send is going to add value to users and if a direct ping is worth their time (not yours).

Remember: every time you ping a user directly (friend, colleague, prospect) you are putting your trust with that person on the line. It’s either increasing and you’re strengthening the relationship or you are eroding it and taking up that person’s time, making them less likely to care what you say next if you even get that chance.

Your relationship with people in social sites you don’t know personally is tentative at best – you’re easily removed from someone’s stream for even the smallest reason. Instead of abusing platform pings and almost certainly weakening your reputation, why not work to build trust and deliver value instead?

image credit:

Don’t Abuse Social Platform Pings is from The Future Buzz, a Blog Covering Digital Marketing