Where’s The Line With Twitter “Spam”?

Do you find it helpful when people link to their latest content on Twitter?

Tweetstats says I’ve posted an average of about 25 tweets per day since September 2007. In the last few months, I’ve averaged over 40. Each weekday, one of those tweets is usually to my latest blog post. 

The question is, does that tweet add any value to your stream or is it just spam?

Back in March, during the ghost blogging saga, someone mentioned on my site that they were far more concerned about the ethics of people posting links to their own content on sites like Twitter than they were about people using ghost writers to produce content under their name. Ever since then, whenever I link to my own content I’ve wondered whether it’s a good practice.

Every day I decide that I think it’s ok.

Different types of self-linking?

Jennifer Mattern points out two different types of self-linking which may fall into the category of spam:

  • Manual posts
  • Automatic posts

My links fall into the former. If I feel my post is worth it (I usually do, or I wouldn’t have published it) I’ll manually write something in Twitter and post it. Others use automated services like Twitterfeed or blog plugins like Twitter Tools. I used to use them, but decided I preferred the choice of posting the link or not and being able to write something a little more ‘human’ to people.

Does it matter into which of these groups you fall? Not necessarily. A manual poster (TechCrunch, for example) may post multiple links per day while automated posts might be way less frequent.

The main difference here is in the level of personalization. I’m much more likely not to tweet an issue from within the post than I am to post simply the headline. That’s evolved over time, but it’s where I stand now. Meanwhile, automated posts are, well, automated – they don’t vary in format or based on nuances in the content. In that regard, perhaps automated links are more likely to be “spammy.”

Does volume matter?

Is there a line to be crossed? Is posting one self-link every 40-45 posts any different to posting 35 self-links within that same volume? Is it different to one post per day, always linking to yourself? Some would argue not. I would argue there is. If you’re constantly having conversations – discussing things, offering advice and sharing. I think that builds-up the social capital to be able to throw in an occasional link to your content.

If you post 39-44 tweets per day which converse with others, or point to other interesting content, does one post really constitute spam?

Changing audience behaviours

As Bill Sledzik pointed out in Mattern’s comments, it seems that more and more people in this space are looking to Twitter for their reading material nowadays. So, even if people subscribe to someone’s site, they may not check their reader regularly now due to the volume of great content flowing through Twitter, so they may miss a lot of your content.

On the flip side, does someone following you on Twitter mean they’ve signed-up to see links to your blog? Might engaging, interactive content be a better way of driving people to your site?

From my perspective, people who choose to follow you have chosen to read whatever you post. I always appreciate feedback on how I go about things and am willing to change, but at the end of the day people have the ultimate sanction – they can simply stop following you if you continuously post irrelevant things.

If my audience is spending most of their time on Twitter rather than their RSS reader, and I have content of which I’m proud, I’m inclined to post it there.

What’s more, as good communicators know, people usually need a call to action in order to do something. If you want people to read your posts and give you their feedback, you’re much more likely to get that if you point people in that direction. So, if you post all the conversational content in the world but very little of that is necessarily related to your website content, few people will click through. Of course, perhaps that means we should be a little more thoughtful about what we post on Twitter. Perhaps when you’ve blogged about ghost writing, you should post more tweets about that topic.

Your thoughts?

Note: I’m not asking whether linking to your own content is right or wrong. As I mentioned yesterday, there are shades of grey in social media and one person’s “rules” are often irrelevant to another. Guy Kawasaki has 115k followers to an account that is largely automated, so who am I to say it’s wrong? Still, Guy’s audience is not my audience.

I’m really interested to hear what you think on this. Does posting occasional links to your own content constitute Twitter spam?

24 comments
Bill Sledzik
Bill Sledzik

I'm late to the party, Dave. I must have missed your tweet last Friday! But also, the link didn't show up on my stats until yesterday.

Not sure there's much more to add other than to underscore the point I made in a comment on Jenn Mattern's post last week. Those who follow us on Twitter do so voluntarily, and that makes it permission-based. I don't feel guilty about tweeting my blog posts, nor to I feel bad (or even notice) if someone unfollows me. It happens.

But, like you, I do try to keep the "horn tooting" to a minimum. And if it eventually becomes uncool to tweet one's posts, I'll stop.

