Social Media Etiquette: Good Intentions or Not, Spam IS Spam


This post is going to irritate some people. This may make people mad. Heck, I may even be un-friended or worse, un-liked! But it needs to be said. Sending out repeated mass e-mails to all your Facebook Friends or LinkedIn connections is spam (and that goes double for links spamming @ replies on Twitter).

Maybe you are a non-profit and trying to get the word out about your cause. Maybe you have an event you are trying to promote. That still doesn’t mean you can send out repeated mass e-mail messages via ANY social media platform.

You should have an e-mail list that people have opted into for messages about your events or about your cause. E-mail services such as Constant Contact, iContact, aweber or MailChimp will help you manage your opted-in e-mail list.

Just because someone is your Facebook friend, LinkedIn connection or Twitter follower doesn’t mean that you can spam the crap out of them.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m all about using social media to promote your business or cause. Let’s just be reasonable. Use it the right way. Don’t use social media for mass mailings just because they are available.

The trouble with Facebook e-mail is that you cannot control the privacy. You cannot BCC people so anytime someone responds to the e-mail everyone is copied on that response. The message above was sent to 172 people. That is spam because I did not opt-in to receive this mass message. If you do this, I guarantee you will lose friends!

But what if it is for a good cause? Still spam. In fact, you may get banned from sending Facebook e-mails if you send too many e-mails with links in them. Facebook monitors e-mails and links and flags accounts that send too many (check out their post about e-mail spam).

And for goodness sake, don’t post links on every friend’s Facebook Walls about your cause or event. That’s just like putting a yard sign in someone’s lawn without asking. Not good.

Another form of spam is on Twitter to @mention everyone you know to ask them to retweet your link. Yikes! Who wants to follow someone who’s Twitter stream is just full of you asking every single person you know to retweet your tweet? Nobody. Those accounts quickly get blocked and reported as spammers.

So how do you get the word out about your cause or event in the right way?

You can still post a gazillion Facebook Updates, LinkedIn Status updates or Tweets about your cause or event (although perhaps a gazillion is overkill). You can have a Facebook list or LinkedIn list of people who are interested in hearing about your events. And you can encourage people to share this information with their communities.

How to Get the Word Out the Right Way

#1: Post status updates about your event or cause via Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter – Vary your posts so you aren’t always talking about the same thing. Sprinkle in helpful articles, tips, thank you messages to people who help further your cause or event.

#2: Ask people to help get the word out – You can ask people in your status update to click share to help you reach more people. You can also individually e-mail your friends to help or ask your e-mail your opt-in list to help spread the word. Just don’t do a mass mailing on your Facebook or LinkedIn profiles. If you have been doing a good job helping other people with their causes and promotion, then they will help you.

#3: Run a fun contest or event that naturally gets shared – Making things fun will promote natural sharing of your event without you having to even ask.

#4: Create a Friends List or group who does want to help your cause – Start building connections who will help your cause by sharing it on Facebook, retweeting it or sharing the posts on LinkedIn. You can build this list through a Friends List and call it “Supporters” or something like that.  Then you can e-mail this list every time you have something you would like them to share if they can (make sure they all agree to the group mailing prior to sending it!) You can also Tag people in LinkedIn and send a group message. Again, make sure people agree to a mass mailing.

#5: Enlist the help of retweet buddies – You can also personally ask people for a retweet who have previously said that they will retweet your special tweets. Many people have either a formal or informal agreement that they will retweet your tweets if you will retweet theirs. Not every tweet of course, just the tweets where you need more visibility. Again, make sure you are reciprocating their good deeds!

Now, I am no angel. I admit I have used the mass mailing feature on these services. It’s tempting to try and get the word out! But I’m improving and setting policies so I don’t fall off the spam-wagon. The big thing to remember is to continually add value to your community and make sure you aren’t constantly promoting. I don’t want you to get banned, blocked, unliked, unlinked or hidden. The horror!

