Lee Odden

Spamming Social Media

The buzz amongst online marketers and bloggers about marketing with social media has generated a lot of interesting discussion. One of the memes I’ve been noticing is the issue of spamming social media. A particular aspect brought to my attention recently is the idea that by making it easier for users to bookmark or “vote” for content on social news and bookmarking services, perhaps by using our social bookmarks link tool, that it’s an invitation to spam.

There’s a difference between ease of submission and getting to the first page of a social news or bookmarking site, where the most benefit is. The communities of those social media sites provide a self policing effect against most types of SM spam. I agree, that making submissions easier may attract abuse, but it will be noise hanging at the bottom.

Any experienced search or social media marketer knows there are ways to initially “boost” articles on social media sites, but that can only go so far. In most cases, the articles hit the “popular” list (del.icio.us) or first page (Digg) based on merit, not manipulation. ie, it’s pretty tough to “fake” the number of votes required to get that kind of placement. And even if they are faked, there is the self policing editorial process of the community and algorithmic detection of “group voting”.

Example: A friend of mine let me know he posted to Digg a blog post I wrote recently, “Blogger Relations 101“. I took the initiative to then use the form Digg provides on it’s site to invite about 10 people to look at the article summary at Digg. Some of them voted, some of them did not. Within 3 hours the post hit the Digg front page after getting more than 150 votes. The post also hit the del.icio.us popular page with ZERO effort from me. Within 5-6 hours there were over 2500 new unique visitors to my blog all because of one blog post. New traffic continues to roll in. This article would not have gathered attention if it did not have merit.

Another angle on the use of social bookmarks is in the context of the social media press release format. However, social news and bookmark communities (at least now) are not prone to voting for press releases. They vote for articles in mainstream media, blog posts, web 2.0 applications or videos for the most part. This may change, especially as the new media press release format improves and gets used more often.

Anyone concerned about spamming social media should consider that social online communities have built in social and technical self policing mechanisms that are continually evolving. That doesn’t mean the system can’t be gamed, but it’s not exactly the wild west either. The success of social media is directly tied to the quality of content and user experience. Spamming social media directly contradicts that and users are quick to point it out and “bury” or “kill” efforts to do so.

In a way, it’s like spamming thought aggressive search engine optimization or press release spam. Results are short lived, if at all, risky and more often than not, not worth the trouble. Great optimized content is what drives long term value and results anyway. I think the same goes for social media, press releases or any other kind of content. What do you think?

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Lee Odden About Lee Odden

@LeeOdden is the CEO of TopRank Marketing and editor of Online Marketing Blog. Cited for his expertise by The Economist, Forbes and the Wall Street Journal, he's the author of the book Optimize and presents internationally on B2B marketing topics including content, search, social media and influencer marketing. When not at conferences, consulting, or working with his talented team, he's likely running, traveling or cooking up something new.


  1. About social spam you said

    […but it will be noise hanging at the bottom]

    Remember the tale “Villiage Wine”, where nobody
    thought their little bit of wine would be missed
    from the town festival? Social spam is a similar
    thing in reverse. My few social self-diggs etc.
    wont affect things, so why not..?

    My position on this topic may be misunderstood.
    I have no problem with making it easier via chicklets
    to encourage socializing. But what I see is a lack
    of discretion as to what should and shouldn’t be
    socialized to any given social venue. If someone socializes
    a press release about a new dry cleaners web site in Duluth, it’s sort of silly, and nobody gets hurt (or dugg :), but if this is a fictitious example (today) of noise at the bottom, to me it’s the pollution of the commons, noticed or not.

    I’ve been guilty in the past of silly socializing, and I do understand that one man’s spam is another man’s headline news
    (Hey, I’ve been looking for a dry cleaners in Duluth!!!)

    My position today is social spam is not going to kill the social golden goose, but the goose does bring out the worst of the spammers, and for me that’s like people who toss “only one” cigarette butt out their car window and think it doesn’t make a difference..:)


  2. If nothing else, this was a good test to see if you read this blog Eric 🙂

    As long as there is the myth of the quick fix or shortcut, yes I do agree that new services will attract no-good doers with visions of over manipulation returning free and easy benefits.

    However, I still think that the social media communities will do a good job at self policing. Otherwise, their communities will die.

  3. […However, I still think that the social media communities will do a good job at self policing. …]

    This is my experience as well, albeit confined to one community: MySpace.

