Six Pixels of Separation - The Blog
August 18, 2007 8:56 AM

Online Social Networks Resort To Email Spam And Telemarketing Follow-Ups - Not Impressed

Originally, I thought it was an anomaly, but now it's happened on more than a few occasions.

The first instance, I was invited through a trusted peer to join a new online social network that was targeting the business crowd. Following my theory of "owning" your online presence, I do like to sign up for everything. I also do some quick tests to see if this is of interest to me and/or if this is of use to Twist Image clients.

Approximately two days after signing up, I received a phone call in my office from a "customer service rep" on behalf of this new online social network to see if I had any issues logging on, or if I had any questions about the network.

On the one hand, I was feeling a little, "yeah, I know how online social networks work," but, regardless, why not just track my usage over a little bit of time before jumping on me right away to see how I'm doing? (by phoning me?). On the other hand, if you're a complete native to online social networking, do those calls engender people to try out the network or make them more loyal? Either way, I was not impressed. I'm getting telemarketing calls now because I signed up to an online social network.

It just doesn't seem right.

Then, I got an email from another company that has an online social networking tool I signed up for. There's not just a domain here, but a Facebook widget that I added on to my Facebook profile. This company opted for a scripted email to gauge my interests, likes and dislikes with their product. Worse, you can see the two spots where they "tried" to personalize it (didn't work).

Another bleh.

Full disclosure: I did not read through the terms and conditions of my service agreement with either of these online social networks (so odds are there is, probably, some language in there reflecting that I am giving them permission to contact me), but does that make it right?

If I start getting customer service related telemarketers and emails that are supposed to look personal but are stock about these online social networks and their widgets, I'm going to turn sour on them fast. While, as Marketers, we know that these tactics provide a certain level of ROI and retention, I'm thinking - that for the more Web savvy - hitting a user with email or a phone call to see what their online experience has been with your wares is deadly poor.

One of the salient points I demonstrated in my presentation, Burn The Ships, has to do with New Media's challenge of creating proper advertising and marketing messages for this new interactive channel, and not to simply take the traditional tactics and dump them into the interactive space (which has been what we've done - and are doing). Getting a phone call from a telemarketer really turned my fresh brand experience with this online social network in a very bad direction.

Big Marketing lesson: know your audience and know how they would like to be communicated to. More importantly, be aware of whom they are and the language/channel you're using to reach them.

As an aside, I opted not to mention these two companies by name.

By Mitch Joel

Comments Comments Feed
  • Posted by Mario Parise
    Mitch Joel

    You have a talk called Burn The Ships? Is this in reference to Cortez?

    Talk about universal syncronisity. Only 20 minutes ago I finished writing up a first draft for site copy for One Up Marketing where I (briefly) refer to that story.

    If it is in reference to Cortez, since you've obviously beaten me to the punch, am I causing offense by using the story? I don't mean legally, since you obviously can't copyright historical anecdotes, but just in terms of general Karma, do you have any issue it?

  • Posted by Shaun Dakin
    Mitch Joel


    This is an interesting twist to non-permission based marketing.

    Sooner or later, they will figure out (when enough people rebel) that spamming does not work.


    Shaun Dakin – CEO & Founder
    Citizens For Civil Discourse - National Political Do Not Contact Registry
    Read about CCD at:
    eBio @

  • Mitch Joel

    I had a couple of telemarketers calling me, too soon after I joined an online social networking site! Now it all makes sense!!

    Thanks for the tips, Mitch.

  • Posted by Mitch Joel
    Mitch Joel

    I'm still shell-shocked by this. I'm also a little surprised that other Blogs and Podcasts haven't picked up on it.

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