When virality becomes spam

BranchOut is making waves in the professional networking services space by utilizing Facebook to help you network faster and easier. LinkedIn should be worried as the “Facebook Utility” approach seems like the way of the future vs. stand-alone services.

One thing bugs me though.

I like the simplicity of the BranchOut sign-up process and the way you have your profile set up in a matter of minutes. All great – exactly the way I want it. But then I start hitting the well hidden social landmines.

Before I even realize it I’ve spammed most of my friends Facebook walls with invites. Ok…hold on a sec – I want to connect with these guys but not like this.

Don’t get me wrong I’m all for integrating your service with Facebook but this is to me a clear example of an execution that crosses the “from viral to spam” line.

I’m sure BranchOut got a lot of buzz and new users by creating the spam attack most of us were subjected to when they launched but at the same time I’m willing to bet they lost of lot of potential users and harmed their brand by doing it. I for one (and I know I’m not alone) blocked the application from posting to my Wall – and thus am effectively not getting ANY networking requests from my friends that use the service. For me BranchOut is no longer an option.

In my opinion the same effect could have been achieved with direct user-to-user messages on Facebook. It may not have caused such a “bang” for launch but would have created a more sustained viral effect (and would not have shut anyone out in the process) and also kept the brand / service from getting the “annoying spammer” classification.

All in all the lesson here is this: Tread carefully when integrating your service to Facebook. The line between clever viral expansion and spam is crucial to spot and not to cross.

How to do it? It is simple really (if you just take your “marketer” hat off for a sec): Don’t exploit your users, respect their privacy and create a killer service that they want to share out of their free will. Just think how you would react when your service starts to spam your wall / inbox…and don’t piss off yourself.

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Conversational Marketing

This almost brings a tear to my eye :)

Check out this really nice recap presentation of the thinking that has been happening in and around the Nokia Digital Marketing team during the past few years. I’ve been fortunate enough to work closely with this brilliant group of thinkers and advocates of change and I gotta say I miss those days. Not to say that this is the end of the collaboration – maybe more an end of an era.

Anyhow…check it out and let me know what you think!

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More on the concept of Social Media Ethos

Reading Scott Berkun’s post on Calling bullshit on Social Media made me think more about my concept of Social Media Ethos. In my original post I was only applying it to brands and companies but after reading Scott’s post I think it actually should apply to everyone who is in some way involved in Social Media. From agencies and experts to us individuals.

So we all should follow the principles of Social Media Ethos
(first crack – send me your thoughts!)

  • Be unselfish: “Give love to get love”.
  • Be transparent, open and honest.
  • Don’t pretend you know best. You don’t and people will call your bluff.
  • Respect others: Listen instead of just talking.
  • Admit when you are wrong, apologize and make up for your mistakes.
  • Follow the Golden Rule (Like Scott said: This one might be impossible as history has shown but let’s at least give it a try)

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