Grandma Mary is a slightly cranky Social Media Edutainer, helping small businesses leverage the power of social media. She provides entertaining how-to videos on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn and more. Her alter ego, Andrea Vahl, is the co-author of Facebook Marketing All-in-One for Dummies. You can find Grandma and Andrea at


About Author

Grandma Mary is a Social Media Edutainer. Learning social media is wayyyy more fun with Grandma Mary Need a step-by-step guide to Twitter or Facebook? Check out her e-books How to Use Twitter to Grow Your Business and How to Use Facebook to Grow Your Business.


  1. Amen Grandma Mary! 

    This is so true.  Unfortunately I rarely check my facebook direct messages anymore because of this very reason.  And posting on others pages to promote yours without permission or invitation is rude.  Another one on facebook is tagging MANY people…  If it isn’t directly related or not including the person you are tagging – DON’T DO IT!

    Thank you for your great tips to educate people.  I truly believe most people are not aware.  If someone spams me, I send them a friendly private note asking them to reframe from doing so.  And I have a three strikes your out guideline!

    Excellent post! 

  2. Hi Grandma Mary,

    Thanks for sharing.  I may have already ask you this on Twitter, but what do you do when your boss asks you to “make this viral” how do you respond?  I work as a social media marketing coordinator for a startup b2b daily deal site, and I’m trying to figure out how to do my job better without spamming.  But sometimes it seems that’s the only option I’ll have left.  Isn’t it a slow and steady process? I thought so when I got hired.  Am I right in believing it’s all about joining communities?  Commenting on blogs, joining forums, being a thought leader and writing blog articles, and writing press releases?  Am I missing anything?  Any tips would be helpful. 

  3. Great question Puneet! So many people want “viral” without really understanding how that happens. You can’t “make” something viral. You have to have built solid relationships with people who will share your content. Carla is a perfect example – she tweets something out and she has 100 people retweet her post because she has built great relationships and shared other people’s content. The only things that naturally go viral without any help are crazy cat videos. You are correct that it is slow and steady! Those are all great options on how to connect with people but it’s also about sharing other people’s good content so they will share yours (but don’t only give to get, make sure you know that just because you retweet someone, that doesn’t mean they have to retweet you back) Hope that helps!

  4. So, does the new phenomenon on Twitter- Triberr count as spam? Some of my followers are up in arms about this method of RT-ing posts without quality control first.  Are they right?

  5. By choosing your tribe mates wisely AND if necessary, reviewing before tweeting (that means using the manual setting), you are essentially ensuring quality control. I can see, however, your followers may be concerned about the automated nature of Triberr, but like anything, it all depends on how you use it.

    Grandma Mary, any thoughts?

  6. I agree Carla!  I think you always have to be concerned over automation because it can lead to people just not being present at all.  Which is anti-social media!  But like Carla said if you very carefully chose your partners and you would be retweeting them anyway, then it can make your life easier!

  7. Hallelujah!!! I was just thinking of how I hate getting spam on Twitter or anywhere for that matter. I am not that far along in my business marketing to have a mass email or opt in yet but I am glad I read this first so I am not that annoying business that people start to ignore or unfriend altogether. 

    Thanks so much for this information!

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  9. I like how this post included examples for people like myself that are still learning. I appreciate and understand your message, thank you for posting it!

  10. This is a very good post. It’s so easy and tempting to abuse our email rights on most social media. However it is my belief that most who take advantage does not realize the personal invasion of space that occurs and the inadvertant sharing of addresses.

  11. Thanks for the article. I’m going to bookmark this and reply to people who send me unsolicited emails. Yesterday I got one that said, “Would you like to buy my products?” I wanted to write, “Don’t you think I’d be at your freakin’ page if I wanted to buy your crap?” but I refrained. The worst offense has been being added to multiple groups, but now that’s the only option Facebook gives you. So chalk one up to Social Media sites for now teaching people to be rude. Fabulous. 

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