In light of a recent post on by Rocket 442, I thought that I would share, update and expand a post that I made on my personal blog last November that discussed spamming forums as a marketing strategy.

There are companies out there who essentially sell a service that is “pay to spam”. In search of a more attractive name, some label it “social media outreach” or “advertising.” Whatever it’s called, I think it’s bad business, it’s disrespectful and it’s a problem for community administrators.

Basically, what you have here is a group of individuals who aim to create what I try to prevent on my communities. We get this sort of stuff with frequency and it’s always shut down right away. If someone joins and their first post (or one of their first posts) contains a somewhat suspicious link, the post is removed and they are contacted, making them aware of our user guidelines.

If they start off with more than one post that does this, their posts are removed and they are most likely banned. New users are not given the benefit of the doubt when it comes to these matters. Once someone is established in our community, they will be given more leeway, however it is not appropriate to create threads or posts to bring attention to something that you are affiliated with and this is something we actively watch for.

Spamming is not a strategy that respectable individuals employ. If you want to post your website on a community, you check their guidelines to make sure that it’s allowed. If you are unsure, even in the slightest, you ask a staff member and then proceed as they outline – and only as they outline. If a particular website is a persistent offender on my network, they might find their link banned from the network as a whole. That is, their link is not allowed to be posted on any of my communities in any instance.

Some of these people create multiple accounts in order to make their spam discussions appear more active. Regardless of what the guidelines say (unless they specifically permit it, which is… suffice to say, highly unlikely), covertly creating multiple accounts to boost up your discussion or talk amongst yourself is universally looked at as uncool.

Really, it’s embarrassing behavior that no respectable organization will want to be associated with because if it should come to light, they’ll be roasted and lose major amounts of credibility. Once you are labeled a spammer, it is very challenging to shake such a rep. If “avoiding detection” is part of the pitch, that’s a good indication that something is not right.

Personally, I don’t want to be associated with anyone who finds this sort of practice acceptable. There is always a group of people who don’t care how they get something, they just want it. And there can be serious consequences for that. It’s good for us to know that people like this exist so that we can know what we’re up against.

For me, it’s about creating something of quality and doing it the right way, through hard work and dedication and through respecting others’ space – in other words, having a semblance of ethical values to adhere to. Communities that you do not own are not yours to advertise to. If you think “this is business” and there are no ethics, that’s just not true and, to me, that’s a terrible way to think. You always have a choice. You don’t have to do unethical things.

Consider that if you are a client of a company with this philosophy – if they are not above manufacturing false interest in your company, why would they be above manufacturing views, favorites, replies, comments and whatever other metrics you are tracking, in order to meet their quotas to fulfill their contracts and make you feel like you’ve really received your money’s worth?

Funny to consider that the company you are paying to do this could actually extort you because they are one of the people who could out you for this behavior through a “leak.”

Be careful. These sorts of strategies are just all around bad, for everyone, except for maybe the company being paid to do it.