June 25, 2007
Blog Entry

Facebook Spam on the Rise -- the Changing Face of Email Permission

SUMMARY: No summary available.
By Anne Holland, Content Director

MarketingSherpa reader Raquel Hirsch of Hirsch Strategies Inc. in Vancouver just wrote in response to my blog last week about MySpace and Facebook replacing email for Gen Y:

"I have two daughters, both away at University. For the last few years (one is on her second degree), whenever I *absolutely* had to get them to get back to me on something, I would text message them (as an "over 40," it motivated me to learn how to do it :>).

However, as you point out, since both have been home for the last few weeks I've noticed they are constantly not only checking their Facebook account, but updating their profiles and messaging (so, being a persistent mum, I got an account ... now I just have to get them to agree to link up with me ... but that's a different story).

BUT, and it's a huge but, my youngest commented to me this weekend that there is starting to be too much spam on Facebook and that she is starting to delete messages without reading."

The first thing I did when I received this note from Raquel was to call across the office to our college intern, "Hey, do you ever get spam in your Facebook account?"

Why, yes, she answered. In fact, she got her first Facebook spam just last Wednesday.

The spam message came from a friend. "Well, he's not a real friend, he's a Facebook friend," she explained. The difference? Through various Web 2.0-style connections, this young man joined a Facebook group that our intern was a member of. And now he's starting to post what she considers spam -- in this case a promotional message for White Stripes.

She doesn't think it's the band's fault, or the marketing team behind the band. She just blames the young man. There's little anger, just bland resignation.

Will she stop joining Facebook groups now that members sometimes post spam? "Oh, no. Of course, I'll continue to join groups. You get these invitations all the time, and it's rude not to say yes. If I don't like something I can just delete it."

And that's the crux of the matter.

Best practices in email permission (I'm almost tempted to say "good old-fashioned email permission") dictate that you only send messages to consumers who have eagerly raised their hands by proactively giving you their email addresses and perhaps checking a special box.

However, now Gen Y increasingly uses their Facebook or MySpace accounts as their primary online personal messaging accounts, leaving traditional email, together with traditional permission, behind in the dust.

What's Facebook permission? Well, it's a lot like classic email discussion groups, where once you join a group you'll get all the messages sent within that group. If you're not interested, you have to leave the group.

However, the difference now is, it's often personal. Your groups may have been started or initiated by a personal friend or a friend of a friend. And this person, or someone they know, might be personally offended if you decline an invitation to join a group … or if you leave a group.

So, as our intern explained, when she gets an invite to join another Facebook group -- which occurs about every week or so -- she politely clicks on the "join" button.

Generally, she's not joining because she wants to give "permission" to receive messages about something she's fairly interested in. She's joining because she doesn't want to decline someone and, what the heck, some of the messages might be interesting.

So, on the one hand, she's more personally connected to this group than to many email lists she might also be on. On the other hand, she may be far less interested in the group's messages than she is in email she signed up for. The permission wasn't given for the sake of the content, it was for the sake of the connection.

I can't predict how this whole thing will play out, but I can tell you that there's a whole new ballgame in permission. And spam, in any media whatsoever -- even hip hot 2.0 -- will be ignored by its recipients.

Related links:

Last week's blog on Gen Y and email:

Raquel Hirsch's company site:


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