Those of you on Twitter are doubtless all too familiar with the thousands of spam accounts set up to pitch porn, Viagra, and get-rich-quick schemes. Recently, I came across a more insidious form of Twitterspam created to sell, of all things, an alt.country band.
I had stumbled across the @AltCountryMusic feed via a TweetDeck search for “alt.country” (as many of you know, I’m in an alt.country band myself, which also has a Twitter presence). At first glance, I thought this might be a useful feed to follow to keep up with what’s going on in one of my favorite genres. There were lots of links along the lines of “awesome alt country music group live” (with a link to a YouTube video), “Great alt Country music band on facebook” with a link to the band’s page, and so on. After clicking on a link or two, however, I realized that all of these links were to material by the same band. To top it off, the band has at least one more generic front feed (@CountryMusicNow), in addition to a feed for the band itself. Unsurprisingly, I lost all interest in the band upon learning I’d been tricked into listening to their material.
These sorts of feeds are not unlike infomercials: blatantly sales-oriented, under a thin veneer of being helpful or entertaining. They are, in many ways, an abuse of trust — no one really believes that Mr. T thinks the Flavorwave Oven is really that great, and the fact that we know he’s lying to us creates an instant distrust of the product. The road to success in social media is, I think, exactly the opposite of that of the infomercial: earn peoples’ trust by proving yourself helpful or entertaining, and people just might be interested enough in what you have to sell to consider buying it. Trying to force it the other way will only turn people off.