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?