Bill Sledzik
Bill Sledzik

I'm late to the party, Dave. I must have missed your tweet last Friday! But also, the link didn't show up on my stats until yesterday.   Not sure there's much more to add other than to underscore the point I made in a comment on Jenn Mattern's post last week. Those who follow us on Twitter do so voluntarily, and that makes it permission-based. I don't feel guilty about tweeting my blog posts, nor to I feel bad (or even notice) if someone unfollows me. It happens.   But, like you, I do try to keep the "horn tooting" to a minimum. And if it eventually becomes uncool to tweet one's posts, I'll stop.

Linnet Woods
Linnet Woods

I don't have a problem with people I follow tweeting a link to their own stuff, or even several, in amongst their other tweets, as it becomes relevant. That's what I do myself and people can tell me if they don't like it but nobody has said anything so far.

One or two people have DMd to ask if I would move my daily quiz to another account because they thought it 'spammy' and I have suggested that they simply un-follow me because the quiz unites a great many people in fun once a day, whether playing or following the players and comic tweeters who keep us all laughing with their spoof answers.

If I feel someone is spamming me, I will DM them to suggest they add a bit more conversation to the mix or reduce the frequency of self-promoting tweets and if they still spam me I just quietly un-follow them.

Some people's constant stream of linked tweets are very useful, after all, if they are tweeting stuff one wants to stay abreast of!

I don't think any of us should be drawing lines for each other. If your activities are anti-social, your falling follower count will, surely, create a line all by itself!

Linnet Woods
Linnet Woods

I don't have a problem with people I follow tweeting a link to their own stuff, or even several, in amongst their other tweets, as it becomes relevant. That's what I do myself and people can tell me if they don't like it but nobody has said anything so far. One or two people have DMd to ask if I would move my daily quiz to another account because they thought it 'spammy' and I have suggested that they simply un-follow me because the quiz unites a great many people in fun once a day, whether playing or following the players and comic tweeters who keep us all laughing with their spoof answers. If I feel someone is spamming me, I will DM them to suggest they add a bit more conversation to the mix or reduce the frequency of self-promoting tweets and if they still spam me I just quietly un-follow them. Some people's constant stream of linked tweets are very useful, after all, if they are tweeting stuff one wants to stay abreast of! I don't think any of us should be drawing lines for each other. If your activities are anti-social, your falling follower count will, surely, create a line all by itself!

Aaron
Aaron

Two things (my opinions): 1) I'm one of those "ghost writers" who gets paid to write content for sites. As far as I'm concerned, when I write that content, it is my content until I publish it. It is then the site owner's content. Readers should understand that 80% of the stuff you read online was probably not written by the person publishing it or whose name is on it. Neither are most of the "autobiographies" you read. Ghost writing is one of the largest sectors of writing both online and off--it's just not as glamorous as writing novels or screenplays. :)

2) Spam is something everyone knows about, but no one can really define. As far as I'm concerned, if the service you're using (like Twitter) gives you the ability to block or "unfriend" people you don't want to hear from, nothing you're receiving through that service is spam. You can unsubscribe from any feed you're getting. I do this all the time, as I'm not into network marketing other than to write about it when people ask me to. If I get more than a couple of "join my MLM" or "see how great this $-making blah blah is" from someone (within a few hours of each other), I blcok them from my Tweet feed.

I do this with emails (blacklists) and so forth. One more note: if you're creating a Twitter or Facebook or whatever account for your marketing, be sure to say that in your bio. Nothing peeves people more than listing yourself as "normal" and then having a feed full of marketing links. THAT will get your account shut down faster than anything. Twitter and Facebook could care less if you're "legitimate" or not, if they get enough complaints, it's easier for them to just close your account than it is to "work it out."

Anyway, I personally can't see how Twitter can be that great of a tool for marketing, but maybe that's because I'm not into marketing. :)

Aaron
Aaron

Two things (my opinions): 1) I'm one of those "ghost writers" who gets paid to write content for sites. As far as I'm concerned, when I write that content, it is my content until I publish it. It is then the site owner's content. Readers should understand that 80% of the stuff you read online was probably not written by the person publishing it or whose name is on it. Neither are most of the "autobiographies" you read. Ghost writing is one of the largest sectors of writing both online and off--it's just not as glamorous as writing novels or screenplays. :) 2) Spam is something everyone knows about, but no one can really define. As far as I'm concerned, if the service you're using (like Twitter) gives you the ability to block or "unfriend" people you don't want to hear from, nothing you're receiving through that service is spam. You can unsubscribe from any feed you're getting. I do this all the time, as I'm not into network marketing other than to write about it when people ask me to. If I get more than a couple of "join my MLM" or "see how great this $-making blah blah is" from someone (within a few hours of each other), I blcok them from my Tweet feed. I do this with emails (blacklists) and so forth. One more note: if you're creating a Twitter or Facebook or whatever account for your marketing, be sure to say that in your bio. Nothing peeves people more than listing yourself as "normal" and then having a feed full of marketing links. THAT will get your account shut down faster than anything. Twitter and Facebook could care less if you're "legitimate" or not, if they get enough complaints, it's easier for them to just close your account than it is to "work it out." Anyway, I personally can't see how Twitter can be that great of a tool for marketing, but maybe that's because I'm not into marketing. :)