    As I detail in my How-To Guide on using MySpace for promotion, some of my inappropriate group forum postings were removed fairly quickly

  4. Lee – I not only read your blog, it’s on my MyYahoo feed page. of must-reads. You are a brilliant strategist and I learn something from you each and every week. LinkMoses knows that to stop learning is to stop living. 🙂

  5. Erwin, I do agree. A different platform, but many of the same dynamics.

  6. Why is it that people who are fantastic at link building offer the best compliments? 🙂 You are too kind Eric.

    “..to stop learning is to stop living.”
    Talk about hitting the nail on the head!

  7. Avatar SEM Basics says

    In your article you wrote:

    “I took the initiative to then use the form Digg provides on it

  8. Moshe, you make a very good point. I think part of the reason Digg encourages sharing of stories is to expand their user base. If you notify friends who are not Digg users, they are then presented with the option of registering so they can “vote” on the story you’ve shared with them. Very clever.

    To get a story “Dugg” you must also pay attention to a well written post title and description. Short, sweet and compelling are important characteristics.

    Another thing you can do is to add a Digg badge to your website or blog post. Once someone “Diggs” the page once, it will show the count and a link to allow anyone else (who is registered with Digg) to vote for the article.

    There is no one solution to getting traction out of social news and bookmarking sites. But make not mistake, excellent content is #1 whether you have a network or not.

  9. Avatar SEM Basics says

    Hello Lee,

    I agree that excellent content is the key, I’m just wondering if a social network is the key-chain (so to speak). I have not taken the time to research this, but through casual observation I notice that many popular sites seem to do very well on digg and other social media sites. Of course, these sites are usually popular because they put out good content, but they also have other things going for them, such as a loyal user base and quality industry contacts. It’s kind of like the adage (sp?) that it takes money to make money. Perhpas it takes popularity to make popularity. What I am wondering is how often do small sites which are relatively unknown get dugg. I imagine if their content is tops then it happens, but what about when it is only very good, or really solid. I imagine in those cases the social network provides a nice advantage.

    While we are on the topic, I think that niche social media sites can compensate for this problem. For instance, recently I had an article which did relatively well on SearchMob, but not so well on digg itself. I think one of the reasons is that SearchMob is a popular site in general, but doesn’t get a ton of submissions (thus allowing for some decent exposure for my article). Digg, on the other hand, is much larger and it is harder for my target audience to even see my article at all, let alone evaluate it.

    My guess is that the nature of the larger social media sites gives a boost to the more established sites which have extra tools at their disposal, whereas niche sites can help bring exposure to start-ups and the like who don’t have those tools. At least it’s a theory…

    Be well,


  10. This is a very interesting discussion that will go on and on. Funny coincidence, I posted my considerations on social spam yesterday on my blog. I’m sure people are frowning upon press releases and shameless self promotion via social bookmarking or networks. It’s just noise, not information or service.

    Thank you for the great post,


  11. Self promotion is noise only if there is no “real” substance to the information. At the same time, most social communities to not trust self reported stories, so companies (like mine) should do a better job at avoiding that temptation.

  12. Avatar Balazs Balint says

    I absolutely agree with You, Lee. I consider spamming every action, that gives no real value to users. On the other hand more than a thousand visitors per our can worth nothing if they can not experience real value. I believe in user value. That is my “hobby”: to find the value in every activity. Thoose campagns are succesful which give real value to users. But to inform users about a content is valuable? To be honest it is really hard to separate “light-spamming” from valuable promotion.
    I think the key is exact targeting. That makes a communication campaign valuable for the company- and with professional content it is valuable for the users. Just like this blog.


  1. Starked SF, Unforgiving News from the Bay » Blog Archive » Talk of the Town: Friday says:

    […] Online Marketing Blog: Spamming Social Media. […]

  2. […] Lee over at Top Rank was talking about this very thing before the conversation was started as well in his post titled, Spamming Social Media. Any experienced search or social media marketer knows there are ways to initially

  3. […] Nial Kennedy posts a very well written and thorough description of the spam problems with social news sites like digg. I’ve posted before about whether social media optimization was spam or not and have taken the position that the communities of these social news and bookmarking sites are strong enough to self-police. But now I’m not so sure. Hat tip to Brian Prince. […]

  4. […] Spamming social media sites has been a hot topic ever since they first came onto the scene. “Gaming” Digg, Youtube and other social sites has and continues to attract overly aggressive marketers trying to exploit loopholes even though cheaters are easily spotted. […]