Creative Commons License photo credit: MPD01605

Not long ago, someone from a very well known, reputable charity spammed one of my communities. I’m not going to mention the name of the charity because it’s not important. I’m not looking to shame them and they are not the point I want to make. It’s not like this is the first time that this has happened. It’s not even a big deal. Spam is spam is spam, for the most part. But, it brought to mind something I wanted to talk about.

When a community doesn’t allow advertising, self promotion, spamming or whatever they call it, generally speaking, those guidelines apply to everyone. Google, Disney, mom and pop, personal blogs, non-profits, charities, whoever. Unless the guidelines specifically make an exception, everyone plays on the very same playing field.

That’s the way it is on my communities. And it’s not to say that I’m not interested in helping out charities, either. But, whether you are a student looking to poll my memberbase for your thesis, a charity looking to gain awareness or a Fortune 500 advertising a product – you’re all seeking the same thing: access to the community that I am responsible for. You need to ask for permission.

I look at everyone as a person or a group of people. Microsoft is just people. The Salvation Army is just people. The student, small business owner or personal blogger are all just people. And, as such, they are all expected to respect our guidelines when they are on our community.

Marketing is a part of any charity. And just as with any company, bad marketing does damage to your brand – good marketing brings people to your brand. It does a disservice to your message. As a charity, you are already placed in a sympathetic position from the start. Rather than taking advantage of this position of strength, any charity whose representatives randomly join forums to post advertisements about the charity, are placing it in a position of weakness. And that’s a missed opportunity.

Further Reading: The Importance of Respecting Someone Else’s Space (i.e. Being a Good Internet Citizen)