Greg Wall
Greg Wall

I believe that 'gray areas' do not really exist. If someone else contends they do then the difference in our opinion is the 'gray area' between my black and their white.

Greg Wall
Greg Wall

I believe that 'gray areas' do not really exist. If someone else contends they do then the difference in our opinion is the 'gray area' between my black and their white.

Danny Brown
Danny Brown

I'd say "No", it doesn't constitute as spam. Think of conversations you have offline. Generally you'll talk about work and what you do, as well as the other stuff happening in your life. Why would Twitter be any different? People will either like it or not, and that's the choice at the end of the day.

Danny Brown
Danny Brown

I'd say "No", it doesn't constitute as spam.

Think of conversations you have offline. Generally you'll talk about work and what you do, as well as the other stuff happening in your life.

Why would Twitter be any different?

People will either like it or not, and that's the choice at the end of the day.

Matthias
Matthias

Interesting post. Twit spams are those that are irrelevant to the readers. Does not matter if you twit 20 times a day about your personal life and link it to your blog. As long as your readers find value in your twit then it is not a spam. Twit with the readers in mind. My 2cents.

Matthias
Matthias

Interesting post. Twit spams are those that are irrelevant to the readers. Does not matter if you twit 20 times a day about your personal life and link it to your blog. As long as your readers find value in your twit then it is not a spam. Twit with the readers in mind. My 2cents.

Louise Armstrong
Louise Armstrong

i really enjoy your blog and read the posts semi-regularly through my reader. i'm okay with people occasionally tweeting links but personally, i think it should be selective, not automatic. for example, if there's a major news story happening and someone blogs about it, it's okay to tweet the link but, imho, tweeting about every blog post could be venturing into the spam territory.

Louise Armstrong
Louise Armstrong

i really enjoy your blog and read the posts semi-regularly through my reader. i'm okay with people occasionally tweeting links but personally, i think it should be selective, not automatic. for example, if there's a major news story happening and someone blogs about it, it's okay to tweet the link but, imho, tweeting about every blog post could be venturing into the spam territory.

Sean Bailey
Sean Bailey

"If you’re constantly having conversations - discussing things, offering advice and sharing. I think that builds-up the social capital to be able to throw in an occasional link to your content." - Great point.
Twitter is (or can be) snippets of conversations about broader topics. One way to facilitate that conversation is through blogging. If you want to discuss something that's important to you, why not post a link to a post you just wrote, and then discuss it on twitter or here in the comments section?
-Sean (@InSeansOpinion)

Sean Bailey
Sean Bailey

"If you’re constantly having conversations - discussing things, offering advice and sharing. I think that builds-up the social capital to be able to throw in an occasional link to your content." - Great point. Twitter is (or can be) snippets of conversations about broader topics. One way to facilitate that conversation is through blogging. If you want to discuss something that's important to you, why not post a link to a post you just wrote, and then discuss it on twitter or here in the comments section? -Sean (@InSeansOpinion)

The Lovable Rogue
The Lovable Rogue

Completely agree with you Lindsey; a single tweet highlighting a blog post in a regular stream of tweets is fine. It's when a person repeats two or three tweets ten to twenty times in a day that it becomes spammy; a practice I have recently experienced with some of my followers...

One of the interesting elements to emerge from the Twitter platform going mainstream is the increasing importance of having to really sell content. As the torrent of tweet streams swell, we are having to work harder to draw attention to the content we post. It is important to note that this is true not just for our content, but for any content that we choose to bring to the attention of the community. How we use the 140 character limit to sell this content is hugely important, and if employed monotonously, this headline capacity will fail to draw clicks; irrespective of who has produced it. The best analogy I can give is that of a paper. When you buy a newspaper (or subscribe to a feed), you assume that there will be some articles written by the paper's own staff, in addition to the insertion of outside thoughts and opinion. This is something we buy into in both cases. As you suggest Dave, if we don't like it, we can simply cut it off.

