Over the past few days I’ve had an interesting exchange with a young man who had sent me several unsolicited commercial messages via Google+ notifications. I had responded once before with a brief message informing him this was spam and that I was going to report it as such to Google+. Later that day I got a phone call from his boss, apologizing and telling me that it was the young man’s lack of experience and done without his permission. So I forgave and forgot.
And then the same guy did it again, notifying me with a Google+ Community invitation to a Community in which I couldn’t possibly have any interest. I replied again with my warning that he would be blocked and reported. This time he replied in an angry private message, proclaiming me arrogant and mean, and saying that I had probably cost him his job.
After a few more exchanges in which he only became angrier at me, as if his spamming me was my fault, and sending me his phone number so we could “have this out man to man,” I sent the following final reply (edited slightly for privacy). I publish it here as I hope it will be instructive for other young marketers:
Calm down ____.
I was never as upset over this as you make me out to be. Nor was my comment back to you angry or vindictive, as you choose to portray it. Most people who get an unasked for solicitation in their inbox a second time from the same source after they had already asked not to be notified would have just blocked and reported you and moved on. I took the time to try to inform you of what you were doing so that perhaps you could learn. But sadly, from your comments in this latest reply, it is quite clear that you are the type of person who would rather be offended and revert to self-defense rather than learn something. My advice to you is that you learn to get over that, stop assuming people with more experience than you (like me) are just arrogant and dismiss them, and start learning things that will help you in your career.
No, I am not going to call you, as I don’t need a phone conversation with a hot head. But I will go ahead and type out what I would teach you if you were willing to learn. I may be wasting my time since you already think you have me figured out, but here goes.
Yes, Google+ really is a giant contact system, much like email, but obviously more sophisticated. But marketing in the modern world, effective marketing that is, has to move beyond the old paradigm of ramming a random message down as many throats as possible in the hope that a few people out there will “bite.” Not only is that rude and annoying, it’s increasingly ineffective.
Because Google set up G+ to run very much like a social network tied to an email system, you have to treat your messages like email. So if you put me in a circle, send a random post to that circle, and check the box to send that circle email, you have just sent out a bunch of emails exactly as if you were using an email program.
When an email from some unknown person or company, with a commercial message that I never signed up to receive, lands in my inbox, that’s spam, not only by common definition, but by the governments definition. The only difference is that Gmail is pretty good about catching regular email spam, but with G+ notifications, I get every single one in my inbox. Because I’m followed by 30,000 people, I get a ton of notifications every day. Opening all of them has become a major task. So the more spammy ones I get, the more annoying it is.
Now I actually don’t mind getting the occassional unsolicited notification post from a stranger if it is obvious that stranger has sent it to me because he follows me and knows what interests me and honestly thinks the subject would be of interest to me and if he takes the time to comment to me why he’s sent it. I’ve discovered a lot of cool stuff that way actually. But “___ Businesses” or whatever yours was, with no explanation of why it is being sent to me, and worse so obviously outside my areas of interest (I live in North Carolina, why would I be interested in a ____ Business Community?)…that’s just spam by anyone’s definition.
Google+ is an incredible marketing tool. I and my clients use it very effectively every day. But it works because you can build powerful and meaningful relationships with people relevant to your business. You can prove to them through what you share and how you interact with them that you are an authority in your field who is worthy of trust. When you’re doing that, when you’re really helping people, people will spread your message for you. I get tons of business out of Google+ and I never once have sent a single spam message the way you do.
Now do I invite people to my Communities? You bet I do, but I do my homework first. I go out and find people who are likely to have an interest in what my Community is about and engage with them. I show them that I am interested in their topic and know something about it. And then, when the time is right, when they already know me as a trusted authority and helpful person in their topic of interest, I invite them to my community or to follow my page or whatever.
And that’s hard work. Real marketing is hard work. It is a science, a profession, and a worthy one, but one that takes study, patience, and the willingness to learn from those that are doing it right.
You mentioned that you might get fired. I truly hope that doesn’t happen. I don’t wish any ill on you or on any individual. But you can tell your boss that I said if anyone should get fired, it should be him, for not training you properly. If he has given you the responsibility of representing your company online, but hasn’t gotten you the training to do it properly, then he should fire himself. Or he should hire a real marketing company to help him and you learn.
Again, I wish you no harm, and I am not angry at you. All of us start somewhere in our profession, and in my early days I made a lot of mistakes too. And I pissed some people off. But I learned a wise way: if the person I pissed off is willing to teach me something that will make me better at my profession, then I sat at their feet and listened. Or I could have dismissed them as “arrogant,” and today I’d be asking people if they wanted fries with their Big Macs.
Epilogue: Happy Ending! I did hear back from the young spammer. He apologized for his first response and recognized that what I was sharing with him was right. He confessed that he was desperate to help get a business going, and didn’t know any other way to market other than what he was doing. A fruitful dialog followed, and I’m hopeful that he learned a few things. And that makes the teacher in me that will never die very, very happy.