Is it spam when you submit your own content to a social news site? Is it spam if you have your friend submit the content? Is it spam if your friend submits content when you didn’t specifically ask them to? Where’s the line between marketing and spam?
Earlier this week a thread started at Webmaster-Talk developed into a discussion of these very questions. Thread starter John posted to let everyone know he had the moderators of his forum submit the site to StumbleUpon and the result was a few hundred visits. John wanted to share his discovery with the WT forum in the hopes it could help drive traffic to the sites of other members.
It didn’t take long before John was being lumped in with spammerkind, but was it really spam? Maybe, maybe not.
I’ve known John on the forum for a few months and in all that time I’ve always found him to be an honest person. I don’t believe it even occurred to John that submitting his own content to the site would be considered wrong. The intention here was not to spam.
The submission clearly notes that a friend’s site is being submitted.
my friends site has some games on it and stuff go check it out
The site in question does have games and stuff. It’s an honest review. So is it spam just because it was submitted by someone associated with John’s site?
If you look at John’s profile (Goheadtry) at SU his activity has mainly been to promote his own site and from StumbleUpon’s TOS
Accounts created with the primary intention to promote a product or service are considered SPAM
It does seem like John is pushing the TOS of his account. My hunch is that John is being more naive than spamming, but where exactly is the line between social media marketing and spam.
The idea behind most social voting sites is that people add content they think is worth sharing with the community. If the community likes it they vote it up so more in the community will see it. If they don’t like the content it gets voted down where few will see it again. Won’t the same happen with John’s content regardless of who submitted it?
The question of where marketing crosses over into spam is one of those ask 100 people get a 100 different answers questions. The line moves for each of us. For me it’s all about respecting and contributing to the community, much like the etiquette for leaving comment links. If your content contributes to the community then it’s fine to submit it yourself or ask someone you know to submit. As long as you contribute content to the site that isn’t your own and participate honestly in the system I see no reason why you can’t drop in a page from your site when it’s appropriate.
The community around the site will be the final arbiter. Spam on Digg might not be spam on Sphinn. Digg mistrusts marketers. Sphinn is primarily made up of marketers.
Marketing is not spam by definition, though many seem to equate one with the other by default. It all depends on the context. What is appropriate in one place might not be appropriate in another, but you need that context to make the determination.
Where do you see the line? Not necessarily in John’s specific case, but in general. Where does social media marketing cross over into spam? Is it about intentions? Respect for the community? Or is any attempt to market yourself spam?