At the end of the day, it's about drawing attention. If you are creative in how you do this, then I think it's ok to post links to your own content. The success or otherwise thereof will ultimately be determined by the community.

Chris
TLR

The Lovable Rogue
The Lovable Rogue

Completely agree with you Lindsey; a single tweet highlighting a blog post in a regular stream of tweets is fine. It's when a person repeats two or three tweets ten to twenty times in a day that it becomes spammy; a practice I have recently experienced with some of my followers... One of the interesting elements to emerge from the Twitter platform going mainstream is the increasing importance of having to really sell content. As the torrent of tweet streams swell, we are having to work harder to draw attention to the content we post. It is important to note that this is true not just for our content, but for any content that we choose to bring to the attention of the community. How we use the 140 character limit to sell this content is hugely important, and if employed monotonously, this headline capacity will fail to draw clicks; irrespective of who has produced it. The best analogy I can give is that of a paper. When you buy a newspaper (or subscribe to a feed), you assume that there will be some articles written by the paper's own staff, in addition to the insertion of outside thoughts and opinion. This is something we buy into in both cases. As you suggest Dave, if we don't like it, we can simply cut it off. At the end of the day, it's about drawing attention. If you are creative in how you do this, then I think it's ok to post links to your own content. The success or otherwise thereof will ultimately be determined by the community. Chris TLR

Lindsey
Lindsey

Interesting post. I usually post to my blog once a day (and I make an average of 5-6 tweets a day). I don't think that constitutes spam. Although it does get annoying when people post their blog post over and over again. This is when I can start to see it getting a bit spammy.

But as Kerri said, it adds value to the conversation.

For me, I find I have a lot of Twitter followers who don't read my blog, so linking there when I can is important.

Lindsey
Lindsey

Interesting post. I usually post to my blog once a day (and I make an average of 5-6 tweets a day). I don't think that constitutes spam. Although it does get annoying when people post their blog post over and over again. This is when I can start to see it getting a bit spammy. But as Kerri said, it adds value to the conversation. For me, I find I have a lot of Twitter followers who don't read my blog, so linking there when I can is important.

Kerri Birtch
Kerri Birtch

If we start to consider linking to our own posts as spam tweets, than what will we call people who tweet what you're eating for dinner? In my opinion, neither is wrong, or even spam for that matter. It's all about how the you choose to use the tool. In the case of linking, I'd argue it adds value to the conversation - especially when linking to a blog post. It adds value to a conversation where you're limited to 140 characters. And as you said, people can choose to view it or not. If you were linking to spam blogs advertising for [insert questionable Hotmail subject line here]...then yes, I'd say it was spam.

-Kerri

Kerri Birtch
Kerri Birtch

If we start to consider linking to our own posts as spam tweets, than what will we call people who tweet what you're eating for dinner? In my opinion, neither is wrong, or even spam for that matter. It's all about how the you choose to use the tool. In the case of linking, I'd argue it adds value to the conversation - especially when linking to a blog post. It adds value to a conversation where you're limited to 140 characters. And as you said, people can choose to view it or not. If you were linking to spam blogs advertising for [insert questionable Hotmail subject line here]...then yes, I'd say it was spam. -Kerri

Joe Boughner
Joe Boughner

As you suggest, Dave, there are grey areas. It all comes down to what you want to see from your Twitter contacts.

Personally, I usually tweet a link to my blog posts but I'm careful to make it clear that's what I'm doing. There's not a lot of room for context in a 140 characters but I make an effort to say 'Flogging the blog' so people know that's what I'm doing.

As for reacting to other people linking to their posts, it sort of depends on the relationship I have with them. I tend to follow people who have interesting things to say (novel approach, I know) so odds are I'm interested in whatever they're linking to, be it their own content or someone else's.

Joe Boughner
Joe Boughner

As you suggest, Dave, there are grey areas. It all comes down to what you want to see from your Twitter contacts. Personally, I usually tweet a link to my blog posts but I'm careful to make it clear that's what I'm doing. There's not a lot of room for context in a 140 characters but I make an effort to say 'Flogging the blog' so people know that's what I'm doing. As for reacting to other people linking to their posts, it sort of depends on the relationship I have with them. I tend to follow people who have interesting things to say (novel approach, I know) so odds are I'm interested in whatever they're linking to, be it their own content or someone else's.