scalesAn interesting thing happened to me yesterday and it got me thinking about the nature and definition of spam. I was posting a comment to a discussion in a business group forum at a social media networking site and I was caught off guard when one of the readers called out my “insightful” comment saying “More spam. What a waste of time!”.  At first I was surprised (and a little hurt) that someone could so grossly misinterpret my intent, but after considering it for a while I realized spam is in the eye of the beholder, or as they say: one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. In my opinion I was adding something of value to the discussion. My detractor didn’t see it that way.

If you’d like to pass your own judgment, here’s the comment I added:

Determining if you’re ready for top tier media coverage.

Before you start pitching CNN, Fox & Friends, Good Morning America, etc., here are some things to consider:

  1. Are you sure you won’t embarrass yourself? – Are you media trained and well-practiced interviewing with your local media? If not, you should consider working with a media coach to polish your presentation.
  2. Can you link to your docs? – Do you have your attention-getting bio, high resolution photos, and quotes ready to go in a moments notice and can you link to them (rather than send as attachments)? Being prepared when the media comes knocking can mean the difference between success and failure.
  3. Are you ready for the masses? – Is your product or service ready for the mass market and does it appeal to the audience of the venue you’re pitching? Do you have an optimized website or other ways for people to find you online?

If you can answer “yes” to these questions, you might be ready to go after those coveted media placements. If so, the Wall Street Journal, Entertainment Tonight, and others are looking for you now at . If you’re a match for them, sign up for free and make a pitch.

In 1964 Supreme Court justice Potter Stewart famously said of obscenity, “I know it when I see it”. Spam, it seems, is much the same. While there is no hard and fast definition, we can all identify blatant spamming like the male enhancement ads that show up unsolicited in our in-boxes, or the links to cheap cialis that are constantly posted as blog comments. Somewhere between these and suggesting services that you’ve found helpful there’s a fuzzy line. Cross it and you’re spamming. But where exactly is that line and how can we as marketers avoid making that fatal mistake?

Aside from meeting the federal CAN-SPAM Act. guidelines, I ask myself these simple questions when tweeting or posting messages to discussions:

  • Is my comment relevant to the discussion?
  • Am I offering something that has value to the group?

If I can answer yes to these, then I hit “post”, no, and it goes in the waste basket.

All this has made me curious – What do you consider spam? Do you feel that the poster was justified in calling me out as spamming the group? What steps do you take to avoid crossing the line? I’d love to hear your opinion, but please, try to avoid spam in your responses…