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Twitter Spammers - You're Doing it Wrong.

Updated on October 2, 2009

Marketing is Not Easy, Ever.

You are not going to make a zillion dollars on Twitter doing nothing.
You are not going to make a zillion dollars on Twitter doing nothing.

A Quick Poll

Have You Discovered the Magical Teeth Whitening Secret, Gotten 30K Twitter Followers, or Joined Donald Trump's New Venture?

See results

I Guess We'll See...

There are many, many tweets about the three things listed in the poll question. It seems everywhere you turn you have an opportunity to get whiter teeth, a gazillion followers, or mega-riches. I'm actually just naming the most popular ones. I'll be interested to see the poll results, but my guess is that the answer will be an overwhelming NO. This Hub is intended to provide a quick rebuttal to the "autopilot" method of Twitter success. You know the folks - the ones who seem to think that if they assemble a broad enough audience, the riches will surely follow.

I have news for you, Mr. and Mrs. Twitter Spammer (you too, Miss): you are in a darkened room full of people, all hooting one sentence over and over at intervals during the day. Your audience is not aware of your message because they're too busy yelling about their own. Authentic users of Twitter look at your account profile and immediately dismiss you, or worse, block you.

My wife and I have this conversation all the time; what does it mean, in the grand scheme of things, if a bunch of idiots think you're cool? This first came up outside the context of social media, but it is immediately and specifically applicable to the state of affairs on Twitter, Facebook and countless other social media sites. Since eBay instituted community rating of members, there have been people who have tried to "metagame" whatever new communication medium arises as popular. Twitter is the latest in a series of channels that, for whatever reason, seem irresistible to spammers. It's so easy! All I do is SAY MY THING and people will read it!

Well, yes and no. If you've read Trust Agents by Chris Brogan and Julien Smith, you will know already that Twitter is first and foremost a trust economy. Like "political capital" or "good karma," you can (mis)spend the community's store of trust in you on messages. They can be commercial. They can be charitable. They can be funny, serious, insightful or absurd. You can engage the community however you want. But until your signal is known and trusted - until people know what to expect - every act that abuses their trust is three strikes in one. This is a battle for hearts and minds, and you just stabbed your audience in the heart, ignored or insulted their minds, and pushed them out the door.

You cannot afford to do this to your audience. They are your friends, and you are theirs. Your signal must be pure as the driven snow at the beginning, and continue to be so for a long time. If you need a single rule to hang your hat on, consider the Golden Rule. If someone walked up to you at a party and pitched an multi-level marketing scheme before they learned your name, what would you do? Run? Step on their foot and call it an accident? Set a lethal trap? Yeah.

Listen 80% of the Time.

The sad thing is that there are lots of people on Twitter who probably would be interested to hear about your thing, whatever it is. But only if you position it within the broader context of your life, your interests, and your passions. Be somebody on Twitter. Find kindred spirits along a spectrum of interests, hobbies, and shared experiences. Talk to those people, answer questions, share links and resources. Use services like Mr. Tweet to find more people who share common interests and goals. Talk to them, listen to who they think is cool and follow those people too. Ask for introductions, and introduce users yourself. Engage.

Then, something crazy happens: when you start pitching your ideas or your products, it will not be the only thing that anyone knows about you. People who like and trust you might take a look where they would never check out the same link from a stranger. Your open and honest disclosure of your self-interest will be taken in the spirit of friendship. Remember, people don't want to be sold, but they love to be served.

That's it, really. You can find more information about where I think Twitter is headed, advertising-wise, at my Squidoo lens on Twitter Marketing Best Practices. You can read a lot more on my blog, as well. And of course, you can read Trust Agents, because it is chock full of case studies and insights on the meaning of trust online.


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