How Social Media Spam Erodes Brand Trust

By Kimberlee Morrison 

SPAMSpam works in volume. The junk mail direct marketing keeps the post office in business and there’s more to toss out than there is important mail for you to open. Before the email service providers developed adequate spam filters, there was a good chance your inbox was littered with spam messages pitching Viagra. Even with the filters, we still receive email spam, we’re just lucky enough not to see it most of the time.

According to a study by digital security firm, Nexgate, “social spam” — or spam on social networks — grew at the rate of 355 percent in 2013. The more popular a network, the more vulnerable it is to spam attacks. In fact, spammers like Facebook and YouTube more than any other network, the study said.

There are two main forms of spam: text and links. The text ads are often used for phishing attacks, while the links often lead to sites containing malware, adult content or both. There are also spam mechanism such as like-jacking, spammy apps,  social bots and fake accounts, the study said.

Indeed, the spam industry is it’s own little seedy internet underground, overrunning the social networks. Unfortunately, it’s the network design that facilitates the spreading of spam. Not only does spam infiltrate our most dense and popular communications mediums, it follows the crowd to popular brands.

Herein lies the problem for brands and content marketers. The Nexgate study used  two examples, to illustrate just how spam can undermine consumer trust. In both cases, the brands had built large, engaged communities. Unfortunately, spammers grew right along with the communities. In fact, “the more the brand owning this social media account grows in activity, the more abuse they unleash on their audience, and the more they increase their opportunity cost and decrease marketing ROI,” the study said.

In one of the Nexgate examples, 1 in 4 comments contained spam content and 1 in 11 contained hate speech. Perhaps this is why Popular Science decided to disable the comments on its website, saying the comments section was being overrun by spam-bots and trolls. This reality made it impossible to have a civilized debate in the comments section on the site. This was the same reason Gawker disabled comments a few years ago.

Whether it’s spam link ads and apps, or hateful trolls debating impossibly complex topics, the effect is the same and brands don’t want to be affiliated with it. Now, if only someone would develop a way to filter the spam on social networks, they the ESPs did for email.

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